There are few among us who get to meet our role models in life, and even fewer who get to interact and work with them. Among those lucky few are Kamal and Rajendra, two visually impaired boys associated with Arushi (an NGO for the disabled) who translated former President APJ Abdul Kalam's books into Braille.
"I always used to listen to his tales of valour and hardships from my parents. Belonging to such a humble background, he managed to make it so big. He was always an inspiration," says Kamal. "But one thing I used to feel sad about was I couldn't read his books. It was even more depressing when it struck that there might be so many people who will be deprived of his words of wisdom just because they can't see. Motivated by Arushi, we decided to translate Kalam's books in Braille."
Armed with technical knowhow and zeal to spread the words of their role model, Kamal and Rajendra took up the challenge to translate Kalam's books.
Well versed with 'Job Access With Speech', popularly known as JAWS, a software designed to help the visually impaired with computers and the Internet, Kamal also used to follow and often interact with Kalam through social media. "It was a completely different scene with this man. Even after the release of the books, he never forgot us," he says.
"His sudden demise came as a shock. Anyone who has read his books and got chance to hear him will know his significance to this world. He was more than a President to this country," adds Kamal.
How has the experience changed the lives of these two enterprising individuals?
"He has changed my life. I never thought I would study and make my own life. This would have never been possible without Arushi," says Rajendra, who completed BA Honours from a reputed institute in Bhopal. "When we met Kalam for the book release, he motivated us to never stop studying. We learned that knowledge is the best weapon to (overcome) any hurdle in life. After that I never looked back."
Kamal, who met Kalam thrice, says, "It made me independent. I learned to respect myself. Days are gone when people used to talk to my mentor or teacher about me, I talk to them directly. When I tell anyone I have translated Kalam's books, they take me seriously. They respect me and most importantly, think of me as more than just a visually impaired boy."
VERSES ON KALAM
"I broke my spinal cord in an accident. After the operation, I was completely bedridden. A friend of mine gifted me Kalam sahab's book 'Wings of Fire', which inspired me a lot. After reading the book, I wrote a 100-line poem 'Ek insaan agni ke samaan (a man like fire)' on the book and drew paintings symbolising every couplet in the poem. I also made his portrait. When I met him, he greeted me by saying, 'Aapne bohut achhi poem likhi hai (You have written a very good poem).' Meeting him was an experience of a lifetime. His motivating words have kept me going and positive in life," says ace artist and poetess Kshama Kulshreshtha.