There is no peak these men and women cannot aspire to conquer.
Led by their determination and aided by corporates who offer opportunities to the differently abled, a small but proud community of physically challenged white-collar workers is now making its presence felt in India's boardrooms.
Two such examples are Atul Rajan Sahay, employed by Tata Steel in Jamshedpur, and Hari Raghavan, working with IBM in Mumbai.
Despite 100 per cent visual impairment, Sahay has trekked the Himalayas and plans to travel to Ladakh next year with Bachendri Pal’s group.
“It is not so much about conquering peaks as it is about conquering the self,” says Sahay, in the capital to receive the Shell Helen Keller Award on the eve of World Disability Day on December 3. “There can be no greater high than the boosted self-esteem, which comes from achievement.”
Sahay was not born blind. He was diagnosed with cataract and myopic vision at the age of eight. By 14, he had lost his left-eye vision, but continued studying and graduated from Dimapur College in 1986.
Soon after, he lost vision in his right eye as well, which made him completely visually challenged. Undeterred, he went on to an MA in Economics and an executive MBA degree from XLRI, Jamshedpur.
Sahay’s corporate career took off in 1992 at Tata Steel. His wife Seema and his daughter Pragya are his biggest fans. “It is their faith in me that keeps me going,” he says.
Like Sahay, Raghavan too lost his eyesight in his teens but this did not stop him from pursuing a career of his choice.
After studying for his B. Com. from Mumbai, he went on to an MBA specialising in Sales & Marketing. His professional career spans several blue-chip companies, such as Tata Finance, PriceWaterhouse Cooper, General Electric and IBM.
“Getting my first job was tough, but so it is for most people, whether physically challenged or otherwise,” says Raghavan, now working as a solutions specialist in banking and financial services in IBM.
There has been no looking back for this determined professional. “Today, I can travel all over the country with ease. I am confident and so are my employers. They like my work and know I am competent.”
Raghavan, who owns a huge collection of e-books and audio novels, is also a health freak.
“I love martial arts. I have a yellow belt in Karate and I hope to wear a black belt in Tae Kwondo.” A confident young man, Raghavan says he is happy to be single.