Visually-challenged Pratish Dutta gets Gold medal at IIT Kanpur

Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur’s student Pratish Dutta who is visually challenged has proved that eyes are not required to see, one can see through his mind.

Pratish Datta who lost his eyesight when he was in college was awarded Professor Jagadish Chandra Bose Memorial Gold Medal from President Pranab Mukherjee for the best academic performance among outgoing students of the M.Sc courses in the science disciplines at the IIT.

His cumulative grade point average was 9.87 — higher than any other M.Sc student at the IIT. After graduating with mathematics from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, he joined the institute in 2010.

Born at Batanagar in north Kolkata to Prabir, a civil engineer with a government undertaking, and Ranjana, a home-maker, Pratish has depended on his mother for studies. She would read out his lessons and he would memorise them.

From his childhood he was dependable on his mother for everything. “If I studied 10 hours a day, my mother used to study 15 hours for me as she is instrumental in helping me understand the subjects since I could not read,” said a jubilant Pratish who thanked his mother after receiving the award.

Pratish was six months old when doctors told his parents that he had ‘retinoschesis’ , in which the layers inside the retina gradually get separated from each other, eventually leading to total blindness. By Class VIII, he had to use high-powered magnifying glasses to study.


It was in his second year at St Xavier’s College that he lost his sight completely. Ranjana turned a full-time reader for her son and when he cracked IIT-JEE , she moved to Kharagpur with him. Pratish and his mother live in a rented apartment on the IIT-KGP campus. “We received a lot of help from people . His IIT teachers and classmates were very kind. At St Xavier’s , College they would print question papers on A3 sheets for him,” Ranjana said.

“My parents are my inspiration . They never made me feel that there was anything wrong. I received tremendous support from my teachers and buddies. My friend and classmate Fauzal Atik took great care of me at IIT,” Pratish said.

His father, who is a civil engineer, also played a pivotal role in shaping his career. “My father always told me to give my best effort and I followed his words. At last, I have succeeded,” added Pratish.

“His mother would read out his lessons to him,” said Pratish’s father Prabir Datta. “All the credit goes to his mother. He even ranked second in the country in GATE this year. We feel so proud. My boy is no different… Rather, he has proved better than many,” Datta said.

Keen to take up teaching and research as his career, Mr. Datta has enrolled in a Ph.D. programme on Cryptology and Network Security at IIT Kharagpur.

His PhD guide Sourabh Mukhopadhyay is amazed at how a visually impaired person could score so high in a subject like Mathematics. “This has never happened in IIT, Kharagpur, or anywhere in the world,” he said.

He could not solve a mathematical problem on a piece of paper because of his visual impairment.

“I could not even write a simple mathematical formula, all I did was remember it. I do all the calculations mentally and then dictate it to my scribe, who puts it down on paper,” 23-year-old Datta said.

“I would read out the lessons, including mathematical problems, and he would memorise them,” his mother Ranjana Datta said, adding that since Mr. Datta was interested in mathematics, she encouraged him to take up the subject.

But, this did not dampen Pratish Datta’s love for mathematics, or his zeal for pursuing a career in mathematical research. Not only was he able to do complex mathematical calculations but he scored the highest grade among all M.Sc. students this year.

“Pratish has an extraordinary mind and his way of learning is only through listening to lectures. But whatever he listens, it gets inked in his mind. We were also confused when he joined the institute, but he emerged with flying colours with his ability to rise above adversities,” head of the mathematics department Professor P.D. Srivastava said.

Sheer grit and determination can do wonders. And 23-year-old Pratish Datta knows all about it. Datta has been a topper all his life. He tells that if one tries, one can do anything; lack of sight is hardly an impediment.

Listen to his talk at TEDxIITKharagpur

You did MSc in mathematics at IIT and are known to do complex mathematical calculations mentally. How is that possible?

