C.M. Kathavarayan, 67, lives alone in a rented house in the by lanes of Jeevan Bhimanagar, Bangalore. Everyday he wears his crisp white shirt; takes five steps to his right to find his cup of filter coffee on the study table. It’s 9 am, he takes his stick out and leaves for his second home, WARDS (Welfare Association for Rehabilitation of Disabled and Society ). “This has been his routine for as long as I remember. The man has never missed the 9.20 am prayer meet in 24 years,” says Aruna, his daughter.
The dream of a blind-high school teacher
WARDS was born in a small piece of land in Jeevan Bhimanagar in 1992. With a strong desire to do something for the disabled, Kathavarayan, a school teacher, spent his all his after-work hours planning a place that would nurture the potential in disabled children. Years later in 2000, he took voluntary retirement after serving as a high school teacher to the visually impaired for 25 years; to focus all his time at WARDS.
"His vision was crystal clear, to create a place for the mentally challenged kids that they can call their own. A place where they are not looked at as outcasts or misfits and where teachers treat them as just students,” explained Aruna, who is also a teacher at WARDS. “Today, WARDS is home to 35 kids and I know for sure he will make that number grow to a 100. That is the vision of this blind man, who I proudly call my father."
From a folk-remedy gone horribly wrong to becoming an accomplished caring teacher
Born in Gingee, Tamil Nadu, he came to Bangalore at 7. As a child, he once suffered from high fever for 5 straight days. “My ajji (grandmother) kept trying various home remedies to bring down the temperature. One such attempt involved some herb oils being used eye drops for a guaranteed cure. It did drop the temperature but I lost my eyesight,” Kathavarayan said.
At 10, his parents enrolled him in a school for the blind. “Back in those days, blind kids were also assumed to dumb. The lack of facilities made us feel out of place. Teachers were not trained on how to connect with visually impaired students. This left parents with very few options. The children were usually sent to do petty jobs like packaging etc. Then, an English medium school for blind opened in Whitefield, Bangalore. My parents were not educated. My father did odd-jobs to support us. But their decision to educate me; to invest Rs 30 of the 100 he earned changed my life.” Kathavarayan completed 10th grade in 8 years. Went on to study B.A, M.A and B.Ed. He specialised in teaching the blind (DTB) and worked as a high school teacher for the visually impaired. He also taught teacher-trainees for 10 years.
"I always get asked why I chose to join my father's vision of building WARDS. I could have taken up any other good paying job and taken care of my family. Things happened. My mother left us, I got married, my sister did too. We all moved on. But even today, my father gets up with the same vivacity as 1992; with that undying energy of wanting to do better for our 35 kids. How many 67 year old can do that?”
How can you help?
We have started the construction for a two floor building to accommodate a dining hall, kitchen and an office block in the ground floor, class rooms for children on the first floor, and also auditorium to conduct seminars, symposiums, and workshops in the second floor.
We have completed a part of the building and the construction is stopped due to lack of funds. There are no sponsors who could come to our rescue at the moment to take the construction forward. We have initiated this structure on March 6, 2017 now we have raised the walls and roof of the ground floor and we have stopped the construction with the raised walls of the first floor.
We don’t have enough funds for the construction and the amount required at this stage is Rs 50 lakhs. We request you help us in this endeavour and also open doors to good Samaritans who could come to our rescue immediately at this juncture