By Jamuna Rangachari
Shrikant Bolla’s grit shows us that nothing can deter us from pursuing what we truly want, disabilities notwithstanding. And that this strength of spirit always draws support from the Universe, says Jamuna Rangachari
Twenty four years ago, when Srikant was born, neighbours in the village suggested that his parents smother him to death, since he was blind by birth. They felt he would be a burden on a family of poor farmers. Fortunately, his parents loved him too much to even consider the suggestion. Instead, they did all they could to better his lot, such as enrolling him in a school. Sadly, the nearest school in his village was five kilometres away, and he had to cover the distance mostly on foot which he did for two years. At that point, his father realised that the child was not learning anything since the school was not equipped to handle special children. He pulled him out of it and got Srikant admitted to a special needs school in Hyderabad.
The young boy thrived in the compassionate environment of his new school. He learnt to play chess and cricket and excelled in them. He topped his class, even embracing an opportunity to work with the late President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in the Lead India project. President Kalam did not forget him and mentioned him in one of his speeches: “When I was the President of India, on Aug 28, 2006, I met many students from Lead India 2020 movement. I asked all of them one question: “What do you want to become?” Out of many responses one visually challenged boy, Srikant, studying in IX class, got up and said, “I will become the first visually challenged President of India.”
In spite of his merit and hard work, Srikant’s struggles did not end. He cleared the Andhra Pradesh Class X state board exams with over 90 per cent marks, but the Board said he could only take Arts subjects after that. He sued the government and fought for six months. In the end, he got a government order that allowed him to study science subjects but at his own ‘risk’.
Srikanth did whatever he could to prove them wrong. He got all the textbooks converted to audio books, worked day and night to complete the course, and managed to secure 98 per cent in the XII Board exams. He then applied for IIT, BITS Pilani, and other top engineering colleges, but did not get a hall ticket as they did not wish to admit a blind student. He could have fought this too but decided to go
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