Born in a small village Eruvadi in the year 1944, his father deserted family at the age of one, his mother died at the age of 3, left with a big family of 15 members with very limited financial resources, he lost is vision due to optic nerve damage in an accident at the age of 13, lost 5 years, searching for treatment before final conclusion of total irreparable damage to both eyes and permanent loss of vision.
Completed 7th standard before the accident in 1957 Following the accident he was loosing vision gradually and become totally visionless in 1959. Trying to restore sight at various places extending over 5 agonizing years it became evident to the family that nothing more could be done.
The family reconciled to fate and decided to place Jinnah in a dark corner and provide him a secured life. The concept of security in the family was to generate a regular rental income or so for meeting the basic food requirements for the rest of his life.
The fire in Jinnah could not accept such a decision. When the tears ultimately dried, Jinnah stood up and with the help of friends kept himself constantly engaged with the ongoing developments, events etc., by listening to friends reading newspapers, news broadcasts in radio etc., At this time he came to know about the school for the blind at Palayamkottai. Since the family was not prepared to send him out for fear of ridicule and teasing by outsiders, Jinnah took the help of a friend, on his own without informing family members went to Palayamkottai and met the headmaster seeking admission in the school.
Jinnah was not admitted in the school because of over age (18); school rules prescribed maximum age as 14. When personal pleas failed he approached the local M.L.A. (Rajathi Kunjuthabatham), who, considering seriousness and commitment shown, recommended his case to the headmaster to give him a chance. Jinnah was admitted in the school, the 18 year old 7th standard passed Jinnah was put up in the 1st standard along with small children who were not even to the height of Jinnah’s hip. The reason for this decision was Jinnah did not know Braille. .
Jinnah beat this by learning Braille within one month and moved to the 7th standard. By virtue of his performance in the quarterly examinations promotion for the 8th standard was granted. Jinnah passed 8th standard examinations very successfully in 1963. This was the beginning of long and fruitful performances to follow.
There was no provision for further education in the school at Palayamkottai beyond the 8th standard even though Jinnah wanted to continue the studies. Reluctantly Jinnah was forced to accept training in weaving for 3 years from 1964 – 1966 in Palayamkottai.
It was a lucky breakthrough for Jinnah when he met Mr.G.Jayaraman in 1964. Jayaraman lost vision at the age of 3 and became an ortho handicapped too followed by a polio attack at the age of 5. A person of very strong will power completed his M.A. in Chennai and came to Palayamkottai for teachers training in the regional training center. Being a victim and having experienced the advantages of a proper education as well as exposure, Jayaraman was very supportive to Jinnah and an intimate friendship developed.
In 1966, Jayaraman moved to Madurai and brought Jinnah with him to continue his education. Jayaraman coached Jinnah to appear as a private candidate for Matriculation examination conducted by Madurai Kamaraj University in March-1967. Dedicated efforts of Jayaraman and Jinnah yielded a very encouraging outcome. .
Jinnah topped with first rank (Gold Medal) in the 10th Matric examination -1967 conducted by Madurai Kamaraj University for private candidates including the sighted individuals. After clearing initial hurdles and pepped up with confidence, Jinnah metamorphosed into an energetic youth, geared for a long trek.
Dr. M.A. Thangaraj, the Principal, American College, Madurai wholeheartedly supported Jinnah throughout the undergraduate programmes. He was also instrumental in Jinnah’s admission to M.A. Students of various colleges especially Madurai Medical College were constant sources of support.
Jinnah was selected on all India level for the Rotary International Award in 1981 in which he competed with teachers in disabled schools (including sighted).He was the one selected out of 75 Rotary District finalists and 21 National level finalists. The award granted him full scholarship for higher education in the U.S.A.
When he went to Boston, U.S.A. in 1981 September on getting Rotary International Award he had to brave the following. – Extremely cold climate – Very different food – Communication problem on account of accent – Mobility .
There have been very trying moments when Jinnah was tempted to abandon the programme and return to India. Only the thought of the programmes he had already started in India and the determination to serve the lesser fortunate, made him to complete the programme.
Charles D. Woodcock – Director Perkins School for Blind and Prof. Varghese and his daughter Suneeta went out of their ways to provide valuable support in Boston.
Jinnah completed the 2 semesters DTB (Diploma in Teaching for the Blind) programme in Boston University 2 months ahead of schedule, securing first rank for his thesis and third rank in the written examinations for the entire course in a class of about 30 students including sighted individuals. There were 18 American students and the rest were from various other countries. .
In 1982 after completion of his programme he was offered a very lucrative assignment of Project Officer in Perkins School for the Blind. Jinnah turned down this offer as he was totally focused to dedicate himself for blind welfare in India.
Services to the Blind Community:
Based on personal experience of loosing vision at a tender age, coupled with poverty, Jinnah could understand the position of several hundreds of people placed in similar situations. .
When Jinnah came out of the protected family/village background, to the outside world and was learning to live on his own, public awareness in handling the disabled people was very poor. People took pity on blind people and were more prone to give alms than understanding them and treating them as normal individuals. .
Though well meaning, this pity was hurting to Jinnah’s self respect and he had to explain his position on several occasions. Initially Jinnah had to face several practical day today challenges of the different environments. .
Even when Jinnah was in college perusing his own education, the fire in him was strong enough to take other visually impaired to succeed as he was moving ahead. Over the years, his objectives in life became clear – Empower visually challenged – Realize self worth – Become self reliant & – Feel equal to normal being. .
Having realized the destination, Jinnah contemplated on the road to be taken and found the following. – Education to give confidence – Training to improve abilities, – Employment opportunities for economic independence. .
It was clear to Jinnah all the above steps when systematically implemented will lead to the Visually Challenged stand on their own legs. .
When the destination and the road to be taken became clear, it was the one way movement forward and over the last 4 decades there has been no turning back or slow down. .
Way back in early 1970s, Jinnah helped several fellow Visually Challenged boys and girls to pursue higher education including post graduate and teacher training programmes in addition to vocational training, to make them self reliant. . In the past 40 years Jinnah has been directly instrumental in rehabilitating more than 5000
Visually Handicapped. The figure will be many more thousands if consequential beneficiaries are considered. Infact, the momentum has been gathering over the yea rs, with more people extending help and pace of travel as also been increasing. The concrete proof is seen in the actual growth of Indian Association for the Blind which was started in 1985 with 4 people into a solid organization supporting more than 350 Visually Challenged every year from the age group of 5 to 35 . .
What can not be described on paper are the emotions and the gratitude of several 1000s of families expressed over the last 2 decades. There have been several cases of broken down parents with tearful eyes. On seeing the development & growth of their own visually challenged Children at the instance of Jinnah.
If a physical statement of the impact of the Jinnah work on the society is to be made it is this. .
On a conservative estimate there are at least 5000 families of Visually Challenged people hailing from extremely poor families from unheard of villages who have been able to hold their heads high make an honorable living on many cases and support their normal family members just as any other traditional Indian family. .