When a blind teacher joined a school in an Orissa village, his appointment was opposed by many guardians, but two years later Suresh Biswal has won the villagers' trust - and the children's hearts.
Biswal, 37, who was born blind, teaches at the Pranakrushna Upper Primary School in Gagoei village, 45 km from this town.
When he was appointed to the school, many students and guardians had represented to education department authorities, saying they felt a blind man might not be able to do justice to the job.
They are now glad to be proved wrong.
"He is our favourite teacher. He is so polite and gentle and never beats us. Rather he always tries to ensure that we completely understand what he teaches," said Bablu Sahu, a student.
"Biswal has become the most popular teacher," said Raghunath Parida, a guardian.
The school has three teachers for the 120 students studying in Classes 1-5. The other two teachers often take leave, providing Biswal a chance to teach all the students.
Biswal, a postgraduate from Utkal University in Bhubaneswar, got the job thanks to the Disabilities Act, which provides for three percent job quota to people with disabilities - including one percent for the visually challenged.
"Though the act has far-reaching provisions, not much has been done about its effective implementation. Thus the solution to the problem lies in educating the blind about their rights," he said.
Teaching all subjects at all five levels, he honed his teaching skills to a point that most students have come to prefer to learn from him.
"I do not want to scare the children with thick books and complicated syllabus. I try to teach in a way that helps the students retain knowledge," Biswal said.
At a time when many government-run schools in villages are marked by empty classrooms, poor results and absent teachers, Biswal has brought about an amazing turnaround at the Gagoei school, a villager said.
Biswal reasoned: "I had been running from pillar to post to get a job but my disability was an impediment. Since I have been given a chance to teach I must prove that I am no less competent than others. I am satisfied with my efforts."
Sibacharna Biswal, 62, is proud of his only son. "We could not believe he will become so popular," the father said.