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DRF lunches new center

DRF lunches new center

DRF lunches a new Skilling center at Najafgarh for Persons with Disability

I am privileged to meet a wide array of people in the course of my work both as a journalist and now as a development writer, and I consciously try not to get carried away by their titles or achievements.  But some one-off “stories” leave an imprint and more often than not they are ordinary people living out extraordinary lives.

I met Monika Parmar recently when I went to Ahmedabad on routine work. She heads our skilling center in the city and is responsible for driving business which includes new admissions, placements and of course mentoring students who are enrolled for coaching.

I watch her interact with the impatient crowd and her people skills are evident as she shifts gears from English to Gujarati or Hindi with ease. She bends down to pat a youngster, offers a cold glass of water to a potential employer and re-assures an anxious mother about her daughter even as she indicates over her head for someone to get a chair and some tea. Small gestures and simple acts but she has already won half the battle!

Not surprisingly because she is a veteran at winning battles. Visually impaired from birth – though her bearing and confidence does not betray this – she was born with juvenile macular dystrophy and struggles with 20/200 vision because of ‘scotoma’ or a big blind spot at the center of her vision which forces her to rely on her dimmed peripheral vision. But her bigger problem is coping with ‘bright light sensitivity’ which is a typical symptom of this problem and one which she has to juggle with on a daily basis given Gujrat’s hot glaring sun and her own work which includes a lot of field work and long hours at the computer.

But does that discourage her? Not for a minute.  Monika explains, “My father is a tailor and I grew up without even knowing the name of my problem! As a result, I was not burdened by the seriousness of it and spent my early child hood studying music and braille as a “back up plan” determined to be independent.” A topper in school she did several odd jobs; including teaching music to kids to ensure she did not have to ask anyone for money. After graduation, her first big opportunity came with IBM and since then it has only got better.

She dismisses her difficulties, “I take one day at a time and believe me it has never been better. My favourite mantraand one that I keep telling the students- is that there is always a solution to every problem if you try. The key words of course are ‘if you try’.”

Her attitude is what sets her apart and her resoluteness ensures she is independent. Admits Monika, “crossing roads during the morning rush hour is a little bit of a challenge because I cannot judge the object or its speed clearly and so instead of committing hara-kiri, I just ask for help and so far, some kind stranger has helped me to cross the roads.”

This practicality and stark honesty are two traits that define her. Not one for any pretence she talks about her childhood and cites her modest background to bond with children who come from socially and economically difficult backgrounds to encourage them to aim for a better future. In fact, it is her rapport with her students, especially girls who have lost all hope. She counsels and mentors them tirelessly till they stand on their feet. In return, her students love her. Many return to the center to seek her advice when they hit a rough patch!

“She is a great motivator and an excellent listener” says Salma Pathan, an ex-student who had a particularly rough life, and was back at the center on her day-off to talk to Mona for some guidance about her career. “She knows when to be strict and when to be kind. You cannot fool her and she keeps a tab of how we are faring and even what we spend our money on! I am not afraid of my parents but I am apprehensive of her reaction if I do something that I should not being doing.”

Hinaz Mastani, another young girl who is still struggling to find her feet says with a touch of emotion, “Mona ma’am is my go-to person. I trust her completely and will not do anything without asking her because I know she has my interest at heart.”

And these testimonies are not exceptions. Several girls from this center look at Mona as their role model. And it is not just limited to girls. Sahil Midda, who now works at Pantaloon and is doing extremely well, says “She was the one who ingrained into me that you need to have a purpose in life. I was an over-confident boisterous brat when I joined GROW center. But she brought me down to earth and made me realise that I had achieved nothing on my own and was just wasting my father’s money. Today whatever I am, I owe it to her and her team”

 

But her life is not confined to just this work. She is acknowledged both in her family and community as a “leader”. People seek her advice about marital problems, diet issues, and career options for their children or even where to buy a flat! She is constantly invited by colleges and schools in Ahmedabad as a “motivational speaker” and is in great demand during the Navratri season to teach garba and bookings start as early as July.

For a woman who comes from a conservative Rajput family, where “Ghungat pratha” (Not showing your face to any outsider) is an established norm and a woman’s identity is completely appended to her husband, she has come a long way. She is the first woman in family to have done graduation, the first woman to have a job and the first to buy property in her name with her own salary! No small feat for a first generation learner and a woman who is visually impaired!

