Poornima Shelke : Overcoming all odds within a system of care

By Devina Karnik

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”- Mahatma Gandhi.

When life puts you through challenges, you can either decide to give up or pick yourself up and move forward. Here is a specially-abled 26 years old Poornima Shelke, an executive business developer with iCare Benefits who fits the best for the quote “a strong spirit overpowers any obstacle”.

iCare Benefits is an end-to-end, comprehensive employee benefits package, that enhances workers’ lives while boosting their morale, loyalty and productivity.

Due to unfortunate turn of events, Poornima lost her eyesight at the age of 14. Many people would think that a person’s life is as good as over after such events but Poornima never let her mind wander away with such negative comments or thoughts.

Poornima was born into a family with agricultural background with two other siblings in Tambhad village, about 40 km from Pune, in Bhor taluka. All the children received equal treatment by the parents and nobody showed more or less sympathy to Poornima. Rewards and punishments were given equally to all the children and nobody ever made Poornima feel bad about herself and always encouraged her to follow her dreams. Poornima has a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and is currently pursuing Masters in same field from Savitribai Phule Pune University.

“It feels really good to have completed my education. It gives a sense of accomplishment and confidence,” Poornima says.

After being employed by iCare Benefits, Poornima was doubted by others if she could do the job effectively but Poornima having made up her mind did not let external forces bother her and now is working successfully in the company since the past two months.

She has also learnt to use functions in the laptop and can also type and create excel sheets by using a specialised software installed in her laptop. She travels by public transport to and fro daily from home in Vadgaonsheri to workplace in Kharadi.

“I did have a slight fear in the beginning but gradually I overcame it and now I can use public transport smoothly,” she added.

Poornima also insists on doing other work in the office by herself. “I am not afraid of using the office elevators alone and now they have also embossed in braille near the buttons which makes it convenient for me to use the lifts. This shows that if certain small changes can be at a workplace like this, a specially-abled person can manage everything without any help.”

She also gets along very well with her co-workers and says that iCare is a family and is very grateful to the company, her co-workers and director for always encouraging her.

Talking about Poornima, her colleagues Nisha and Dipeeka Swami said, “When we think of specially abled people we have an image that most of them would be at home unemployed. It is very inspiring to see Poornima follow her dreams and work independently. And, the best part is that she is always happy and smiling. It feels good to have her around.”

Apart from excelling in her work, Poornima’s also fond of athletics, dance and has mastered the art of making wire baskets. She also enjoys a once in a while stroll to the mall, shopping with her friends. A final message which she would like to give is, “The specially-abled people are equally talented and the world must not judge them based on their disability. A person with a disability is capable to doing any work equally good or even better. I would only like to see these people to be given more opportunities to prove themselves and follow their dreams just like I have. I never asked for or wanted sympathy; we specially-abled don’t need that. The only thing we need is equal opportunity.”

Poornima is the voice of many specially-abled who are waiting to be heard and who want to make a place for themselves in this world. The world needs to accept these people the way they are and learn from them as they too can teach us things we never knew about. Things that are taken for granted so easily by us are treasured by them.

Poornima is a true inspiration for all and we wish her all the good luck for her future and that one day we see the specially-abled excelling in every field and pursuing their dreams.

(Devina Karnik is a student of Fergusson College, Pune.)