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Lack of vision is no curse on her

Her life is an inspiration for others that loss of sight need not mean the end of life. They should be able to see light at the end of the tunnel.



Hema Setty -- Photo: C.V. Subrahmanayam

With her perseverance and an indomitable will to reach her goals in life against all odds, she has proved that lack of vision needn't be a curse. Today, Hema Setty not only takes care of her family but has also carved a niche for herself in her professional career as an assistant manager (telecom) at the ING Vysya Bank's corporate office in Bangalore.

Pothana Setty and wife, Vasavi Lakshmi, received the first jolt in their life when they detected that daughter Hema was suffering from poor vision, when she was one year old. She was operated upon by the ophthalmic surgeon of the King George Hospital, Ramayya Chetty, but her condition did not show any signs of improvement.

They admitted her to a regular school. She had a problem reading letters in fine print and her mother used to read out the lessons for her. When she was in Std. VII, her vision deteriorated further due to the formation of cataract in eyes. The cataract was operated upon but subsequently her condition worsened as she gradually developed glaucoma.

Initially, Hema had problems reading small letters but later she found it difficult to read even bolder ones. Her mother used to write big and thick letters with a sketch pen and read out from the textbooks. "I got the shock of my life when one day Hema told me that she was unable to see me any longer," recalled Vasavi with tears welling up in her eyes. The hapless parents, who were extremely worried about her future, knocked at the doors of ophthalmic surgeons in different parts of the country but their efforts proved futile as Hema's optic nerve was damaged and there was no cure for it.

Slowly they reconciled to fate and when their tears dried up, Hema's parents admitted her to the Lutheran High School for the Blind at Narasaraopeta, where she learnt Braille. Subsequently, she was admitted to the S.K.R. College in Rajahmundry, where she completed her intermediate and degree. "My mother used to read out from the textbooks and I used to jot down the points in Braille," recalls Hema. Fortunately, Hema had the support of her friends and lecturers. She completed her graduation in 1994 and in between she did a telephone operator's course in Faridabad in 1992. She also learnt Hindi, Kannada and English as good oral communication is essential for a successful telephone operator.

In 1994, when a vacancy for the post of telephone operator was advertised by ING Vysya Bank, she readily applied and took the interview. Though she performed well, the bank officials were apprehensive whether a visually challenged girl could handle the daunting task of handling 1,000 lines at the corporate office. They gave her a temporary posting for three months and that was enough for Hema to prove her mettle. With her hard work and devotion to duty, she proved that even a normal person is no match for her. "She replaced three normal operators," recalls her elated father, Pothana, who incidentally happens to be a vice-president of the bank.

Pothana, on the advice of his friends from Mohsin Eye Bank, the doctors, A.V.N. Chetty and C.V. Gopal Raju, and the trustees, A. Sriramamurthy and Kasim S. Mehdi, placed an advertisement in the matrimonial columns of a newspaper seeking an alliance for Hema. "Though she had lost her vision, all her other faculties are normal and there is no reason why she should not marry," they convinced her parents. Yoganand, who was working as a clerk in ING Financial Services, married her and the couple have a seven-year old daughter, who is studying in Std. II.

At work she deftly handles a 1000-line prime rate interface (PRI) independently. She underwent training in the specialised software `jaws' and responds to e-mails, without any assistance. She is now undergoing training in Developed PowerPoint, C ++, and Internet browsing. She participated in the State Car Rally in Karnataka recently and bagged a consolation prize. In all, 100 cars participated in the 100 km. rally. She was given a route map in Braille and had to navigate the driver.

What's her ambition? "I want to become a manager," she says without any second thoughts. Given her determination there need be no doubt she would reach her goal.

B. MADHU GOPAL

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