Sightless Wonder

Sightless Wonder

His efficiency on the TMC telephone exchange speaks volumes about his dedication towards work. So much so, that when he was selected for the best worker award by TMC last year, few were surprised – in spite of the fact that he is blind.

Ajay Chandrakant Bhide works as a telephone operator in Thane Municipal Corporation’s headquarters in Thane city. Though blind, Ajay has displayed tremendous inner strength. Blindness has not prevented him from striving to accomplish his goals. It has never bothered him that others working with him possess normal eyesight. To him, the outside world may be dark, but he has faith in himself. And that faith, together with his self-determination, has ensured that he lives a normal life.

Ajay did his primary schooling from Pragati Andhavidyalaya School in Badlapur, an institute for the blind. Later he attended normal school till he completed his matriculation. In 1990, Ajay took a mobility course at National Association for the Blind, Worli. This 4-month course enabled him to become self-reliant. The main objective of this course is to ensure all round development of the visually impaired person, ensuring that he is exposed to normal life in society.

A year later, Ajay enrolled himself for a telephone operator course conducted by the same institute. He then started applying for jobs. But, soon afterward he realized, that finding employment is not going to be an easy task. He applied to many organizations including public sector organizations such as Indian Oil Corporation. But he faced rejection everywhere. Even during his days of job hunt, Ajay chose to repay his alma mater, Pragati Andhavidyalaya School, Badlapur. He started training blind students as a substitute teacher in the school.

In December 1994, after great difficulties and struggle, Ajay finally found employment at TMC head office. He was the first blind telephone operator to ever work in TMC. Many wondered how a blind person could operate a telephone exchange – a job that requires tremendous dexterity and swiftness. Ajay even recalls vividly, "In my first few days in TMC, I was the center of attention. All my colleagues and other staff from TMC would gather around my desk to see how a blind person operates a telephone exchange".

Today Ajay has created such a niche for himself in the organization that his blindness doesn’t even occur to any of his colleagues. He has displayed remarkable efficiency, technical expertise and consistent reliability. His hard work fetched him the coveted the "Gunavanta Kamgar Puraskar" or "award for best performer" in the year 2000. "I am the first and only employee from my department to have achieved this distinction", Ajay mentions proudly. And why not – after all, to be chosen as the best worker from among 6540-strong TMC staff is no mean achievement.

Apart from his 9 to 5 routine job, which he enjoys a lot, Ajay involves himself in a number of extra-curricular activities. For instance, he makes it a point to "read" newspapers – specially the English ones, his favourites being The Times of India and Mid-Day. Says Ajay, "My friends read out the news and stories from Marathi and English newspapers." He’s a keen follower of politics and keeps himself abreast of all the latest developments. "Once upon a time, I loved cricket a lot – but when the match-fixing controversy surfaced, I lost interest in the game.

He’s Internet savvy too. He frequently visits a cyber cafe and, with the help of his friends, chats with his cyber pals. He has a few net pals across the border too. He loves movies and music. He’s even "heard" the latest Sunny Deol blockbuster, Gadar. He even wants to get married to a girl with normal vision. He is always ready to extend help to people in need and strangely, people do seek his help quite often.

And why not? Ajay does keep a track of things by keeping his ears open!

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