Malini Bhandari - Girl Who Conquered Physical Disability

🕓 June 27, 2009

- Dr Eugene D'Souza, Mumbai
Kanajar, Jun 27: Human spirit and endeavor can conquer any physical disability and achieve greater heights provided the individual has determination to succeed and also get appropriate motivation, encouragement, support and guidance. This has been proved by a number of persons across the world where physically disabled persons have not only overcome their handicaps but achieved such goals which even able-bodied persons would find difficult.

Malini with her mentor Willie master

This is the story of Malini Bhandari of Kaudur village (Kanajar) in Karkala taluka, who conquered her physical disability, pursued education, became a graduate and is presently employed in a co-operative bank. It was chiefly because of the determination and perseverance one person, William D'Sa (Popularly known as Willie Master) that Malini achieved the success which she or her family could never dream of. Realizing Malini's extraordinary abilities, Willie Master motivated her to continue education up to graduation and became her mentor and guide whom Malini holds in high esteem and affection.

It was a freak accident that cost Malini both her hands when she was just eighteen months old chubby playful little girl. As she was playing with her twin sister Shalini near the fireplace where paddy was being boiled, Malini lost her balance and collapsed in the fire. This unfortunate incident coupled with the negligence of the doctor who treated her initially resulted in the loss of both palms and fingers shattering the life of this young girl.

The parents of Malini, Dharmapala and Pushpawati Bhandari with six children, four girls and two boys and three elderly people to look after were finding it hard to maintain such a large family. In spite of grinding poverty, Malini's parents enrolled her in the Lourdes' Higher Primary School, Kanajar. Having lost all fingers, the biggest challenge for Malini was the ability to write on a slate or a notebook. After many painful attempts, she managed to write holding slate stick and later pencil and pen in between both the stems of her forearms. With the guidance of her teachers, Malini could perfect the art of writing and produce such graceful and beautiful hand writing that could put even normal students to shame.

With the passing years, Malini could understand that she was different from the other students in the class due to her physical disability and gradually began to develop inferiority complex. The feeling that she could not do things as other normal children plunged her into depression. Thus, physical disability coupled with inferiority complex and lack of motivation from the poverty-stricken family prompted Malini to give up education after the fourth standard.

Malini would have remained uneducated and lived a life of misery on the mercy of the family members and the society, but for a kind hearted teacher, Willie Master of Moodubelle who had been transferred from Belle to the Lourdes' Higher Primary School, Kanajar in 1990. He had been observing Malini while she was in the fourth standard and was very much touched by her disability. He was concerned about her well being and further studies. Incidentally, Willie Master himself has been afflicted by polio in one of his legs and had tough time during his student days and even later. He could empathize with Malini and understand her plight better than any other person.

As Willie Master was teaching fifth standard and above classes, he was looking forward to teach Malini during the next academic year. But to his surprise and disappointment, Malini did not join the school for the fifth standard. Not seeing Malini in school, Willie Master sent messages to her father to meet him thinking that he could convince him to send his daughter to school. Dharmapala gave various excuses for not sending his daughter to the school even telling him that she was not good in studies and a handicapped child would have no future in education.

Though disappointed with the excuses of Dharmapala, Willie Master did not give up his efforts to bring Malini back to school. Persuading Dharmapala to send Malini to school, Willie Master promised that he would take special care to teach her and would bear all her expenses related to education and clothing. Being convinced of the genuine concern of Willie Master about his daughter's future, Dharmapala agreed to send Malini once again to school and Willie Master became her guardian, motivator and mentor.

As the financial condition of Malini's family was miserable, Willie Master posted an article in a periodical appealing for donations. The readers responded generously and sent an amount of nearly Rs.40,000/- to the aid of the family. Willie Master suggested that the amount should be kept in long term fixed deposits so that it could be of use to Malini in her future life. He advised Malini to express her gratitude to all those who had sent her financial help and pray for them.

