The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Blind advocate in second innings

Ahmedabad, March 12: For someone who lost his sight as a child, he has an amazingly clear vision of life — that it is never too late to realise your dreams. Even at 58.

Chandrakant Jalrapurkar, Gujarat’s first blind advocate, began a new innings on Monday after retiring last November as a teacher of music, his first love, when he appeared before a tribunal for his first client — a dismissed primary school teacher.

He was always like that. As a music student in a school in Vadodara, Chandrakant had run away to Mumbai to become a playback singer. He soon realised he could do nothing without a “godfather”. Disappointed, he came back and resumed his studies.

Just when it seemed to be the end of the road, inspiration came. One of his teachers told him to “do something different, to think big”. In those days, Chandrakant recalls, for a blind person it was a big thing to dream of becoming an advocate. So he enrolled in Gujarat University while teaching at CL Sarswati Kunj School and got his LLB degree in 1995. Recently, the Gujarat Bar Council gave Chandrakant the “sanad”, which enables him to practise in courts.

A father of two daughters and a son, Chandrakant admits that he would face difficulties in his new profession but says he is confident of handling the pressure. For everyday matters, he has an assistant who helps him draft applications while his wife escorts him wherever he goes.

Chandrakant also knows there are only a handful of blind lawyers in the country. “As far as I know there are only three blind advocates practising in the country — two in Delhi and one in Calcutta,” he says. The list has now swelled by one more.

Chandrakant’s struggle started early. He was six when he lost his vision for which he blames “incompetent doctors in Sidhpur”, his native place in north Gujarat. This was revealed to him after several years by a nurse of the same hospital.

After he lost his sight, Chandrakant sat at home for six years. It was only after a family acquaintance advised his parents to send him to Vadodara that he joined a government blind school and learnt Braille.

After completing his SSC, he worked as a teacher of classical and light music. But he wanted to study more. So in 1965, he joined LD Arts College to do his MA.

The fighter in Chandrakant became evident when he took up the cause of “low paid” primary school teachers who had no job security. As president of the Gujarat State Primary Teachers’ Association, a post he held for 25 years, he forced the state government to regularise 3,200 teachers who had been served notices by the school managements.

No wonder, his first client happens to be a primary school teacher. Though the tribunal ordered the school authorities to reinstate the teacher, the management appealed the decision in the high court, where Chandrakant will represent the teacher.

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