Vishwanath Panigrahi
Age: 35

“I came to The Blind Relief Association in 2003 for the first time. I received technical training at the association – the know-how of operating an ITI, Inside Threading Machine. The ITI is used to make certain parts of a camera. I picked up a few odd jobs after my training, but didn’t find anything stable. Could you let me know if you come across a job description that fits me? I’m not shy of working hard; I can work day and night. Right now I’m here to earn as much or as little money as I can. I am punching holes in these circular bits for 15 paisa per piece. Some days I punch about 1,500 of them, 2,000 on other days. This one time I punched about 4,000 pieces.

“I could’ve been working a better job today. If only my older brothers had enrolled me in a blind school after I lost my eyesight. I was in Class 8 when I was diagnosed with brain tumour. It’s how I lost my vision. I sat for my Class 10 and 12 CBSE exams through a private establishment. I couldn’t pursue graduation because of financial problems. Had I continued studying, I’m sure I would’ve had a better job.

“My brain tumour was removed, but the doctors said there was no treatment for the loss of my sight. I underwent three surgeries, and spent 8 months in a hospital. I somehow escaped death. They told me to pop Vitamin A pills, but I’ve stopped taking them. It’s very discouraging to keep having these medicines to no end. Plus, its rates have shot up. They also asked me to stop eating potatoes because it causes blood thinning. But potato’s the king of vegetables, it’s the cheapest and most easily available; I have no option but to eat them.

“My family stays on rent in Faridabad. I don’t live with them because of financial issues. Had it been our own place, I guess I would’ve just lived with them. I’m currently staying in a private hostel in Janakpuri. I work hard to sustain myself; I also have to send money back home.

“I’m desperately seeking a stable job, doesn’t matter if it’s big or small. Whether it means working as a sweeper or an owner, work is work. I come here and punch holes, that’s fine too, but there’s no satisfaction. There are so many expenses these days. A permanent job here at The Blind Relief Association would be great. I had asked Pandey ji about 2-3 years ago, he said there’s no vacancy and will let me know when there’s one. I haven’t asked him since then.

“I also worked at a couple of call centres. But I didn’t receive my salary because they were target-based jobs, and I couldn’t meet the targets. Marketing seems problematic. Explaining, getting things across is rather difficult. Plus, I never completed my computer training. I enrolled myself for a six-month course in Noida, but I quit in two months. I couldn’t afford to not be working; I dropped out to get a job. I’m OK with machines, you know. Tell me how it works and I’ll do just fine.

“Do let me know if you learn of a vacancy. I try not to lose hope.”

– As told to Tania Goklany. She met Vishwanath at The Blind Relief Association in Delhi.