It’s one thing to compete with others and a completely different thing when you need to compete with yourself on an everyday basis.
21-year-old Yash Avadesh Gandhi from Mumbai struggles with Cerebral Palsy, Dyslexia, and Dysarthria. Despite this, he has managed to crack CAT-2019 with 92.5 per cent marks and secured admission into IIM Lucknow. An accounting and finance graduate from Mithibai College in Mumbai, Yash was ranked among the top five in his college.
Cerebral Palsy is a congenital (from birth) disorder, which impacts movement, muscle tone, and/or posture. It usually occurs due to irregular brain development before birth, while dyslexia can be explained as a learning disability wherein there is a delay in reading and speaking. Dysarthria is described as a weakness in the muscles used for speech, which often causes slowed or slurred speech.
While his speech may be impaired and he has always needed a scribe to help write his exams, the desire to be successful and learn is what pushes him forward.
A very jubilant Yash tells me, “Being able to study in an IIM has been a dream for a very long time. It is the best institute in the country after all.” There were challenges at every step of the way, and speaking about it, Yash says, “With regards to studying for CAT, I faced problems with math, especially in remembering formulas and understanding them.”
Yash has worked extremely hard to ensure that he overcomes this issue and says, “I had to put in extra effort, particularly in the quantitative ability section. It was tough, but not impossible.” Today as a student at IIM-Lucknow, Yash only feels immense gratitude towards his parents and younger brother Harshal, who stood by him all through.
It was in July 2018, when Yash was a second-year graduate student that he started preparing for the CAT examination. “There were many moments of despair and agony, some times he also spoke of giving up, but somehow he always picked himself up and came back stronger,” says Avadesh Ramdas Gandhi, Yash’s father.
Yash got interview calls not just from Lucknow but also Indore and Kozhikode. “I chose Lucknow because it is rated higher than the other two IIM’s,” says Yash.
With classes being conducted online, I ask Yash what his experience at IIM Lucknow has been like, and he says, “I am happy that we have online classes, that way I can continue to stay at home with my parents and brother [Harshal] for a while longer. I want to be able to go to college, but the thought of leaving them and being on my own is also very scary.”
The Better India also had the chance to speak to Harshal, who is four years younger than Yash, and says, “For us, Yash is very special and we have all through been very supportive of everything that he has wanted to do.” Harshal also tells me how he often gets to hear taunts about Yash from people around and he says, “Ek kaan se sunne ka aur doosre se nikalne ka (Listen to it from one ear and let it out via the other)
When asked if the brothers fight, Harshal says, “Atleast once a day, if not more. Usually for silly things like the remote of the television, what channel to watch etc.”
Days at school
A student of Seth GH School in Mumbai’s Borivali area, Harshal tells me that Yash has had a very supportive school environment. “Our only request was that the school allow him to do everything that the other students would do. Whether it was to run and play, participate in events like others, or be allowed to express himself,” says Harshal.
Adding to this, Yash says, “I was never made to feel different, whether it was the teachers or my friends at school. That also gave me a lot of confidence to be able to dream big.” The Principal, Mrs Ujwala Zare, was especially kind-hearted and always looked out for Yash, says Harshal.
Yash As Seen By Harshal
“Yash gets flustered easily and when he finds that something he is studying is not coming to him effortlessly, he tends to get tensed and stressed out very quickly. I then joke with him, get him into a good mood and then go back to working with him on that subject.” Adding to this, Yash says, “During the CAT preparation, there were moments when I thought I should give up, I felt bouts of depression take over as well, but kept going.”
When asked about things that Yash likes to spend time on, Harshal says, books related to management and business and the mobile phone can keep Yash busy for hours. “Yash is a very astute investor, he studies the stock market and makes very good long term investments,” says Harshal.
Harshit Hindocha who has been Yash’s tutor since he was in grade nine says, “The differently-abled tag is one that we attach to Yash. He views himself as a fully functional and normal human being and that is his biggest asset.” Despite all the struggles and hardships that Yash faces, Harshit mentions that not once has he sought sympathy from anyone.
Harshit says that he has witnessed the physical struggle that Yash would go through each day. “Yash would leave his home at 6 every morning and after he finished all his classes and coaching he would return only by 8 p.m. each day and yet not once has he missed submitting his homework or assignments.” This is a testament to the kind of dedication that Harshit displayed.
For Yash gaining admission into IIM-Lucknow is just one more step cleared in his journey, for he wishes to pursue another degree once he completes his MBA and study for as long as he can.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)