Friday, 22 March 2013

Ocean of knowledge

Recently I had an unexpectedly pleasant and heart-warming experience. I had been badgering the administration of my institute for some time to effect several changes to make our campus more accessible. In order to be more effective, I had bullied my way to being chairman of the `refurbishment committee'. Some of the tasks still facing us were having accessible toilets, lifts to access some parts of the campus which still remain out of reach to people like me, etc. There had been some interaction between my institute and Vidya Sagar (the literal translation of which is the title of this post) an organisation working on multiple fronts in the search for an inclusive society for children with various kinds of disabilities. In a flash of inspiration, my institute had requested Vidya Sagar to have some of its kids to give free expression to their uncluttered minds and do the decorations - paintings, murals, etc. - for an exhibition we were planning on the event of our institute becoming 50 years old. A colleague, who was part of the team `liaising' with the teachers at Vidya Sagar, had been telling me about some transportable ramps they used for their children, and which we might want to consider using to solve some of our problems.

By a coincidence (which was surely meant to happen), I ran into Usha Ramakrishnan, the president of the executive Committee of Vidya Sagar at an event organised by a common friend last Sunday. So I told her I'd like to visit Vidya Sagar with some of our administrators and take some tips on accessibility. She was happy to invite me to come;  I do believe it will be a productive visit....its a joyful accessible place were her clairvoyant words!

I promptly took up her offer, and called her the next day (Monday) to see if I could come the very next day (Tuesday) to Vidya Sagar along with some of the administrative officers in my institute, and she promptly iterated her invitation saying even though she would not be there then, she would arrange for someone to show us around. So some six of us went Tuesday afternoon and explained the reason for our presence to the pleasant gentleman sitting in what looked like a security cabin/reception. He called somebody and presently a charming young woman, a special educator at Vidya Sadan, as it turned out, came along and was most accommodating about taking us around, explaining what they did in the rooms at different levels, as well as allowing me the thrill of going all the way up to the second floor on a ramp. I could have gone further, but I did not want to tire out the people with me.  The ramp just went up inconspicuously, at a gentle gradient, all the way up along the walls. Talk of universal design: this was heaven! And I had the pleasure of seeing accessible toilets on each floor - while our institute does not have even one in the entire campus as of now.  All the children we met were so friendly, too,  and thrilled at seeing the new faces. Usha knew what she was talking about!

And our charming hostess Uma answered all our many questions as well as showed us the transportable ramps which, as it turned out, were made by Callidai Motor Works (who had made my motorised wheelchair). By another coincidence, I once wrote on this place (manned almost entirely by people with some manner of disability). And that piece started by describing the genesis of my meeting the people who run this wonderful outfit - which was at the house of a wonderful lady for whose husband Callidai had created a really custom-made wheel-chair. And this lovely lady Kalyan had been so delighted at this piece of mine which ToI had published, but she most unexpectedly passed away just a few days later. Thus I had been bestowed the honour of having been one of the last people to bring back that twinkle in her eye. And the event at which I ran into Usha last Sunday was a celebration of Kalyan's life, and the common friend of Usha's and mine was Kalyan's twin sister Anand.

Now you know the reason for the bold-face parenthetical comment in the second paragraph! (By yet another coincidence, Kalyan and Anand have both been principals of, as well as taught me at, the school where, as a five or six year-old boy, I began the road to knowledge.)

1 comment:

  1. wow! Amazing coincidence! but then life does have a way of running us into our kind. Glad to know more and more through this column.

    PS: Did someone say 'cosmic connections'? :)