Blindness No Obstacle For This University Teacher In Odisha

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement” – Helen Keller

June 27. We all celebrate this day as the birthday of world-famous humanitarian Helen Adams Keller, known as a symbol of courage and hope. Let’s take a look at the inspiring story of Odisha’s Pradosh Kumar Swain, who has defied odds through courage and hope.

Swain was born in a lower-middle-class family at Ramchandrapur in Ganjam District on August 15, 1978 to Dandapani Swain, a teacher at Ashram School in Koraput, and Basanti Swain, a housewife.

Swain was born with cloudy eyes and due to a lack of medical facilities nearer home, his parents took him to a Berhampur hospital around 2 months after his birth. They also treated him with homeopathy medicines and home remedies, but nothing worked to improve his eyes.

Being partially blind since birth, Swain’s father decided to enrol him in the primary school where he was a teacher. Before he got to Class 6, his father shifted him to Koraput Drustihina Vidyalaya (a school for the visually impaired) and enrolled his name in Class 1. “I felt inferior and homesick there, and so I left the school within a few days. I then rejoined my previous school and continued my education there till Class 7,” he recalled.

However, during the exams, Swain faced a problem as he couldn’t find any writer to assist him. “But somehow with the help of my father and some senior teachers, who read the question papers, I managed to pass my exams in the second division,” he said.

In 1993, he took admission with 13 other students at Ramchandrapur Government High School. Thanks to the help of a scribe, Swain was the only one to pass.

“I must give credit to one of my teachers, Pramod Panda, for guiding me a lot during my studies and even after, thereby playing a big role in my success,” Swain said.

After matriculation, Swain got admission to BJB Junior College in Bhubaneswar. During his intermediate studies , he lived in a general hostel.

“It was during this time that I came in  contact with two senior students named Sudhansu Bal (History department) and Debasish Lenka (Odia department) and Prof Kedarnath Sahoo of Ravenshaw University. They inspired me to dream of clearing the Odisha Public Service Commission (OPSC),” he informed.

With the help of audiobooks and some friends, Swain also cleared his intermediate with second division and shifted to Khallikote College, Berhampur, for further studies. During his academics, he was felicitated several times for his Odia poems and debating skills. His poems were also published in school and college magazines as well as in newspapers.

For graduation, he first applied for Political Science honours, but changed his course within a few days. “I was impressed with the teaching of Modern Indian Language (Odia) teachers Harsh Rath and Bikash Behera. I also had a keen interest in Odia. So I took Odia Literature as my honours subject,” he said.

During this period, he practised braille and by the end of 2nd year, he started reading braille books. And in the finals, he topped in Berhampur University and got a national scholarship of Rs 15,000.

After graduation, Swain along with the then postmaster at his village, Rajnikant Padhi, started a literary association named ‘Udra Sahitya Sansoda’ at Ramchandrapur. “I  published my first article titled ‘Bhitta Mati ra Basna’ in the first issue of the association’s journal,” Swain said.

Then for post-graduation, he went to Shantiniketan in West Bengal and cleared the entrance exam. “However, due to certain issues, I had to leave Shantiniketan and enrolled in Utkal University,” he said.

According to Swain, the golden period of his life was the days spent during his post-graduation.

“During this period, one of my professors had started a ‘Talpadeswari Sahitya Anusthan’ in Utkal University in which a group of people discussed various topics  every evening. I too participated in these sessions and they were certainly a great learning experience,” he said.

In 2004, Swain applied for MPhil with the topic ‘Swadhinata Parabarti Adhunika Kabita Samalochana Parampara’.

By this time, he had appeared for the UGC NET examination four times, but couldn’t qualify.

After MPhil, Swain went to All India Confederation of the Blinds (AICB), New Delhi, for learning stenography. “But I couldn’t pass the written entrance. Then after much stress and frustration, I decided to join the National Association of the Blind (NAB) for a computer training course,” he recalled.

“Having faced several failures in qualifying for NET, I set my mind to give it one last shot. I returned from Delhi in November 2006 and gave the exam in December. In April 2007, one of my friends, Lokanath Sahoo, called to inform me that I had cleared the NET JRF this time,” he added.

Like a dream come true, he registered for PhD. In 2010, he ranked 5th in OPSC exam for recruitment of lecturers. After clearing the examination, he got married and has two daughters.

In October 2011, he was posted to Government Women’s College in Jeypore. “In December 2011, I also got an appointment letter for an assistant professor’s post in Central University of Odisha (CUO), Koraput. So I joined there,” Swain said.

Swain has published more than 35 articles in publications like Jhankar, Kabyaloka, Saptarshi and Viswamukti. “My focus of research is more on modern Odia drama and poetry,” said Swain, who completed his PhD in 2015.

At present, Swain is a senior assistant professor in CUO. He has published several books such as ‘Bibidha Samikhya’, ‘Natyakara Vikramdev Verma at Gyanajuga’, ‘Niladri Natya Jigyansa’ and ‘Dakshina Odisha ra Nataka O Natyakara’.

Swain has proved that hard work helped him overcome an obstacle like vision impairment and to shine as an example for others in life. “In life, our experiences from the bitter challenges lead to success. God always gives everyone a chance to take the right decision, never let it go with your regrets, ” Swain signed off.

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