As a child Dr Ashok Jain wanted to be a collector, but destiny had other plans.
Jain, born in Punjab’s Moga district, took up boxing — following in the footsteps of his father, who had been a Royal Navy boxer. At a boxing championship in 1971, he lost his eyes. Later, vision was resorted by cornea transplant in his left eye. But the incident changed him and he dedicated his life to work for the visually challenged.
Jain (60), with wife Kusum, made a record by collecting the eyes of the youngest donor. They extracted a Dalit infant Lucky’s corneas in remote Badheri Ghogho village of the district (Reported by HT on 23 June).
For the couple, it was their 92nd extraction since inception of their Roshni Eye Bank, established seven years ago.
In 1972, Jain set out on a cycle yatra (tour) to spread the message of world peace and popularising eye donation.
“Over 60,000 people, including dignitaries like Atal Behari Vajpayee, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, pledged their eyes,” said Jain, who was felicitated by Canada’s Montreal University during his tour. In 1977, he was felicitated by the then acting president B D Jatti.
The couple have always worked as a team. Sometimes they have to travel over 50 km on a bicycle to collect corneas from remote villages.
“My past experience with my bicycle proves handy, but age is not on my side,” Jain said. So he recently invested his life’s savings to buy a motorcycle.
The couple receives no financial support from the government and to meet their expenses, collect a monthly membership of Rs 20 from each member.
And sometimes they have to travel over 20 km to collect the Rs 20. But the couple stays firm in their dedication towards their cause.