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'The President said I was fantastic'

June 19, 2007 13:23 IST

My name is Mohammed Asif iqbal. I lost my total eye sight at the age of 16 years old.  Never the less, I got my primary and secondary as well as partial college education from United States.  then I became the first blind commerce graduate from St Xavier's College Calcutta and first MBA(HR) from Symbiosis Center for Management & HRD (SCMHRD, Pune)  I am currently employed with PwC over two years now.  I work through the help of talking software call JAWS install on my laptop and cell phone.  In other words; what ever is on the computer screen; it reads it out loud.  I was blessed with an opportunity to meet with President of India twice, once on August 26, 2004 and January 17, 2006 to discuss technology initiatives that would benefit large blind/visually impaired community

I sincerely would like to thank my close friend Prateek Arneja for accompanying me to visit the President of India on August 23, 2004 at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.  I am also grateful to our former director, Professor Pillai, for availing me an opportunity to give a presentation on my challenges of life at National Seminar, 2003.  I feel very fortunate to come across to our former CBI Director, Dr Kaarthikeyan who has taken initiative to organise meeting with the president.  I am thankful to my parent for being my side and providing me with everything I need to achieve my goals. I am also blessed with wonderful mother who is always supportive im my good times and extend her inspirations during my bad time.  My mom has made me independent and taught me to take on life with positive attitude and always achieve for the top.  I am also greatful to our director, Mr. Subramenian for granting me leave and permission to visit the honorary President. 

After the great fresher party where I enjoyed dancing with our junior girls and senior batch mate, I boarded the Goa Express for Delhi with Prateek for which Mr. Mainrai, father of one of our colleague, arranged tickets.  Upon reaching Delhi, we came to know very unfortunate news about Prateek's grandma instant death, which occurred few hours ago. Never the less, his family were very kind, generous and demonstrated excellent hospitality skills.  I felt home and was truly amazed by Prateek's family warmth behavior.

On Monday 12:15 we drove to Rashtrapati Bhavan expecting to arrive at 1:15p.m but Delhi traffic jam caused by heavy rain enabled us to arrive just in time.  We entered the gate No. 63 and my name was mentioned in the Mr. President appointment sheet and it contained other list of appointments scheduled every fifteen minutes. We went through two-security checkpoint and we finally parked our car. We were escorted by the security official to the reception area. Receptionists greeted us and told that Prateek would not be allowed to visit the President. We called Dr Kaarthikeyan sir who was kind enough to explain the situation and receptionists after seeking approval from her boss allowed Prateek to accompany me.  We were then escorted by another security official to other two check points where they checked our lap tops and deposited our cell phones and a digital camera.  After security clearance, we were taken into the visiting room.  A platter of sweets along with samosas and dalwara were serving to us. We each picked a sweet and handed back the rest.  Prateek explained that visiting room was huge like a palace with tons of decorative things hanging from the wall.  We read business magazines while we waited 30 minutes for the President. 

At 2:25p.m, one of the securities official announced my name and we were both escorted to President's meeting room.  We both greeted the President. Director of technology also attended the meeting.  I started to set up my laptop while Prateek searched for power Point and plugged the laptop.  While my laptop was being booting, I showed the President how I use my talking note taker  which I used for taking lecture notes in the class room.  President was pretty impressed by it.  He kept on saying that, "fantastic guy, he is." Then I showed him a presentation which talks about overcoming challenges and obstacles in my life as a visually impaired person.  He kept on tapping his able when he hears people clapping.   After the presentation video was over, I showed him how I work on MS Word, Power point, and Excel through the help of talking software known as Jaws.  He was very impressed with it and most of all he was truly impressed with me using it to excel in life.  

Then I told him the bitter truth that we currently have to import this software from the United States and it cost $800 (Approx. Rs. 40000).  I requested him to initiate a project of developing Indian talking software, which would solve huge problem and could serve as a great cost affective tools of the visually impaired Indians.  He immediately instructed director to initiate this project.  I also assured that I would be more than happy to provide any sort of assistance in this regards. 

Then I mention the issue of copyrights.  I told him that whenever we have to convert text into Braille or audio format, we have to take permission from the publisher to honour the copyright law but his actions results to high time consuming process and delays in producing the access materials.  I requested him to kindly influence the legislature to make the necessary amendment to enable the access media to carry on the process without seeking copyright permission.  He also told me that there is a digital library, which could be accessible to visually impaired at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.  It consists of all the Indian author books, which was published 50 years ago.  They are trying to get it to 25 years ago.  He also promised me that they would initiate legislation on this matter. 

I also pointed out that there is a huge gap between implementation of PWD act and he has assured that he will also look into this matter.  This entire discussion lasted over 35 minutes and then I discussed the issue of national seminar.  It is a by-annual functions held in Nashik and Pune.  We also wanted to invite him to innogerate our annual function on October 2-3 but as we expected he did not agree to come on that day due to October 2 being Gandhi Jayanti.   We proposed for a video conferencing and fortunately he willingly agreed for that.  We tried showing him presentation on the thieme but we were running out of time and he tooked the cd  and promise us that he will view it later.  When I was packing my bag, I just mention the fact that I will be graduating on April 19, and it would be great if he could come to our convocation to witness first visually impaired person to get awarded PGDM certificate and create inspirational history for Symbiosis family.  Mr. President replied that he might do so. We will all keep our finger cross and just may be; Mr. President may come for our convocations. 

As we were ready to go out of the room, Mr. President asked us, whether or not we had tea or coffee.  We said yes and shook hand and walked out of the room. 

Presidential visit was indeed a good experience for both of us.  A lifetime opportunity, which we got, and we utilized it to the fullest. 

Mohammed asif Iqbal 

*****

This is Prerna Gupta, currently in US on a short term assignment from IBM and was previously staying in Bangalore. I did have a lucky chance to meet Dr APJ Abdul Kalam when he was i guess the Scientific Advisor to Union Defence Minister. I was in my first year of B.Tech course. He was on a planned visit to Rail Coach Factory for some inspections of new
launching coaches which RCF had manufactured for the defence ministry. I was so excited about his visit and was constantly after my father, Sh. S.K.Gupta who then worked at RCF as a mechanical engineer, to make an
arrangement so that i could meet Dr APJ.

It was a never ending wait till Dr APJ arrived at RCF main office complex. I was put on with another young lady to present him with a welcoming bouquet on his arrival. Always known for his love for children, Dr APJ greeted us warmly in return. He
asked us what we currently do and study and wished us good luck in everything we do. I took no time to pull out my personal diary and take an autograph for him. He signed it for me with an always smiling face "Keep Smiling". How dearly did i always keep that page in my diary. It was such an upsetting moment when i lost that in one of the luggage movements when my father was posted to Ranchi and we moved our house.

But the meeting still remains fresh in my memories. He is such a gentleman and a down to earth person !!! We were presented with his newly published book "Wings On Fire" and i remember having read it the very same evening. It is really an inspiring account of his life with beautiful quotes and incidents that inspire us to stand in struggling phases of our lives. We love you Dr. Kalam for your simplicity and knowledge and your respect for the same. Your love for children is well known. I missed another chance of meeting him at the convocation ceremony of our engineering college when i was to recieve my degree and a silver medal from him in 2003, but no regrets since i was one of those lucky people who had a chance to meet this great person at least once.

Prerna Gupta

Have you met President Kalam? Tell us about it!