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A trailblazer for women, disabled

Visually impaired teacher, who once sold candy at the railway station, is now a motivational speaker

A year ago, K. Suguna and her husband, Elumalai, sold candy at the Tambaram Railway Station. The couple, both visually impaired, made about 150 - 200 a day. They saved the bulk of it for the education of their two children — Vijay and Supriya. Today, Suguna is not only a school teacher, but also a motivational speaker.

Luck came to her in the form of her husband, Elumalai, who insisted that she too continue her education. Eventually, a few philanthropists learnt of her compelling story. They and the Maatram Foundation lent a helping hand and found her a job as a teacher at the Mahindra World School in Mahindra World City.

Her inspiring story had gained her many invitations to speak at several schools, colleges and organisations to students, employees and corporates.

Recently, she delivered a hour-long motivational talk at the Infosys Learning festival at Mahindra City. Suguna also went on to win the Ability Foundation Mastery award (at the 15th edition of CavinKare ability awards) in February 2017, becoming an inspiration and a trailblazer for several persons with disabilities. "I want to motivate people, especially women. Being visually impaired should not be a setback. If you have the will power you can do anything in this world," said Ms. Suguna. "Aandavan nallavangala sodhipaan aana kai vida maatan (God tests good people but never abandons them)," she added from her favourite actor Rajinikanth’s film.

The story goes back to over three decades ago, when Suguna lost her vision after she turned a year old. Despite several challenges, her father wanted to educate her. She was enrolled in a school in Puducherry, where she was a topper.

‘Pledged jewellery’

Later, after her marriage, Elumalai encouraged her to study further and she completed her B.A. in Tamil Literature and went on to do her B. Ed. "I had to pledge the little jewellery that I had to pursue my studies. I always wanted to become a teacher, but no one would give me a job due to my disability. We slipped into deep poverty, and debts mounted, so it was hard to find a way out. So, we decided to sell candy at the railway station," she added.

Suguna said that she had never lost sight of who she wanted to be and held on to hope. "One day, a good Samaritan who spotted me selling candy had a brief chat with me. He was taken aback after knowing that I was educated. He referred me to Maatram Foundation — the team here introduced me to the Principal of Mahindra World School, who after a hour-long chat offered me the job," she narrated.

"Today, I walk inside the school with so much confidence. The students and parents appreciate me. They look up to me," she said, in a proud tone.

She teaches Tamil for Classes II, III and IV. She uses braille books to teach, and another teacher helps her out when it comes to writing on the board, or correcting books. Her entire family has now relocated closer to the school. Her two kids are studying at the Mahindra World School. Suguna has now completed her Master’s in Tamil Literature. She will soon be enrolling for Ph. D.

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