The goodwill of the people and encouragement from Willie Master motivated Malini to continue her studies. However, after seventh standard Malini's education once again came under cloud due to lack of financial support.

Meanwhile, Willie Master, who has been a member of the Lion's Club of Moodubelle, narrated the story of Malini to the office bearers. Realizing that the girl needed financial support to continue her education, Commodore Jerome Castelino and his wife Mrs. Rose Castelino, through the Lion's Club of Moodubelle, took up the responsibility of sponsoring her education up to the graduation level.

With this assurance, Willie Master got Malini admitted to the eight standard in the newly established Government High School at Kanajar. She passed the SSLC examination in first division and joined the Government Pre-University College at Bailoor. As if to derail her determination to get higher education, Malini was shocked when the PUC results were announced in which she was declared as failed, that too in the subject of English in which she was confident of securing good marks as she was tutored by her ‘guru' Willie Master.

On applying for revaluation, it was found that the evaluator had overlooked four pages of her answer sheets and was eventually declared as having passed the PUC examination in first division. By that time, admissions to the colleges had completed and the academic year had already started. The carelessness on the part of one examiner had cost Malini one precious year of her education.

Instead of wasting time while waiting for the next academic year, Malini enrolled herself for the computer course. In the next academic year Malini got admission to the First Year BA in the Shri Venkataramana Women's College, Karkala.

The struggle of Malini against all odds and her determination to complete graduation was appreciated by the Government of Karnataka. In 2004, while she was in the Second Year BA, Malini was invited to Bangalore along with other eight physically disabled persons on the occasion of the Republic Day celebrations and was honored by the Governor, Shri T.N. Chaturvedi by a certificate and grant of Rs.10,000/- for her courage and extraordinary efforts in pursuing higher education against all odds.

Accolades began to pour in as Malini's efforts in acquiring higher education in spite of her disabilities and poverty got wide publicity in various local and state news papers. She was felicitated by the Bhandari community to which she belonged and other social organizations. Malini was adjudged as the best student of the Shri Venkataramana Women's College for the academic year 2004-05.

In the Final Year BA, Malini put in her best efforts and completed her graduation with English major passing Final BA with first class, securing 66% marks. Following her graduation, Malini did the Post Graduate Diploma Certificate Course in computer and taught computer classes for one year at the Lourdes' Higher Primary School, Kanajar, before joining the Savitha Samaja Co-operative Bank started by the Bhandari community at Ambalpadi in Udupi where she has been working as a clerk for the last two years.

Malini's journey from being the victim of a freak accident at the age of one and a half years that cost her fingers and palms till the acquisition of a respectable job in the co-operative bank is the story of despair, helplessness and struggle and finally the triumph of grit, determination, motivation and human spirit against the physical disability.

When i met her at the home of Willie Master, i noticed that, in spite of her physical disability, Malini exudes with confidence and full of life. She has a happy disposition and wears pleasant smile on her face.

She never ceases to praise Willie Master and considers him to be her second parent and saviour who gave her a new life by motivating, encouraging and supporting her in all ways in achieving her goal. Being a graduate, first in her community, has given her an identity, respect and livelihood. She is extremely grateful to all those who had helped her financially, especially Commodore Jerome Castelino and Mrs. Rose Castelino of the Lion's Cub of Moodubelle for sponsoring her education till graduation. She also fondly remembers her friends who helped her in every respect.

Willie Master is very proud of Malini and her achievements. With humility he considers himself as a catalyst who tried to bring out the best in her. He says that for students with physical handicaps, self-image is extremely important. Teachers should ensure that the child's self-image is positive. Physically handicapped children want to succeed and participate as much as they can and this needs to be encouraged and fostered by the teacher. The focus needs to be on what the child can do - not what it can't do. Further he says that disability is a state of mind and one can rise above physical impairment and lead a successful life with a sense of commitment and dedication. Willie Master himself is an example of this.

The story of Malini and Willie Master is an eye opener to all of us to do something within our means to make this world a better place to live in.

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