Coming alive in the face of odds

THE HANS INDIA |   Mar 20,2017 , 12:43 AM IST

Prasad at the Antarctica Expedition in 2013
Prasad at the Antarctica Expedition in 2013

World Disabled Day in Hyderabad

“I believe that every person is born twice. First, as he is. Second, is when his work impacts people around him. I am a person, who is driven to do such a work,” feels 32-year-old Sai Prasad Viswanathan, a man who is setting examples for youngsters that ‘anything is possible’.

Prasad, who was born with 60 per cent disability, was the first Indian to be featured in the Limca Records to complete a research expedition in Antarctica in 2013. The other Limca record he achieved is for being the first Indian with disability to skydive from 14,000ft.

His achievements are an inspiration to people of all ages. He is a gold medalist from Chaitanya Bharathi Institute of Technology (CBIT), an MS in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin and also has a Business degree from Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad.

“I never thought I could study well, as I was not that great with academics, but it was my parent’s dream, which was my only goal to fulfill, and that has lead me to the path of success,” he shares.

Prasad, who is also a ‘Helen Keller Rode Model Person of the Year (2010), co-founded a venture ‘Sahasra’ with a team of five members that provides scholarships to meritorious and financially backward students, which can help them to pursue higher education.

He generated scholarship worth Rs 40 lakh that supports numerous students. This work has become a Harvard University case study on how adventure sports can help raise awareness about access for persons with disabilities. Through Sahasra Prasad has reached to about 20,000 students. 

“Three things which I love to do are reading, travelling and sharing my experience with the world. I am also passionate about adventure sports. I also enjoy living frugally and in simplicity. If I were a design theme, I would be a minimalist,” smiles the youngster.

“I own a library of 700 books, travel at least five times a year and participate in a career mentoring or inspiring discussion at least once every two weeks,” he shares.

“When I wake up, I see at least 15-20 missed calls from work. The calls require me to counsel career decisions for people. This drives me because I feel needed. It makes me happy that my presence made a difference to their lives,” he says.

“Over the past year, each day I went to bed, knowing that I made a difference to at least one life. Such a thought has given me insane happiness,” adds Prasad on his key to happiness.

Sure, he has achieved a lot. But, Prasad’s dreams are ever-growing. “I intend to create jobs for persons with disabilities, where disability is an advantage.

For instance, if a traffic police is hearing impaired, then he is not affected by traffic noise. I worked on generating a list of such jobs for three sectors – hospitality, manufacturing and IT. I presented the same on a TedX forum,” he shares.

“Wadhwani Centre for Entrepreneurial Research and Development and ISB took my work and set up a skill-development training centre for persons with disabilities towards such jobs. I am also working with Dr Reddy’s Foundation on the same foundational thought,” he adds.

Prasad is also working on a ‘Disability Recruitment League’ that will aim to invite five premium organiaations across all sectors to recruit persons with disabilities. With a budget aimed at Rs 10 crore, the league would absorb 50 skilled candidates with disabilities. 

“I love public speaking and debating. I also enjoy writing. Often, I focus more on execution, than on ideation. I believe that most ideas work only because someone had the courage to implement the idea in reality,” he shares about his beliefs. 

“I was refused admission in several high schools as a kid, but neither I nor my parents ever gave up. The number of times you are hurt, insulted and fail will never matter on the day you achieve that, which your heart most truly wants.

I studies in USA, there wasn’t a single day where I was reminded about my disability let it be either of the rich infrastructure which they had for their people or the people’s mindset in that country,” he adds on an insuring note.

“Here, in India there are hardly any buildings that are equipped in such a way were it does trouble people like me. Also there are people who keep reminding us about our disability. Sadly, they miss to understand that the disability is in their thinking and in the infrastructure itself and not in people like me,” he opines.

“I have plans to adopt a daughter and shower her all the love. And in two to three decades from now, I envision to accomplish my objective that no child should struggle in life for the same reasons that I did,” he concludes. 

By Bhagyashree Kottoori

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