As this man narrated a life-affirming tale, I started to mull over the idea of disability from a different perspective. Say you were in a village in the Amazon Forest, but didn’t speak the local tongue. Wouldn’t you be as impaired – or perhaps more – than someone who is mute but does know the language?
Safe to say, disability and impairment is all subjective. Maybe, the definition of disability shouldn’t just be based on the existence of fully-functional five senses, but also how much the senses are being employed, to be productive.
If this broader, more liberal definition were to catch on, Siddu Loute is perhaps more ‘able’, and better poised than most of us, for a bright future. What he lacked in by birth, he made up for by honing every other ability to superhuman levels. Completely visually challenged, abandoned at the age of five as a burden, and often homeless with no relative in the world or a morsel of food, 31-year-old Siddu turned himself into a ‘Human Calculator’, studied law, and now, with some help from us, wants to become an IAS officer.
Here’s his story in his own words – to best retain the spirit of his trials and triumphs; and in his own endearingly bumpy English– to best retain the colours of his personality.
I was completely visually impaired from birth. I was neglected from my family, as they saw me as a burden to society. They felt I won’t be of any use to anyone. I was thrown out of my house, and put in a government hostel in Hubli in Karnataka.
“I had no support, didn’t have any friends even in school, so no one taught me how to play any games, or join in any sports. But I came to know about a senior in school, he was in the seventh standard, who knew tables up to 100. He was respected and accepted by everyone. I wanted to be like him, because nobody talked to me then, everybody ignored me. I memorised tables one full year, but everyone thought I was just sleeping and wasting away time, and kept punishing me. But, I couldn’t tell them what I was doing because I wasn’t so sure. Finally, the moment came when I was ready– I had learnt tables upto 56 lakh, I was in second standard.
In class in the next week, we had to narrate the tables upto 10. My teachers hadn’t expected me to know even that much; when I was walking up to the table, they warned me – if I didn’t say it correctly, they would throw me out of school as I was just a burden.
I smiled and casually told them they could ask me anything – not till 10 but till 56 lakh. That teacher could not believe it. She asked me tables of 38,976 and I answered. They realised that I had some talent, I ranked well in other subjects also.
But they only used me as a trophy student. They enrolled me to talent contests and award ceremonies. But the moment the guests would leave, they would ill-treat me. They even ate up all the prize money I had earned. The school earned at least 15–20 lakh on my account, but did not give me a rupee also.
This school was only up to 7th standard, so, after it got over, they didn’t let me stay in the hostel. With absolutely no money, since I had nowhere or no one to go to, I used to beg to be able to feed myself. I spent two months like that before high school started in Belgaum.
The next challenge came when I joined the new school. I replaced all the rankers as I was good at my studies, and they started becoming jealous of my name and fame. I had gotten a lot of certificates from organisations over the years, but those people who were jealous of me destroyed all of them. I still scored 85 percent, but had no certificates.
I thought, now what next?
After my 10th, I did not have a roofand ate less than two meals a day. I started to beg again. But, I had to earn some qualifications and some certificates again. That’s when I realised I had a bus pass given to me by the government of Karnataka, so I used that to make a trip to Bengaluru. It was a Friday when I arrived, and there was a strike for some reason. That weekend, the computer institute I wanted to go to was shut. I then purchased some newspapers and spread them right there on the bus station and slept. When I got too hungry, I begged for money.
Finally, I went to that institute on Monday. The lady there, though fluent in Kannada, chose to speak to me in English and shouted at me when I could not reply. I was very insulted and I challenged her asking for 15 days time to communicate in any language she wanted.
I joined English classes and spoke to everybody in English to pick up vocabularies.
I was late to class one day and had to ask permission to enter. This was my chance to talk to her and I addressed her in English by saying, “Hello, Good Morning Madam, may I come in?” She was surprised, and said to me, “Siddu, wow, you are talking in English.” I said to her, “Don’t you remember the challenge? Thanks to you I learned”
Today, I teach crash courses in English, where you can learn English in 60 days.Before joining Vishwa Chetana Junior College in Bengaluru, I spent two months begging and learning computer. I did not get hostel accommodation. I did not have a home, but fortunately I had a bus pass. I would board a bus after classes to Hubli, which was 10 hours away from Bengaluru. I would sleep on the bus overnight, get off, eat something, and then travel back to college in Bengaluru. Because of this, I would miss class every alternate day and my attendance was very bad. The college even told me that I would not pass.
I told them, failure is not available in my dictionary. I studied for the exams in six days and scored 65 percent. I have a dream of becoming an IAS office. In any condition I want to reach this goal to help those people who are neglected from the society.
In the course of time, I learnt tables up to 99 crore. Everyone was curious to know where I stored all my knowledge. But it was my own method of swift calculation.
There is a difference between Shakuntala Devi and me. She had to write down on a board while calculating, whereas I can do it orally. I even have 45,000 phone numbers in my memory. In fact, if you give me any date in the next five years, I will tell you which day it will come on.
I also started anchoring on local channels – this was the first time in world that a visually challenged person hosted something on visual media. The programme was called Siddu Switch.
I am now studying law and practice as an Astrologer and counsellor for anyone who has lost confidence in their life. Now, I am in my final year of law, and want to go to Delhi to join coaching classes for IAS, but it needs financial support.
My aim is very high, and my thoughts are also high. I want to completely focus and give the exam next year.
But the challenge is normal people can study fast but I take time to learn.I need special equipment. Right now people read to me and help me study, but there are machines that will help me study without depending on anybody. I am raising money to buy those machines and a Braille printer or typewriter. I do not want any sympathy, I just want an opportunity to study, so I can serve my country.
Let’s all work for the freedom of India, let’s all join hands to help all the common people.”
Through the crowdfunding platform Impact Guru, Siddu is trying to raise Rs 1.5 Lakhs to buy the special equipment he needs to study. Open your hearts and wallets to his campaign.