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  • Writer's pictureKhushi Singh - Intern 2020


Navigating darkness with academic brilliance: BABAI NANDI


Twenty-six-year-old Babai Nandi was born in Kendrapada, Odisha. His father Sapan Nandi is a goldsmith, and his mother Gayatri Nandi is a homemaker. Growing up, he was enrolled in an English medium school till standard five. At the age 10, the harmful effects of a medication dried out his retina and he lost his vision. He underwent many surgeries at Chennai but that couldn't restore his vision. He recalls those moments as very depressing as all of a sudden, he was struggling with everyday tasks, even as simple as getting up from the bed and going to the toilet. Eventually he came into the acceptance of his being visually impaired.


He was then shifted to a special school for the blind in Kendrapada itself. It was difficult for him to study in Braille. But through his strong determination and adaptive capacity he grasped it within one month. In his words, “problems make you human, otherwise what's the difference between us and animals.” While continuing his education he came across many social discriminatory issues like being made fun of when he struggled in new places, no one wanting to be his friend or wanting to read storybooks. But his love for his studies never lessened.


Babai possesses extraordinary learning skills and hence went on to complete his graduation and post-graduation from a premier university of Odisha, Ravenshaw University Cuttack. In 2015, he got a phone call from Swabhiman that he was selected for the Prerana award. After that he applied for scholarship scheme of Swabhiman, went through the process of interview and eventually was selected for a year. Since then, he has received scholarship for three academic years. He then was selected to participate in YLTEP programme. Youth Leadership Training & Empowerment Program of Swabhiman prepares youth with disabilities with the life skills needed to succeed in our increasingly interconnected 21st-century society and economy, by building their capacities, inculcating leadership qualities and preparing them to get good career opportunities. 


In Babai’s words “Swabhiman played a crucial role in guiding me and making me aware of my rights and strengthening my career through scholarships, laptop and Scholar Enrichment Programme.” 


During his PhD, he won a quiz competition where he received a laptop as a prize. He has cleared UGC NET JRF in first attempt and did a specialisation in international politics during his PhD. He was recently approached by Swabhiman to be a resource person for teachers, and he trained them to teach in Braille. During this programme, he did three sessions in 3 schools, and he feels very proud about this as this encourages inclusivity. Swabhiman nominated Babai Nandi’s name for Utkal Diwas award for going beyond his disability and giving back to the society and his significant academic achievements. He won Utkal Diwas award from Government of Odisha on April 1, 2023. 


He is currently serving as a political sciences lecturer at Kendrapada college. He teaches students from weaker economic backgrounds for free, in his leisure. He also aspires to write books in future.


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