To us this is a story that proves how much can be achieved, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulties, if one has the vision and the will do it.
As he hears the squeals of laughter from a nearby classroom, even a heavy beard cannot camouflage the hint of smile on Deodhari Karmali’s visage. It is not without reason. His school – Viklang Vidyalaya – that he started in 1987 has 112 students, including 22 girls, today. All the school’s students and six teachers are physically handicapped, including Karmali himself.
For Karmali, the youngest of nine children, setting up a school was the last thing on his mind. The son of a casual labourer from Murubanda village in Bihar’s Hazaribagh district, he wanted to join the army. However, his life took a different turn at 15 when he lost his right hand in an accident. The disability was only physical as it did not impair Karmali’s mental courage. Two years later, he founded a school for physically handicapped children at Sukari-garhalari village.
Running the school has been no mean task for Karmali. Earlier, parents were reluctant to send their handicapped children to the school. This despite the fact that he charged no fees, distributed free books and even provided meals. But his labour and commitment – he would raise money by growing vegetables – saw Karmali’s dream take shape.
The school’s first batch had 12 students. Money is a constant source of worry as the school requires at least Rs 60,000 a month to sustain itself. But Karmali is undeterred: “If God has deprived me of one hand at least he has given me a mind which always thinks about the betterment of others.”
For Karmali’s wards, their master’s life is inspiring enough. All of them want to follow his footsteps. Mukesh Kumar, 10, wants to help Karmali once he is able to stand on his own feet. “But for Guruji, we would have been begging for alms,” says 12-year-old Sudhir who has lost both his legs.
As for Guruji, he is happy that his school is well into its eleventh year. “Hard work and determination have brought us here,” says Karmali. “I often forget that I have a handicap. Now it makes no difference to me.”
But a difference it has certainly made to 112 handicapped children. With Viklang Vidyalaya, Karmali has shown to the cynical villagers that mental strength can transcend physical barriers.
Source: India Today, 19 October, 1999