It goes back to my childhood. I lost vision in one eye at six months of age and had poor vision in the other. My parents felt that if I studied a lot, the pressure would damage this eye too. So my mother would read all my lessons to me and I would memorize them. Even maths sums were done mentally. I knew no other way to do it. Over time, practice made me perfect. I also manage to finish my exams in almost the same time as normal students. But a lot of higher mathematics is not just calculation but visualization too and I can handle that. Even Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler lost his vision in the last 17 years of his life. But he continued to do research. My mind is my eye now.

How did you cope with the loss of your eyesight?

I was doing my second year at St Xavier’s College in Kolkata in 2008 when I lost vision in my second eye. I was shocked to suddenly see a dark world but my parents and teachers stood by me. As I loved studies, I decided to concentrate on that. All my happiness is related to studies. Even when I came to IIT, there were many questions about whether I would be able to cope. But my faculty helped me with a competent scribe, which itself takes the load off students like me. He’s a computer operator here who understands mathematics symbols and has done presentations for various seminars.

The dean of student affairs also helped me find accommodation within the campus. I also have nice friends, especially Fouzoul Atik who studied with me in MSc. He would sit beside me, dictate what was written on the board, take me from one class to another, xerox pages for me…he was very happy when I got the gold medal.

Was it difficult to handle the pressure in IIT with this impairment? Your mother seems to have sacrificed a lot.

As I was able to see in childhood, I understood maths symbols and could do well. But for many others, the fact that higher education books aren’t in Braille are a handicap. An attempt should be made to convert them so that others like me don’t suffer. As for my mother, she has stood by me like a rock. Even when I said I wanted to study in IIT, she told me bravely, ‘Go as far as you want, I will be with you.’ And she did. She left Kolkata where my father is a civil engineer and came to stay with me, an only child, here at Kharagpur.

You seem to lead a normal life -you use the mobile quite well and have a Facebook profile. How do you manage these?

I have memorized the keys and functions of my mobile so I can use it effortlessly. I also have a computer screen-reading software called JAWS which reads out whatever text there is on it.

“My aim in life is to serve the nation by inventing tools that will help society,” he added.


Cobbler’s son cracks IIT – Inspiring Success story

Abhishek Kumar Bharti, son of a poor shoemaker from Kanpur, whose family lives in a 10×10 house has cracked the entrance examination of the most premier institute of the country IIT.

The son of a cobbler, Abhishek has managed to beat the odds and make it to the IIT with a rank of 154 in the SC/ ST category in the entrance examination. His life has been an endless struggle and it’s only his zeal to carry on that saw him reach thus far.

A student of the UP board, Abhishek gathered 78 per cent marks in his class XII. Though he hails from a financially weak segment of the society but his deep inclination towards studies helped in meeting his goal – Goal to graduate from IIT.

He helps his father, a cobbler, mend shoes in his spare time while his mother stitches rags to support the family, but financial hardships have not stopped Abhishek Kumar Bhartiya from coming out with flying colours in the IIT entrance exam.

Abhishek has three young brothers and the family of six lives in a one room accommodation with no electricity.

“We have just one small room where six of us live and that too without electricity. So, he used to study under the lantern for five-six hours in the night,” says his father Rajendra Prasad.
Abhishek would work with his father as a shoeshine boy and at times would find a job as a labourer to earn some extra money. Talking about his elder son, Rajendra said, “He used to study in the night and help me in my work the whole day.

His three brothers – Abhijit, Anshul and Aryan – are below 12 years of age and study in a municipal school. Their mother Sangeeta Devi repairs old clothes of poor people and earns about Rs 50 a day. “My husband gets around Rs 100 and I earn Rs 50 in a day. It is not enough for us. But we don’t want to beg. We want to live with our heads held high. My children know how to go ahead with their pride intact. Abhishek never demanded anything from us. The table of my sewing machine would turn into his study table at night. All I did was to ensure that there was enough kerosene in the lantern,” she said.
Moved with the achievement made by her son, Sangeeta Devi said, “We have been living without basic facilities at our end because we cannot afford to buy luxuries. Selection of my son has come as a gift to us from the God’s side. His hardwork has borne fruits.”

