Kartik Sawhney is currently an undergraduate, studying his Bachelors in Computer Science at Stanford University. While he is among the several Indian students studying in the US, what sets him apart is that Kartik is blind. His impairment was seen as a disadvantage by the IITs of India. Stanford offered Kartik an opportunity to follow his passion – science. But this story is not about Stanford or the IITs. It’s about Kartik and his determination to overcome what are commonly considered as insurmountable hurdles.
Kartik’s father owns a car accessory store in Lajpat Nagar, Delhi. His mother is a homemaker. He has a twin sister and an older brother. Kartik passed his class XII CBSE exams with a 95 per cent in a stream considered challenging by many – Science with Computer Science.
As a result of his visual impairment, Kartik had to wage his first war against the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which initially refused him a seat to study science in class XI. The board wasn’t convinced that Kartik would be able to handle the ‘visual inputs’ — graphs, diagrams, models, required for science. He had to write more than two dozen letters to the board and had an NGO campaign and his school negotiate for him before he was allowed to opt for science in class XI. “It was very difficult to convince the authorities to let me study science,” says Kartik. Once he got to study science, his school — Delhi Public School, R K Puram — found ways to help him. “For practicals, the teacher explained the apparatus and in the test, I got multiple choice questions based on the practical curriculum,” Kartik said, as reported by India Times.
“After class VIII, most blind are exempted from studying maths and science. They are offered subjects like music,” states George Abraham, CEO of Delhi’s Score Foundation. But Kartik was firm on pursuing the subjects of his choice – Science and Computers. Kartik scored 99 in Computer Science and 95 each in Mathematics, English, Physics and Chemistry. He scored 479 out of 500.
Kartik was hoping to complete his education in India. His next choice was Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). However, the IIT entrance exam doesn’t cater to blind candidates, making it impossible for Kartik to study Science and Engineering at one of India’s renowned institution.
“The journey was discouraging at times. But it’s satisfying to have gotten into Stanford, which has a support system for visually-challenged students,” said Kartik, reported The Huffington Post.
Despite all odds, Kartik is now at Sanford and hopes to become a software developer and produce applications that are accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities. It’s time the Indian education system pull up it’s socks and fills glaring gaps before India loses many more ‘Kartiks’ to another country.