Winners are not the ones who never fail but those who refuse to quit. For 39-year-old Anil, the high marks he scored in higher secondary equivalence examinations are a result of his persistence and determination. A resident of Punalur, a rural belt in Kollam, Kerala, Anil lost the command over his own body when he was just three, following a severe polio attack which left him 70 percent paralysed. His hands became deformed as they grew long and his muscles failed to develop fully. Young Anil frequently collapsed when he walked and soon, he was confined to a wheelchair which he couldn't move on his own. As he slowly learned to adapt to his physical frailties, life turned topsy-turvy on the domestic front, but he fought on and now aims to be totally self-reliant with a decent job and improved mobility aid.
Anil pursued primary education at the government higher secondary school, Punalur, and cleared his SSLC with good grades despite his physical condition. His father, a bank employee, and teacher mother supported their son with all their earnings. Anil's elder brother, who dropped out of his school at a young age, carried his little sibling to the school every day. But fate had worse things in store for him. Unexpected death of his father left his mother in deep depression. Her health gradually weakened and she became a victim of several diseases. Anil's elder brother started doing daily-wage jobs to support the family and the wheelchair-bound Anil started selling lottery tickets.
Anil mastered electrical works and set up a small-scale electronics repairing workshop at home as his passion for physics and the proficiency of operating things using legs became handy. He also learned to make paper-pens and sold them to nearby schools and offices. He also trained himself in writing with his left leg so as to benefit his long-term ambition of higher education. Finally, when he turned 39, the real-life warrior signed up for higher secondary equivalence course, offered by the state literacy mission. His struggles yielded good outcome, as he gained an exceptional score which was above ninety percent.
“Life has been hard for me as a dependent. I need someone to fulfill even my basic needs. I was a bright student at school but then my body started getting weaker day by day. I had to discontinue my education after tenth standard as I had to support my mother's treatment. Yet, I held my dream of higher education close to my heart. It has been the driving force for all my struggles. I feel contented to have passed twelfth standard now. Not everyone can achieve goals all in a single go,” the ambitious youth seemed proud of his feat.
Anil attended higher secondary equivalence classes in the same school where he studied till tenth standard. Suresh, the class coordinator of 2017-18 equivalence courses, remembers Anil as the brightest student of the batch. “He had the valour enough to win a battle. He is so determined, brilliant and strong-willed. His services are sought-after by the authorities of his school,” he said.
Anil's batchmates at the literacy mission's higher secondary equivalence course of 2017-18 are planning to gift him an automatic three-wheeler for better mobility and social access. “Such talents, such fighters, need to be encouraged. Most of us are school-dropouts but none of us are passionate like Anil. We want to keep the fire alive in him,” said one of his classmates. Anil knows that such aids are a must, though they are not easily available. “Many organisations distribute wheelchairs or three-wheeler bikes. None of them distribute a power-wheelchair, which is one of the essential means of mobility for people like me.”
Odds soar amid dreams
Anil knows an undergraduate degree through distance education and a job will further help him to stand on his feet, though he is well aware of the odds. “I did my higher secondary course in Humanities. I want to take up one of the subjects I learned, for my undergraduate course. But our system is not supportive of the disabled. Most government offices, banks and public institutions in Kerala do not have a wheelchair ramp for use by the disabled like him. Many offices have ramps these days but there will be a short stair-case at their end. I am tired of waiting outside banks, government offices and schools,” Anil expressed his anguish.
The adult learner has now set his eyes on a public sector job with the qualification he has gained. “I had applied for the post of peon earlier but my application got rejected as I did not have a higher secondary education. I have that now. I request the state government to introduce a special scheme to employ differently abled citizens so that they can be self-reliant,” Anil said.