Lighting up their path through education
Grappling to find the balance between education and sport, children often hit a wall and find no escape.
Ask three young gentlemen from India’s blind cricket team and they will tell you that finding a common ground isn’t the hardest thing to do. They may even convince you that sport can earn you an education.
Despite having the weight of the world on their shoulder thanks to their disability, Ravi Siddhappa, Hanuman Ram Pooya and K Ramesh have made cricket their living, and to add to that, they have also managed to earn a sense of freedom through education. While Madurai’s Ramesh and Rajasthan’s Hanuman have completed their schooling and are placed in respectable jobs, Karnataka’s Ravi has done his graduation and now has his eyes set on a Masters degree in history.
Education has not always been on their agenda but through cricket they have seen where education can take them and how differently they can lead their lives.
“I studied in a normal school for a year and then I began to feel bad because they did not know how to teach me,” said Ravi, who currently works at Samarthanam’s call-centre. “They kept pushing me aside. When I told my father about it, he sent me out to study in a blind school in Shimoga. I studied there till the 12th and then I did my graduation at the Samarthanam Trust.”
Explaining the situation in his village, Ravi, who hails from Shimoga, said: “People in my village know that I play for India but they don’t know the value of it. Everyone there is like that. I have two brothers and both of them are like everyone else too. They’ve only studied until sixth or seventh and then they took to farming to feed the family. My father has two acres of land and he is now sick, so my elder brother is taking care of that (farm). My younger brother is taking care of the sheep.
“I don’t have friends in Shimoga because I am different. The two or three people who I talk to are also scared of talking to me because I am educated. If we win the World Cup, I will make sure I create awareness in my village and show them that blind people are not different,” said the 23-year-old B1 (completely blind) batsman.
Just when you’re about to come to terms with the situation in Karnataka and the discrimination which continues to hurt the lives of the disabled, Hanuman and Ramesh speak about their lives and the ignorance of the masses which only makes matters worse.
“I became blind when I was only three months old. It began to hurt a little bit and then I lost my left eye. My dad is also blind so apparently it was heriditory. I could not get a surgery or anything done because we couldn’t afford it,” said the 19-year-old, who is also a good athlete. “People in my village know that I play for India but it is still not that big there. They watch all of India’s games (conventional cricket) but not ours.”
Ramesh’s condition, is slightly better as he received ample support and care from his family. “I was born with very poor vision. With these glasses (pointing at his thick spectacles) I can see only fifty percent. I had good support from my family and it made my life easier but people do not know how to handle the blind. Even though blind cricket in Tamil Nadu is big, a lot of people are unaware that blind cricket is an international event,” said the 20-year-old, who operates the Braille Press at the National Association for the Visually Handicapped in Chennai.
Australian legend Adam Gilchrist had met the blind cricketers when he had come down for the Indian Premier League last year and called them the ‘real stars’ as it is no easy to feat to come face to face with a ball especially when you can’t see.
Real stars or not, these youngsters are not going to stop short of convincing the world of their prowess.