Even with all the progress and development, we live in a society that is still not disable-friendly. The news of a child born with some disability is still met with a lot of disappointment. Srikanth Bolla had a similar experience.
Born in a remote village on the east coast of Andhra Pradesh, 24 years back, the neighbours in the village suggested that his parents “get rid of him” just because he was born without sight.
“Scores of parents ordinarily did and still do – abandon babies born with disabilities,” he said, according to YourStory.
Thankfully, Bolla’s parents chose a different path. Even if they owned a very small piece of land in the village and earned only about Rs 20000 a year, that’s around a mere 1600 bucks per month, they went ahead and educated him.
Not for nothing, Srikanth is now the CEO of Hyderabad-based Bollant Industries, that has a turnover of Rupees 50 crores and is an organisation that employs uneducated and disabled employees to manufacture eco-friendly, disposable consumer packaging solutions.
Considering himself as the luckiest man on earth, he thanks his parents for educating him even if they had to face a lot of hurdles and declares that “they’re the richest people he knows.”
Fast forward 24 years and a confident Srikanth Bolla revealed to YourStory that if the “world looks at me and says, ‘Srikanth, you can do nothing,’ I look back at the world and say I can do anything.”
Bolla started out by accompanying his father to the farm and because he wasn’t of much use there, his father decided to send him to school. As you could already guess, the school was not very kind to him. He was pushed to the back bench and made fun of in the physical training sessions.
So his father decided to move him to a school for special children. Srikanth not only topped his classes but also discovered his knack for chess and cricket there.
The smart kid that he was, he also got the opportunity to work for Lead India Project, a movement to empower the youth through value-based education, with former President Late APJ Abdul Kalam.
Even after scoring an amazing 90% in his 10th boards, Bolla was not allowed to pursue further studies with Science as a stream.
“I was made blind by the perception of the people,” he told YourStory.
But because “moving away from the problem is not in his blood,” he fought it out with the government and was allowed to take up science with the rider that he was doing so “at his own risk.”
But he had another obstacle to overcome – he couldn’t take competitive entrances in India because of his disability. He applied for IIT, BITS Pilani, and other top engineering colleges, but did not manage to get a hall ticket.
“I got a letter saying ‘you are blind, hence, you are not allowed to apply for competitive exams.’ If IIT did not want me, I did not want IIT either. How long can you fight?” he told YourStory.
Not the one to give up, Srikanth started applying to Universities abroad and went on to become the first international blind student to be admitted to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US.
During his stay in the U.S., he found himself dealing with multiple questions, and with a desire to do something fulfilling, his thirst for justice brought him back to India.
Many questions bothered me. Why should a disabled child be pushed to the back row in the class? Why should the 10 percent of the disabled population of India be left out of the Indian economy? Why can’t they make a living like everyone else with dignity?
We helped about 3000 students in acquiring an education and vocational rehabilitation. But then I thought what about their employment? So I built this company and now employ 150 differently-abled people.
To sum his life up in his own words, this is what he learned and this is what he lives by.
Show compassion and make people rich. Include people in your life and remove loneliness, and lastly, do something good; it will come back to you.