Twenty-one-year-old Bhakti Ghatole from Nagpur lost her eyesight to cancer at the tender age of nine. But that hasn’t stopped her from pursuing her dreams and ambitions with infectious zest!
It was a matter of overwhelming pride for the Ghatole family. During the convocation ceremony of Nagpur University, the youngest member of their family was to be presented with the gold medal for scoring the highest marks in Political Science in the first year BA course.
Bhakti, who lost her eyesight to Retinoblastoma, a deadly eye cancer at the age of nine, reached the stage confidently to receive her prize.
“I felt so happy to have made my family proud,” she says.
It has been a long journey for her, but an even longer one lies ahead of her. The 21-year-old aims to become a psychologist and then follow her dream of becoming an IAS officer.
“It’s never been easy, but I have never felt incomplete. Yes, my disability could be a hurdle sometimes, but it certainly cannot stop me from pursuing my dreams. Life is beautiful and I intend to live it to the fullest,” says Bhakti, with a slight quiver in her voice.
At the tender age of six months, doctors detected cancer in Bhakti’s right eye. Despite many efforts, the doctors could not save her eye. Even though the doctors were certain that the cancer wouldn’t spread to the other eye, it unfortunately did.
The deadly disease resurfaced in Bhakti’s life at the age of seven and the family’s small world was turned upside down once again. Her parents, Ramesh Ghatole, a development officer with National Insurance Company, and mother Sushma, a homemaker, shifted from their small ancestral village of Katol to Nagpur in search of better treatment options with their two daughters. From Nagpur, the family travelled to Chennai and Hyderabad as and when required. After a long battle and as many as 25 chemotherapies, Bhakti lost the left eye too.
“I was seven and I had already been through so much. So when I lost my sight completely, I gave up. I refused to talk to anyone and refused to go to the doctors or temples. I just wanted to quit. That was when my parents took me to the Yoga Abhyas Mandal in Nagpur. I started learning yoga and meditation and it helped. I became a positive person and decided to accept my life as it was,” recalls Bhakti.
The initial years of schooling had been too full of uncertainty and treatment for Bhakti to be able to focus on studies. She tried to cope at a regular school with the help of her elder sister and by learning Braille. But the real turning point came when she met her teacher and mentor Jidnyasa Kubde. Visually impaired herself, Jidnyasa provides computer training to the visually impaired through her NGO Atmadeepam Society.
“I had learnt Braille, but to be honest, I didn’t like it as much. When I learnt to use a computer, my entire world changed. Things became easier for me. Computer was like Aladdin’s Genie for me! Now I can get most of the things done by myself without anyone’s help: I can write my own emails, access my social media accounts and surf the internet. I even wrote all my school exams using a computer! It was only in class 10,for the first time,that I used a writer to write my exam,” says Bhakti.
A born achiever, Bhakti scored 94% in the SSC board exams in class 10 and was the topper in the state in the disabled category.
Continuing the trend, she became the second topper in Nagpur in class 12 with 88% marks. Even in college, her scores have been excellent so far, and she gives the credit of her success to her family.
“My parents, my sister and all the members of our big family have always been there for me. I am a part of a joint family and it acts as a huge support system. They constantly help me become a better person,” she says.
To know more about the NGO Atmadeepam Society, visit its official Facebook page here.