Nothing can stop him. Jaswinder Singh Sodhi, a first-year student of BTech at Guru Nanak Dev Engineering College, Ludhiana, suffers from cerebral palsy and low vision since birth but this has not interfered with his dream of becoming a computer engineer.
Like most children suffering from the same condition, Sodhi also faced discrimination and social stigma in school. His best companion is his zest to live and his best resources, the ability to negotiate with adversity.
“He has good grasping power and can concentrate well while studying. He’s particularly good with maths and now even guides his classmates on making presentations and projects,” says Dr Neelam Sodhi, Jaswinder’s mother.
His teachers also acknowledge and appreciate his work. “He’s fighting to prove himself. He spends extra time working on assignments and projects and does not like to take credit for something he feels he doesn’t deserve. He doesn’t want grace marks as a compensation for his condition,” says Dr Sodhi.
When Sodhi was in Class 10, he had made up his mind that he wanted to be a computer engineer. “Some of his teachers ruled out the possibility that he could take up a course like BTech, which requires a lot of dexterity, concentration and calculations. But Jaswinder had only one ambition,” Dr Sodhi adds.
The young man also likes designing web pages and is currently working on a website design for an NGO.
Not the one to miss classes, Sodhi studied on his own with some help from his teachers and parents and scored 84% in the Class 10 exams.
He had the constant support of his parents, who helped him read books and notes in enlarged print. Choosing BTech was a tough decision, though, in more ways than one.
One of the major issues was not getting a writer from his stream.
Sodhi’s recently-concluded exams brought a fresh set of challenges for him and his family. The engineering drawing exams involve hand drawing which he cannot do due to his condition. Dictating the design to be drawn to someone else from another stream would have been extremely difficult. However, after he approached the Punjab Technical University and the human resource development ministry, the government allowed the differently-abled the option to use modern aids such as computers, to answer question papers, apart from a writer.
Sodhi was the first student affected by cerebral palsy in India to have an option, including computer-aided design, to answer the the engineering drawing question paper in May this year.
Though he is likely to face the same problem in the monthly tests in college as he won’t be allowed to use a writer, Sodhi is unfazed as he believes in overcoming barriers. “I want to be an entrepreneur or pursue higher studies abroad. I’m happy with how my career is shaping up,” he adds.