The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sightless races to MBA feat

Mumbai, May 14: Ashis Goyal is blind. He has also just topped the business management course at the highly-rated Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies.

Blind schools all over are agog with his achievement and want him to talk about his “phenomenal victory”. But Ashis, whose retina caved in to a debilitating condition shortly after he appeared for his board exams, does not sound exultant. The steely determination is apparent, though. “I want to join the London School of Economics,’’ he says in his mellow voice. “They are the best.’’

The journey to an MBA top-slot and a plum job as management trainee with ING Vysya has been painful. “There were more than 100 big companies in our campus during the placement week, but none interviewed me,” he says, the bitterness apparent. That he had topped the course didn’t seem to matter to companies busy tempting other students with fat pay packets.

“I wasn’t considered by any big company, Indian or foreign, until ING Vysya approached me on day four,” Ashis says. “All I say is, treat all students on a par.”

A finance major who topped this year’s post-graduate degree in business administration, Ashis says he will not let the pin-pricks affect him. “It’s only my sight. We just do things differently and hope we are given a fair chance and a go at equality,” he says.

Ashis’ younger sister, Garima, is not surprised at her brother’s achievement. “He always had the drive though there was a phase at the time he was appearing for his board examinations when he was really low,” she says. “That was the time he first needed a writer.”

Retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that causes the retina to rapidly degenerate, only affected his eyes. “It never affected his life,” Garima said. Ashis was totally blind by the time he reached college, but, undaunted, he graduated with 72 per cent.

“He made it on his own,” says H.H. Mankad, the management institute’s vice-chancellor. “There was no special treatment for him except for the services of a writer we provided.”

What Ashis lacked by way of sight he more than made up with his razor-sharp memory and brilliance. Using a laptop to note down lectures and visualise graphs, Ashis mostly gave impromptu presentations in class.

Then there was the support provided by a senior “in a similar condition” which Ashis says was invaluable. “Hari Raghavan, who has a similar condition, was always there, guiding me and prodding me along,” he says.

The 23-year-old topper adds that Raghavan failed to get a good job for two years after passing out from the institute. “This is what I mean — chances don’t come along that easily,” Ashis says. “It’s only now that Raghavan has got a really good job with GE Countrywide.”

Ashis says he will soon head abroad for super-specialisation after a stint with ING Vysya. “I want to start something on my own eventually,” he says. “Perhaps lead a team of professionals.”

Ashis hopes that research on retinitis pigmentosa at the Johns Hopkins University will one day provide a cure for the as yet incurable condition. “But that may take time,” he says.

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