Arti Bubna – Proprietor, Voice Vision Computer Institute for the Blind- enable.all.org
People with visual disabilities flying a plane or driving a car. Fantasies? Perhaps. People with visual disabilities at senior positions in research and development labs, scientific and business organizations. Day dreams? Maybe. Maybe not. One thing is sure – Arti Bubna is a dreamer with Big Hairy Audacious Goals. But you can’t take her lightly, because she is an achiever of some of those dreams, those audacious goals.
First meet Arti Bubna – Senior faculty and proprietor of Voice Vision (Computer Institute for Blind); owner of Ascent Networks Pvt. Ltd. – a company that sells, purchases and services computers; and Manager, Post-sales department in the distributorship for Nortel EPABX systems and CCTVs run by her family. Big positions but hard earned and well deserved. For hers is a story of riding the crests of hope and scraping the troughs of despair. And what comes through is a woman of immense grit, self-confidence and positive attitude.
Meet Arti Bubna through her formative years. Born in a well-educated family involved in the business of distributing tele-communication equipment, she was also born with cataract that was detected only when she was 5 years old. She was successfully operated in the Right eye when she was 7. Hope. Later, it was discovered that a self-dissolving capsule placed in the eye didn’t dissolve. Despair. Aged 9, she was successfully operated in the left eye. Then a couple of years later, she was again operated in the right eye for removal of the undissolved capsule. But this time she suffered a hemorrhage in the eye with retinal detachment and lost vision in the right eye completely.
This was the first time she saw her parents sad and crying for her. Her relatives doing nothing to relieve the anxiety, instead posing the usual scary questions: what will happen to her now, who will marry her, etcetra. These were the moments, perhaps, when her character was shaped in a cast of grittiness and positive attitude. She resolved to do well in life, to become independent.
Then a year and a half later, at 13, she was affected with the retinal detachment in the left eye as well. It was operated upon at Shankara Netralaya and she gained vision so that she could continue her studies. Then the retinal detachment struck again, when she was in 10th standard. Only a few months from the crucial board exams, she was operated again at Chennai. Her school principal feared poor performance, because it takes 2 months to regain vision after the operation and there wasn’t enough time for Arti to recuperate and prepare for the exams. The school discouraged her from appearing in the exams, but in the face of her father’s insistence and her self-confidence they had to allow her.
It was a tough period. She couldn’t see things properly, and she couldn’t get a scribe because she wasn’t legally blind yet. She had a goal, to not let her father down, for he had promised to the principal that Arti would clear the exams. An audacious goal? Sure. She prepared with the help of a private tutor who would record the lessons on an audio tape. Arti wrote all her exams without vision. Drawing circles in the Geometry paper not knowing whether the circles were complete and writing Hindi and Marathi papers not knowing if the line to be drawn upon each word touched the characters or bisected them. But she cleared the exams. The circles were complete. It was a turning point.
The operation in the left eye was successful but the vision restored was quite low. She couldn’t see the writing on the blackboard even from the first bench in the class. She continued her education and graduated in commerce, following it with a Diploma in Administrative Management. After this she joined the family business, handling the dealer channel of their distributorship.
In 1997, when she was 24, the left eye was again affected with retinal detachment. The treatment that followed didn’t work out and she lost her vision to a great extent leaving her with only a slight perception of light. She took time off the family business for a year and a half, but not to sulk. She utilized this time to learn computers through a ‘Basic Introduction to Computers course’ from Hadley School for the Blind, US. Her awareness about various computer aids for people with visual disabilities increased and she began using JAWS to enhance her computer skills. Teaching herself how to use computers, increasingly she became independent in her information and communication needs.
Arti’s experiences while trying to learn computers were not good. She was denied admission in one of the leading computer training institutes. Arti knew by experience that it would be similar for other people with visual disabilities. So, she planned to open a computer institute for this community. Unviable! People warned her. Impractical! They tried to dissuade her and nearly succeeded. But the constant source of her inspiration and support, her father encouraged her. He said if she could teach even one student, even then the aim behind this institute will be fulfilled, and also that for any venture to survive atleast 1000 days should be given to it before deciding on its continuation. Her father’s words reinforced her determination. On April 3rd, 2000 the first class of her institute was held Audacious! They gasped. Audacious? Sure. Since then, over 30 students have been trained at her institute and she is soon planning to offer programming courses.
As mentioned before, besides the computer institute, she runs a business of sale, purchase and servicing of computers and also manages the post-sales department of the distributorship business run by her family. Extensively using her laptop to take notes, send out communications, managing accounts and all other things required to run a business.
Daily challenges are always there to handle, like someone in the staff trying to hoodwink her or a customer not ready to believe that she doesn’t have sight. At times she just ignores these instances, sometimes she lets them know what is on her mind, and many a times she just laughs it off and forgets things which are beyond her control. That’s Arti.
Arti lives with her family in Mumbai. She likes to begin her day by playing with her 9- month old nephew. She begins her work day at 9:30 am, taking care of her various business and teaching responsibilities. She ends her day at office at 6:30 pm. In the evening, she likes to spend time playing with her niece & nephew, watching TV, helping in cooking etc. She considers her father, brother, mother and friends as her sources of inspiration, and believes that God is always there with her, loving and caring her.
Some words of advice from her. There is nobody on this earth who did not have to struggle, the difference is some need to struggle more and some less, but what you get after struggle is only happiness. Never let your worries rule, rather you should rule your worries and if you think that you are happy, you really begin feeling happy. Always think good to live good. That’s Arti.