I am privileged to meet a wide array of people in the course of my work both as a journalist and now as a development writer, and I consciously try not to get carried away by their titles or achievements.  But some one-off “stories” leave an imprint and more often than not they are ordinary people living out extraordinary lives.

I met Monika Parmar recently when I went to Ahmedabad on routine work. She heads our skilling center in the city and is responsible for driving business which includes new admissions, placements and of course mentoring students who are enrolled for coaching.

I watch her interact with the impatient crowd and her people skills are evident as she shifts gears from English to Gujarati or Hindi with ease. She bends down to pat a youngster, offers a cold glass of water to a potential employer and re-assures an anxious mother about her daughter even as she indicates over her head for someone to get a chair and some tea. Small gestures and simple acts but she has already won half the battle!

Not surprisingly because she is a veteran at winning battles. Visually impaired from birth – though her bearing and confidence does not betray this – she was born with juvenile macular dystrophy and struggles with 20/200 vision because of ‘scotoma’ or a big blind spot at the center of her vision which forces her to rely on her dimmed peripheral vision. But her bigger problem is coping with ‘bright light sensitivity’ which is a typical symptom of this problem and one which she has to juggle with on a daily basis given Gujrat’s hot glaring sun and her own work which includes a lot of field work and long hours at the computer.

But does that discourage her? Not for a minute.  Monika explains, “My father is a tailor and I grew up without even knowing the name of my problem! As a result, I was not burdened by the seriousness of it and spent my early child hood studying music and braille as a “back up plan” determined to be independent.” A topper in school she did several odd jobs; including teaching music to kids to ensure she did not have to ask anyone for money. After graduation, her first big opportunity came with IBM and since then it has only got better.

She dismisses her difficulties, “I take one day at a time and believe me it has never been better. My favourite mantraand one that I keep telling the students- is that there is always a solution to every problem if you try. The key words of course are ‘if you try’.”

Her attitude is what sets her apart and her resoluteness ensures she is independent. Admits Monika, “crossing roads during the morning rush hour is a little bit of a challenge because I cannot judge the object or its speed clearly and so instead of committing hara-kiri, I just ask for help and so far, some kind stranger has helped me to cross the roads.”

This practicality and stark honesty are two traits that define her. Not one for any pretence she talks about her childhood and cites her modest background to bond with children who come from socially and economically difficult backgrounds to encourage them to aim for a better future. In fact, it is her rapport with her students, especially girls who have lost all hope. She counsels and mentors them tirelessly till they stand on their feet. In return, her students love her. Many return to the center to seek her advice when they hit a rough patch!

“She is a great motivator and an excellent listener” says Salma Pathan, an ex-student who had a particularly rough life, and was back at the center on her day-off to talk to Mona for some guidance about her career. “She knows when to be strict and when to be kind. You cannot fool her and she keeps a tab of how we are faring and even what we spend our money on! I am not afraid of my parents but I am apprehensive of her reaction if I do something that I should not being doing.”

Hinaz Mastani, another young girl who is still struggling to find her feet says with a touch of emotion, “Mona ma’am is my go-to person. I trust her completely and will not do anything without asking her because I know she has my interest at heart.”

And these testimonies are not exceptions. Several girls from this center look at Mona as their role model. And it is not just limited to girls. Sahil Midda, who now works at Pantaloon and is doing extremely well, says “She was the one who ingrained into me that you need to have a purpose in life. I was an over-confident boisterous brat when I joined GROW center. But she brought me down to earth and made me realise that I had achieved nothing on my own and was just wasting my father’s money. Today whatever I am, I owe it to her and her team”

 

But her life is not confined to just this work. She is acknowledged both in her family and community as a “leader”. People seek her advice about marital problems, diet issues, and career options for their children or even where to buy a flat! She is constantly invited by colleges and schools in Ahmedabad as a “motivational speaker” and is in great demand during the Navratri season to teach garba and bookings start as early as July.

For a woman who comes from a conservative Rajput family, where “Ghungat pratha” (Not showing your face to any outsider) is an established norm and a woman’s identity is completely appended to her husband, she has come a long way. She is the first woman in family to have done graduation, the first woman to have a job and the first to buy property in her name with her own salary! No small feat for a first generation learner and a woman who is visually impaired!

