2, March 2010
By Kalyani Sardesai
From getting back to his job at Kalyani Forge Ltd within ten months of the accident, to setting up the Apanga Bahuddhashiya Sanstha – an organisation which works to rehabilitate and employ people with various disabilities – the 36–year–old refuses to term the day of his accident (November 27, 2003) as tragic. “After all, how many people get the chance to live two lives in a single lifetime?” he smiles.
A simple but powerful viewpoint that has guided his journey post the accident that occurred in the course of his duty within the electrical maintenance department of the company.
“If you are in control of your mind, your body will obey. I refused to be overcome by anger or negativity, and I was absolutely certain that I would get back to work as soon as I could,” he says.
For sister and mainstay Yogini Kulkarni, the acceptance of the new reality took much longer. “It was a very, very hard time for us,” she reminisces. “I had to first sign permission for one hand to be amputated, and despite hopes that the other hand could be saved, ten days later his other hand had to go as well,” she says. “Coming to terms with the accident was tough, but he stayed positive right through.”
In the months that he was away from work, Sanjay worked at achieving a measure of self–sufficiency despite the loss of both hands. From press–button shirts and elastic–band trousers to receiving calls over the mobile through an automatic headset, there were obstacles every step of the way. But Sanjay was a man with a mission.
Both siblings are unanimous in acknowledging the people who stood by them. “Be it Appa Vasant, the worker who rushed Sanjay to the ambulance, ignoring his injured foot; the employees of Kalyani Forge Ltd who ensured that Sanjay received the supply of 118 bottles of blood in record time; or company chairman Neelkanth Kalyani who took a personal interest in Sanjay’s treatment; there was support from every corner,” says Yogini.
The positive reception continued even after Sanjay resumed work. “From day one, they had somehow known that I would return. And they were thoroughly co–operative when I rejoined,” says Sanjay.
As things stand today, Sanjay’s work necessarily requires him to manage and supervise, both men and materials. “His knowledge of machinery is deep and he is a man in control of his life and work,” says Yogini.
Having recently registered the Apanga Bahuddhashiya Sanstha, Sanjay’s vision for the nascent set–up is crystal clear. “The target is to reach out to at least a thousand physically–challenged people over the next two years. The organisation will have branches in both Pune and Solapur (his native place), and will rehabilitate people with various disabilities by building on their respective skills and strengths. I firmly believe that the physically–challenged need a chance to progress – not handouts. For this, they have to be employable and trained. We have a database of senior citizens and pensioners from various disciplines who will guide, train and counsel the members,” he says. “The senior citizens have the time and the experience not just of work, but also life. It will be a win–win situation for all.”
So be it facilitating the availability of prosthetic equipment and their subsequent repair, training the members as per their interests and skills or setting up a factory that will manufacture auto spare parts, Sanjay’s plans are ambitious. “Not only this, we also plan to build a hostel near the factory to house the members,” he says.
“Of course, it’s a long journey ahead. And I have just started. Help from every corner is welcome. It is my dream and my goal to do everything in my power to change the way people look at the disabled,” he signs off.