I was born with retina macular degeneration and had little eyesight while growing up. During my childhood, whenever I faced challenges or got depressed for any reason, my mother would give me hope by saying that it is useless to sulk just because you can't see with your eyes. Instead, one should try doing something which others haven't done yet.
After passing 10th grade, I, along with one of my differently-abled friends, made a tandem cycle. He had only one leg, so he would take care of the handle and I would peddle from behind. We went from Nagpur to Kathmandu and did a cycle tour of 6000 kilometres in 45 days at the age of just 16. It was registered in the Limca Book of Records and many other world records.
During the last year of my post-graduation, my mother passed away due to chronic blood cancer.
They say when hard times come, they come at once. During the same time, my father became schizophrenic for a lifetime. Now, I had to take care of him as well as become the sole bread earner of the family.
But I was sure of one thing. I would not work for anybody else.
'My Love For Candles'
I have been fond of creative things since the very beginning. When I was a teenager, I found some fancy candles. I came to know about a rehabilitation centre in Mumbai that taught to make candles. I went there, but they rejected me straight away, saying that I was completely blind. "How could you make a candle when you cannot see its flame. You instead learn how to massage as you have a good built with 6 feet height," they said.
I agreed and after one year of training, I saved some money and bought a simple dye of candles and some wax. That's how I started my venture 'Sunrise Candles'.
To begin with, I used to rent my friend's hand cart and started selling these candles after making them the entire day. I tried to create a bond with every customer that came to me. Now, even after generations, the same people are connected with Sunrise Candles.
In the meantime, I met Neeta (now my life partner), who had come to Mahabaleshwar and spotted me selling candles. After seeing me working alone, she helped me with my stall for 18 days. Within a month, she proposed to me. We got married in a school classroom and decided to work together for visually-impaired people. We quickly helped five such people and within a short span, we couldn't realise how this group of five turned into 25.
Uplifting My Company
We did not wait to have a huge infrastructure for our factory, we started building little showrooms for our products, hired visually-impaired people from nearby states, opened retail counters, set up manufacturing units, hired good orators for marketing and so on. This is how I uplifted my company.
Currently, Neeta Ji and I have a team of over 9500 visually-impaired people and 71 manufacturing units in 14 states. We export our products to nearly 67 countries. I have received three national awards from the President of India and won 117 sports medals.
It's okay if we are blind, but the candles we make lit up the entire world. There is nothing that makes me happier.
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