I am privileged to meet a wide array of people in the course of my work both as a journalist and now as a development writer, and I consciously try not to get carried away by their titles or achievements.  But some one-off “stories” leave an imprint and more often than not they are ordinary people living out extraordinary lives.

I met Monika Parmar recently when I went to Ahmedabad on routine work. She heads our skilling center in the city and is responsible for driving business which includes new admissions, placements and of course mentoring students who are enrolled for coaching.

I watch her interact with the impatient crowd and her people skills are evident as she shifts gears from English to Gujarati or Hindi with ease. She bends down to pat a youngster, offers a cold glass of water to a potential employer and re-assures an anxious mother about her daughter even as she indicates over her head for someone to get a chair and some tea. Small gestures and simple acts but she has already won half the battle!

Not surprisingly because she is a veteran at winning battles. Visually impaired from birth – though her bearing and confidence does not betray this – she was born with juvenile macular dystrophy and struggles with 20/200 vision because of ‘scotoma’ or a big blind spot at the center of her vision which forces her to rely on her dimmed peripheral vision. But her bigger problem is coping with ‘bright light sensitivity’ which is a typical symptom of this problem and one which she has to juggle with on a daily basis given Gujrat’s hot glaring sun and her own work which includes a lot of field work and long hours at the computer.

But does that discourage her? Not for a minute.  Monika explains, “My father is a tailor and I grew up without even knowing the name of my problem! As a result, I was not burdened by the seriousness of it and spent my early child hood studying music and braille as a “back up plan” determined to be independent.” A topper in school she did several odd jobs; including teaching music to kids to ensure she did not have to ask anyone for money. After graduation, her first big opportunity came with IBM and since then it has only got better.

She dismisses her difficulties, “I take one day at a time and believe me it has never been better. My favourite mantraand one that I keep telling the students- is that there is always a solution to every problem if you try. The key words of course are ‘if you try’.”

Her attitude is what sets her apart and her resoluteness ensures she is independent. Admits Monika, “crossing roads during the morning rush hour is a little bit of a challenge because I cannot judge the object or its speed clearly and so instead of committing hara-kiri, I just ask for help and so far, some kind stranger has helped me to cross the roads.”

This practicality and stark honesty are two traits that define her. Not one for any pretence she talks about her childhood and cites her modest background to bond with children who come from socially and economically difficult backgrounds to encourage them to aim for a better future. In fact, it is her rapport with her students, especially girls who have lost all hope. She counsels and mentors them tirelessly till they stand on their feet. In return, her students love her. Many return to the center to seek her advice when they hit a rough patch!

“She is a great motivator and an excellent listener” says Salma Pathan, an ex-student who had a particularly rough life, and was back at the center on her day-off to talk to Mona for some guidance about her career. “She knows when to be strict and when to be kind. You cannot fool her and she keeps a tab of how we are faring and even what we spend our money on! I am not afraid of my parents but I am apprehensive of her reaction if I do something that I should not being doing.”

Hinaz Mastani, another young girl who is still struggling to find her feet says with a touch of emotion, “Mona ma’am is my go-to person. I trust her completely and will not do anything without asking her because I know she has my interest at heart.”

And these testimonies are not exceptions. Several girls from this center look at Mona as their role model. And it is not just limited to girls. Sahil Midda, who now works at Pantaloon and is doing extremely well, says “She was the one who ingrained into me that you need to have a purpose in life. I was an over-confident boisterous brat when I joined GROW center. But she brought me down to earth and made me realise that I had achieved nothing on my own and was just wasting my father’s money. Today whatever I am, I owe it to her and her team”

 

But her life is not confined to just this work. She is acknowledged both in her family and community as a “leader”. People seek her advice about marital problems, diet issues, and career options for their children or even where to buy a flat! She is constantly invited by colleges and schools in Ahmedabad as a “motivational speaker” and is in great demand during the Navratri season to teach garba and bookings start as early as July.

For a woman who comes from a conservative Rajput family, where “Ghungat pratha” (Not showing your face to any outsider) is an established norm and a woman’s identity is completely appended to her husband, she has come a long way. She is the first woman in family to have done graduation, the first woman to have a job and the first to buy property in her name with her own salary! No small feat for a first generation learner and a woman who is visually impaired!

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