Shrikant Rathi is a typical teenager. He loves spending time with his friends, studying and has big dreams for his future. Any stranger talking to him would not even realise what hurdles this shy, smiling teenage boy has faced in his life. Shrikant is 100% visually impaired. He lost his eyesight as a toddler. Yet this young fighter has never let his lack of eyesight stop him from anything. We talked to Shrikant about his life and his dreams.
Shrikant has scored 88% marks in his 12th class board examinations from Maharashtra State Board. An enterprising student since childhood, he had scored 86% marks in 10 class board exams too. He lives in Mumbai with his uncle and aunt.
He is a 17 year old young man was has also cleared MHCET exam for further studies.
When asked about his early childhood, he said, “I lost my eyesight as a toddler. I was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma in both eyes and had lost my eyesight since I was 2 years old. I came to live with my uncle and aunt in Mumbai at age 4. I studied till class 10th in Happy Home and School For the Blind in Mumbai”.
As difficult as it was, Shrikant is extremely enterprising and attributes his success to his supportive family, teachers and friends.
“Yes it has been difficult, but my family, my teachers and my friends have supported me a lot. My friends never made me feel I am lacking something. My teachers at Happy Home School were very supportive and they always encouraged me. Up to class 10th I was in a residential school. My teachers helped me a lot. After class 10th I studied in the Arts stream in a State Board affiliated junior college. My friends helped me a lot. They used to help me with notes and even sent me to study material through WhatsApp. My uncle and Aunt would then read it aloud and explain it to me”.
Often, young boys with special needs face some amount of discrimination from their peers. When asked if he faced the same, Shrikant was all praises and said Mumbai is a friendly city and he has always found acceptance and support.
He also said the only thing that truly makes him feel bad is when someone tries to help him out of sympathy.
“Frankly, very rarely. Mumbai is a very friendly city. Even complete strangers help me get on trains and guide me. My friends have been very supportive. But the biggest support is my family. My uncle, aunt and my parents have never let me feel I am lacking anything, They are an inspiration. My dad is my hero. I only feel bad when someone tries to help me out of sympathy. I do not want sympathy. I want people to treat me like they treat everyone else”, said Shrikant.
Shrikant wants to become a lawyer and has cleared the MHCET and CLAT (Common Law Admission Test) too. He is hopeful of getting admission in a good college and becoming a lawyer in future.
Like any other teenager, Srikant loves cricket and books.
“I follow cricket. MS Dhoni is my favourite player. I am very interested in national politics and I actively participate in debates at my school. I love fiction. I listen to audiobooks”, he said.
A student par excellence, Srikant is also interested in current affairs. He believes Prime Minister Modi is an inspiration for youngsters like him. “I follow current affairs passionately and I can say with confidence that our country is in good hands. PM Modi is an inspiration to youngsters like me. He made me believe that any common Indian can achieve his goals if he is willing to work hard. I am willing to work hard and I am sure I will become a great lawyer someday”, he said.
He spoke about how the current government is extending all the necessary help to visually impaired sportspersons, some his friends. Srikant says, “Many of my visually impaired friends have participated in judo, Kabaddi etc. They have even gone abroad and excelled there. The government is providing them with all the opportunities and necessary training. I strongly believe that the Modi Ji is doing what is best for the country”.
His message to youngsters like him was simple. Work hard. Keep the faith and achieve the desired goal. “I want to say to everyone that hard work and faith in one’s ability makes us achieve any desired goal. I am very fortunate to have the support of my Mama Mami (Mr Anand Bagri and Mrs Puja Bagri) and also my parents. We are living in times where there are a lot of opportunities for the youngsters to explore. it is upon us to make the best of them”, he said.
Shrikant may not have eyesight, but a brief conversation with him makes clear that he has sound vision. Despite the difficulties he had faced, he has kept fighting and he does it all with a sweet smile on his face. He is an inspiration to us all.