Abhishek emerged as a fine example for others who wish to crack the entrance exam of various competitions. He not only lacked electricity at his house but it was too tough for him to study in a small room of 10-by-10 wherein his entire family lives. His father is the bread earner and many a times he used to work as a labourer for six to eight hours in a day to arrange for the two ends to meet. Abhishek used to assist his father in doing so.

Mahesh Singh Chauhan, the teacher of Abhishek who provided the boy with free education was overwhelmed with the success. Chauhan had raised a batch of 35 students last year wherein he had taken poor students as a part of his team. He taught them the basics of Physics, Chemistry and Maths alongwith a team of young IIT passouts to strengthen them. Abhishek was one among those fortunates who cracked the JEE and emerged as a winner.

‘You should dare to dream’ – Speech by Azim Premzi

Speech given by Azim Premzi to the Business students of IIM

Distinguished Director and faculty of IIM- Kolkata, Guests, and my young friends I am very happy to be with you this afternoon. Indian Institute of Management – Calcutta is one the earliest management colleges of higher learning to be set up in the country. The pioneering spirit continues even after IIM-C has transformed itself into a world class institution. In your two years here, you must have experienced the enormous change in your own understanding of business and management. Graduation is not the end but the beginning of learning and change. I have found that people who succeed most in their careers are those who can constantly transform themselves. Transformation is not so much a process, as a deep seated desire to change ourselves and our environment. Based on my own experience, I would like to share with you my thoughts on how to make continuous transformation possible. I hope you find them useful.

You should dare to dream, define what you stand for, never lose your zest and curiosity, always strive for excellence, build self confidence, learn to work in teams, take care of yourself, preserve, have a broader social vision and finally never let success go to your head”.

First, you have got to have a dream. Dreams are very powerful internal motivators. Great achievements are created twice – First in the mind and then in a concrete form. The most exhilarating part of being young is the ability to dream. As one grows, one may realize that not all of them are achievable. But never turn cynical. Aging is not adding on years. It is parting with one’s dreams. Use your experience to reshape your dreams and adapt them to changing reality but do not stop dreaming. I cannot think of a single transformation or achievement, individual or social that did not begin with a dream. Dreams not only help us in seeing things before they happen, but they also give us the passion and energy to make them happen.

Second, stay on course even if you stumble. When everything seems to go wrong, you can either give up or you can let misfortune transform you into something stronger. The difference between great achievement and mediocrity is not extraordinary talent or intelligence, but perseverance. In fact, dreams and perseverance make a winning combination. In 1972, a chartered plane, carrying a Rugby team crashed in the Andes. After a week long futile search, the rescue team gave up thinking that all of them must be dead. The passengers after waiting for many days to be rescued decided to help themselves since apparently nobody else was going to do it. Two of them volunteered to cross the mountains by foot to reach the green valleys of Chile and bring back help. It was a walk of more than 50 miles. But they did it and came back to rescue their fellow passengers who managed to survive in the mountain 70 days after the crash. The core of heroism lies in the ability to walk that extra mile. As long as you can do that, you will never be defeated.

Third, do not be afraid to admit your ignorance. While it is important to project what we are good at, we must be equally candid about areas we do not know enough about. The seeds of learning were sown by the great great philosopher Socrates who said “All I know is that I don’t know.” Today, knowledge is multiplying at such a rapid rate that it is impossible for anyone to know everything. But if we can develop an index system by which we at least know with whom or where the knowledge is available, we have achieved quite a bit! And there will still be areas which we will be unable to tap. The important thing is not to hide behind a false front. People will respect you for your honesty, if not your wisdom.

Fourth, think about what you will take on next rather than about what you may be letting go. Too many people are so enamored by the legacy of success in their current roles that they are afraid to look further. This can lead to inertia. If we linger too long on past success, we will miss out on the opportunities that lie ahead of us. We must learn to look at change as an exciting adventure rather than a disruption. New avenues for learning always lie just beyond the shade of our comfort zone.

