Prabakaran is a 26 year-old man having severe visual impairment and moderate hearing loss from birth. He was born to a poor farming family who live in a small village near Namakal District in South India. Prabakaran studied in his village Panchayat School along with other children with the support of a CBR worker. He faced lot of challenges in school because of his dual sensory loss. One of his school teachers beat him very harshly when Prabakaran did not answer his question. Prabakaran was not able to answer because he didn’t hear the question. The teacher didn’t believe that he had a hearing loss, as he could not accept that a visually impaired boy can have a hearing loss too!
Prabakaran used to write his exam with the support of a scribe. When he was in high school (i.e. std. 9th) his classmates teased him saying that it was only with the support of the scribe that he was able to pass all examinations. This statement disturbed him and he decided to write exams on his own. He took a lot of effort to learn writing skills. He failed in std. 9th twice because his writing was not legible. He worked hard to improve his writing skills and passed 9th std after 2 years. In the year 2000 he passed high school, and in 2002 he passed 12th grade (pre-University level). In his 12th grade, he secured high marks and stood first in the school and proved to his classmates that he has ability too in spite of his disabilities. After completing school he wished to attend university.
Prabakaran is a strong, determined person and does everything in a competitive spirit to prove that he can. Knowing his attitude and ability, Holy Cross Service Society suggested to him that he work and learn at the same time. So he left his village and found a job in a city (Trichirapalli) which is 90 km away from his village. He worked in a canteen for a monthly income of Rs.500 and joined University to do his graduation. Between 2003 – 2006 he did BA Sociology and between 2006-2008 he completed post graduate degree (M.A. Sociology). Prabakaran also passed the Village Officer examination conducted by State Government of Tamil Nadu.
Running a Canteen
Now Prabakaran runs a canteen on his own in a school and has a sales turnover of Rs.350/- to 400 per day. He maintains accounts perfectly and has very high business ethics and habits.
Purchasing Stock for the Canteen
Prabakaran himself buys stock from the wholesale market and has developed business relationships with many companies,such as Coke, Pepsi, and Britannia. In addition to his work in the canteen, Prabakaran decided to take a part-time job, as he felt that he had free time in the evening. He took up a job in a residential school for the disabled where there are 110 residents. He purchases food materials and vegetables worth Rs. 10,000 to 15,000 for the hostel every week from the market. He is totally independent in handling money and has the ability to check the quality of goods and vegetables. He chooses the shops where he can buy for a reasonable price and negotiates with the shop keeper to get the best price.
When the warden of the hostel gives him the list of vegetables to be purchased, he goes through it and guides the warden to remove vegetables which are costly and suggest substitute ones. He takes care of boys in the hostel. He earns Rs.3000/- per month from working in the residential school. When discussing with the residential warden which vegetables are to be purchased, he uses oral language for expression and sign language for reception. (See video below.) Prabakaran can read and write Braille. He knows how to use the abacus. He has fluent sign language skills and can finger spell Tamil letters. Prabakar uses his cell phone for calculating his daily accounts. At the end of each day he enters all his transactions in the account book and derives the closing balance of that day. He is a perfect businessman.
An Update on Prabakaran's Progress
In May 2011 Prabakaran took up a new and very big challenge in order to develop his career. By competing with many business people at Trichrapalli by means of tender, he succeed in being given the opportunity to run a canteen in a planetarium. This planetarium is a state government project where students from schools and colleges, as well as the general public, visit in huge crowds to view shows and displays at the science planetarium.
The canteen has two units. One is selling snacks and drinks to the spectators, and the other is preparing food for the participants who attend workshops and training programmes organized by planetarium. Sales in the canteen are in big demand. Prabakaran manages the stocks, maintains accounts, builds up good relationships with the public, and also appoints staff for the canteen. He made a decision to appoint only differently-abled people in the canteen, and he has now an orthopaedically-handicapped person, a hard of hearing person. and two learning disabled people as his colleagues. By appointing individuals who are differently-abled, Prabakaran creates awareness about the capabilities of all people to various groups at the planetarium.
Canteen at the Planetarium
Sales at the Canteen
Food preparation by people who are differently-abled