Bangalore: A manager at Canara Bank, an attentive husband, a father who loves playing cricket with his children - 42-year-old Paul Mudha is like everybody else. Except he has a rare spirit, except that he used braille to get the degrees he required, except that he has contributed to the society by opening an institute for the visually impaired, and except that he fought and won the battle with fate. Yes, this man with many exceptions was born blind.
Rescued by a visually impaired social worker, Padma Iyengar when Paul was a toddler, he was admitted to a blind school. “I am an orphan. I don’t know anything about my parents. I am very grateful to her for saving me,” he says. Being an orphan, Paul grew up in a blind school. When he reached class V, he became victim of the government’s scheme of putting visually impaired children in the mainstream. “Those were difficult times for me as I was with normal children. Initially no one would speak to me but slowly things fell into place and I was accepted by my classmates,” he says.
Paul adds that his teachers helped him a lot and actually learnt braille to help him with his homework. By the time he reached class VIII, the blind school that had given him shelter was shutting down and he had no where to go. “That was a turning point in my life as a very nice family adopted me and I stayed with them till I got married,” he smiles.
Paul completed his graduation and immediately after, he started working in the Canara bank as a telephone manager. He pursued his education balancing his work and was promoted to the post of manager. In 1998 he went on to do MA in economics from Mysore University and then finally fulfilled his dream of completing an MBA.
Looking back at his struggle he says, “At every stage I was reminded by the society that I am visually impaired and thus cannot lead a ‘normal’ life. All my life I was dependent on others for everything. I didn’t want other visually impaired people to face the difficulties I did and that’s when I stumbled upon the idea of opening an institute to train the visually impaired,” he says.
Unlike other blind schools, he didn’t want to teach basket weaving and candle making in his institute. Instead he installed computers in his institute and started teaching them English and installed a special software which helps them read and write so that they could get ‘real’ jobs.
Through this initiative Paul has placed 130 people in the mainstream. He also has a hostel for girls and gives them computer training. Interestingly all the teachers in the institute are also visually impaired. In 2004, Paul was awarded by then president Dr Abdul Kalam for services in social field and for being the first visually impaired manager. “That is one moment I will never forget. Those memories will be with me throughout my life.”
Initiatives: Other than the institute, Paul also wants the government to make roads and building more friendly for the visually impaired. He was also among those who voiced their suggestion to install alarm signals at traffic junctions so that they know that it is their turn to use the zebra crossing. This system has been implemented in several intersections in the city.
Married life: In 1997, 25-year-old Annie Mathew read an advertisement in the matrimonial section of the newspaper about a man named Paul who wished to marry. She called him up and fixed up a meeting. On the other end, Paul had lost all hope of marriage. After the advertisement, he had received 28 phone calls but after meeting him they all had rejected the proposal as he was visually impaired.
So when Paul got the call from Annie, he readily accepted it. As destiny would have it, Paul and Annie instantly liked each other and have been married for the last 15 years. Paul has literally lived against all odds and proved that nothing can stop you from reaching your goal. Here is a man who strives to make the best of his life by dedicating every moment to joy and peace rather than anguish and betrayal. So, the next time when things don’t go your way, step back and think.