Fifth, contribute in every situation. The only way to keep learning is by contributing. You do not have to be the leader every time. When a formation of birds flies over long distances, each bird takes its turn in leading. This ensures that no bird gets too tired and yet the formation keeps moving at a certain pace. Every person is important. It doesn’t matter whether you play the violin, the flute or the drums; you are still part of the orchestra. Leadership is not about exercising power as much as it is about contributing. This will happen when you realize that leadership is not a privilege but a responsibility.

Sixth, pursue excellence in whatever you do. Excellence cannot be forced through a process nor guaranteed by a certificate. It comes from an all consuming passion to do one’s best. It needs an eye for the smallest of details. When differences become small, it is the small things that make the difference.

Seventh, while you must take your careers seriously, do not take yourself too seriously. You have to laugh and find humor everyday. This will help you to keep issues in their perspective. Being cheerful is an attitude. Not only will it help you to reduce your own stress, but a positive attitude is contagious. It can do a lot to elevate the moods of people around you and recharge you to take one more shot at the problems facing you.

Eighth, we must always know what we are really good at. Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, we must focus on areas where our talents truly lie. A talent can be defined as that skill which we not only enjoy learning but which we can also learn rapidly. We need to work at honing our talent and smoothening the rough edges. But exceptional performance usually comes from doing what comes naturally to us.

Ninth, always welcome feedback even if it comes in the guise of criticism. I remember the story of a boy who dreamt of becoming an artist but was frustrated because whenever he showed his painting, the teacher would look at it with a frown and find some fault with it. The student improved on his work continuously and he thought he would one day hear a word of appreciation from his teacher. But it never happened.

Finally, in disgust, he bought a painting from an accomplished artist, touched it up with fresh paint and showed it to his teacher. To his amazement, the teacher smiled and said, “now this is really good work. Congratulations.” Feeling guilty, the student confessed that it was not really his painting. The teacher looked at him silently and then said, “Till now, I thought you wanted to paint a great picture. But I realize now that you do not want any more corrections, which means that the last painting you did was the best you will ever do. Remember you have set these limits to your talent, not me.” Criticism may actually be an __expression of faith in us rather than a put down. We must learn to take it constructively because it will show us what more we can learn. Finally, always play to win. Winning is not about making the other person lose. It is about stretching yourself to your own limits. Once so stretched, you will realize the true extent of your potential.

Ultimately, transformation is about reaching and utilizing not only your potential but those of others who work with you. I wish you all the best in your career and in your lives as you step out into a new world



Published in: on October 16, 2008 at 1:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Get Inspired from Success of College dropouts

Dear Friends,

Even college dropouts have achieved great success in life.  Click the link below to know few examples of success of college drop outs.



Published in: on October 9, 2008 at 8:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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Software Engineer-to-be at 16!

Imagine this: a sixteen-year-old schoolboy, with a plum job offer at hand? Hard to believe? It was for us too – till we met Arvind Thiagarajan, an unassuming standard XII lad from DAV Chennai with an impressive title – Bell Labs Scholar 2000. This Chennai lad is one of the 655 Indian students who took the exams conducted by The Lucent Technologies India. Of these only 8 students were selected and all of them were from the South.

Three of these students are from Bangalore, three from Hyderabad and two, from Chennai! (The other lucky chap is Sundeep Venkataraman from PSBB). Arvind has been provisionally offered a post at the Indian offices of Lucent Technologies, where he’ll don the garb of a Software Engineer. He has also been awarded a scholarship of Rs.25,000.

Arvind’s biggest ambition in his life at present is to get inside the IIT. Easy to understand, especially as both his father and uncle have IIT-IIM background. He is the only child and his mother is a homemaker. What attracted Arvind to computers and software at this young age is, in his words, his love for solving problems. And surprisingly, he is no avid web surfer! Anyway, here’s wishing you the very best of luck for a fantastic future, Arvind.