Dreaming big & aiming high: For Omkar sky is the only limit

Bharati Pawaskar | NOVEMBER 14, 2023, 01:12 AM IST
Dreaming big & aiming high: For Omkar sky is the only limit

Omkar Pawaskar with a sitar.

Photo Credits: Shubhankar Shah

He is fond of learning new languages, especially Indian languages, and  is currently fluent in Kannada, Konkani, Marathi, Hindi, and English.  Omkar Santosh Pawaskar dreams of enriching the Konkani language by  translating more literature from other languages into Konkani. Also, a  classical singer, Omkar performs solo programmes in Maharashtra,  Karnataka, and Goa with a team of musicians. He has completed Madhyama  Purna (diploma) in Indian classical music and has achieved Visharad in  tabla. An Abacus expert, his name is included in the India Book of  Records for doing the fastest math calculation within a minute.

Homeschooled  in Karwar, Omkar first went to school in std VII, and now at 25, having  already graduated, he is preparing for UPSC and GPSC, with a goal to  become an Indian Administrative Officer (IAS). His desk is full of  awards and trophies that he received for academic excellence and music  performances. Omkar was declared the ‘Voice of Karnataka’ in 2015,  winning the first prize in singing, and with a score of 94.33%, he stood  first at the district level in Uttar Canara in std XII. At the degree  level in Rosary College at Navelim, he was the student of the year.

The  significance of all these medals and achievements lies in the fact that  Omkar was born with visual impairment and cannot see with both eyes.

“He  was a premature baby and was put in the incubator as soon as he was  born. Unfortunately, our newborn got a retina infection and lost his  vision within a few hours of his birth. Later, we tried vision  correction operations, but as the retinas were non-functional and the  nerve was also dead, he had to live on as a visually impaired boy,”  recalls Omkar’s father, Santosh Pawaskar, who is in the jewelry-making  vocation.

Omkar’s mother, Sujata, taught him at home until he was  10-12 years old. As the family lived in Karwar, and there was no school  for the blind there, the boy did not get admission to any school. The  reason being, the teachers found it challenging to teach a little boy  who could not see. Omkar’s parents were not aware that schools cannot  deny admission to a student because of his disability. They tried to  shift to Goa and get him admitted to a special school here when he was  six-seven years old, but that did not materialize either. So, he  remained at home but continued learning from home.

“It was later  when an officer from North Canara came home and saw this talented boy,  studying at home, he got him admitted to a school in Karwar in Kannada  medium. Let him learn Kannada. It will be of help if he knows an extra  language, advised the officer. So, we sent him to school in class VII.  That too in the second half of the academic year, but thankfully he was  eager and quick to learn,” added Omkar’s mother Sujata.

Omkar was  intelligent enough to catch up. He scored well, and accepting the  challenge, he learned all subjects in Kannada, yet scored 91% in SSC.  Then for higher secondary, he took admission for Arts in the English  medium. It was here that he scored 94.33% and topped the district,  making his parents proud. Then the parents decided to settle in their  home State of Goa. Omkar got admission to Rosary College, Navelim, where  he was the student of the year at the end of his degree course, scoring  91% with Konkani specialization.

“I could achieve this because  of my supportive parents, caring friends, dear sister Shivani, and  loving teachers. I was the apple of their eyes. I could nurture my own  dreams, all because of these strong people in my life. And I want to  tell those who have a disability, that no matter what, do not stop  learning. Learn new things. Education brings light; it enlightens you.  It is the tool that would take you to newer heights. It will instill  confidence in you. You can do anything that a person with no disability  can do. We are no lesser beings,” says Omkar who has done a digital  literacy course and an advanced Microsoft Excel course.

He utilised the COVID lockdown period to do online computer courses through the National Association for Blind (NAB).

“I  have done a Future Skill Development Course from Dell company and from  the National Skill Development Corporation of India. I like to read  books to improve my general knowledge. I also love books on Indian  history and keep myself updated with current affairs. I like patriotic  music, play different musical instruments, sing in various languages. I  love to explore new things in technology, like Artificial Intelligence. I  listen to tech news on YouTube,” shares Omkar who has proved his  versatility.

Omkar has a few close friends who are there with him  in thick and thin. Aniruddh Yadav is one of them. He also has some  online friends who are visually impaired.

“I met them while  learning online computer courses. We all keep each other motivated. As a  person with a disability, I have not found any difference in my  upbringing or my schooling. I was lucky enough to get support from all  sides. Friends shared their notes; they even came home to teach me. My  mom used to read out the notes and record. I learned by listening to the  voice recorder from Std VII onwards up to SSC and HSSC. It was in  college that I came to know about mobile screen reader, touch screen  mobile usage, etc. Now I am well-versed in reading PDFs on the computer.  Taha Haaziq, secretary at the Office of the Commission for Persons with  Disabilities, introduced me to an online book library. My reading thus  started through mobile. Technology is of great help. So are people  around me,” concludes Omkar who is dreaming big to be an IAS to serve  the nation.

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