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Nanaji, Devnar School, and me

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I was in intermediate second year when I first saw the board of “Devnar School for the Blind” in Hyderabad.

The walls of the lanes are often filled with so many posters, half torn and some of them are so gaudy that I may have missed this board. Also, I guessed , the board must have been there for several years but since I often travelled by auto I missed it.

In intermediate like many students who study in the corporate junior colleges, I was exhausted, tired of studying so much, and the constant pressure of marks always followed me. It could be read even in my eyes how bored I was  and how angry I was to be studying in a corporate college where there are such hilarious stringent rules. For example, study hours, tests where you ought to get 20/20 else you will be insulted in front of the whole class were few of the rules that I can mention.

Anyone who has studied in these corporate colleges and feels that freedom is the penultimate step to better education, will despise their methods.  For me, It was like Hitler rose back to life for us and we were in some concentration camp, literally.

So, this board was like a ray of hope in my dark life and I followed the route map one evening, I got into the apartments and then I saw a huge building on my right which led me to a cream color building—it  was huge and Devnar School was written in a neat font. The owners must have laughed at me then looking at me my dull eyes, my short oily hair, ink-smeared clothes. But the owner asked me to come the next day. I walked back home excited to meet the students. It was a holiday the next day; since it was a government holiday even the college gave in and that added to the joy.

(If you live in Hyderabad and you enter the Geetanjali premises, the route gets a little tough but once you enter Vamsy apartments, it is easier to get to Devnar. )

So, the next day, I met Nanaji, he shook my hand and he showed me the rooms located in the two floors of the building school at length. I saw the hostel rooms with bunker beds and some students neatly folding their blankets. The moment they felt I was there they waved a “Hi” in the air and Nanaji prompted me to shout back a “Hi” too. Like that we went to many other lab rooms, biology labs where you could feel the apparatus, and also the diagrams of human body parts were bulged out for better understanding.

Nanaji walked carefully though because of the dust around, I assumed and then, we saw the computer lab where they use JAWS software, the printers, the recording library, the classrooms where children were learning subjects through Braille, a language developed by Louis Braille whose birth anniversary is on January 4. Though it was a holiday, some of the students volunteered to study and clear their doubts.

I was surprised and found my outlook to life so disappointing. Here I was having everything yet acted like a buffoon who lost everything. Most of the faces at Devnar were jubilant, they walked carefully, and often were excited to be stumbled upon. One habit I totally loved was whenever they stumbled upon someone, they asked the person’s name and if they knew him or her, they would converse or if they did not know they would say a hi. After my trip inside the school, like the proverbial Hindi saying, Meri aankhe khul gayi!

But more was to come, after Nanaji showed me each and every room and then shook my hands to say bye, I asked him whether he was the owner’s son, he replied “I am a student here.”

 

[Nanaji and me in the picture above taken many years ago. After our first meet, we met for several years, walking down the lanes of nearby area or sitting in a temple nearby conversing and although he was two years younger, he was so mature. He was also a classical dancer, a chess player, a cricketer.

Today I don't know where he is though I have tried tracking him. Perhaps he was present for a reason in my life but I am keen on meeting with him again.]

 

PS: The first two pictures are taken from an article in The Hindu ; Sunil (actor) birthday pictures.

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