“Sir, may I come in” Sandeep asked.
I looked up. Sandeep was lurching half in and half out of my cabin.
“Sandeep is it very urgent?” I asked.
“No, not really Sir. I will speak to you some other time” he said in disappointment.
I know he has taken several appointments in last few days.
“Come in. I can only give you 5 minutes so be very specific” I said after checking my watch.
“Sure Sir” he said and rushed into my cabin. He sat in front of me and I resumed peeping in my laptop.
“Sir, actually I wanted to discuss about internships in our firm” he said.
“What is there to discuss?” I snapped back.
“No actually I want your permission to have certain interns in our office” he said.
“You can speak to HR” I said thinking it would end the matter.
“Sir, I already had word with HR but they asked me to take your permission” he explained.
As HR directs for my permission only exceptionally, I gave my attention.
“Sir, my brother…” he said.
“Oh…I understand bring him for internship” I said interrupting him in between.
“No..no..Sir you have taken me wrong” he said. He passed me a letter. It was an application on the letter head of ‘Access’.
“Sir, my brother works in an NGO which helps differently abled students to adapt into corporate environment and work like us” he said.
“Does your brother need any donation” I asked. I have always associated NGOs with contributions.
“No Sir that is not what I meant. My brother doesn’t want donation. Thing is that they have few differently abled law students for whom they are seeking internships” he said.
“What are you saying? You know the work pressure here. At times even we find it difficult to cope up and how you suppose they will…” I stopped myself from saying further but that is what I sincerely believed till then.
I pondered and pointed “Sandeep, we work in very difficult environment and as you are with us from last two years, you know that amid massive work load we have no time for such experiments.”
“Sir, this NGO has trained them and I think with little support they will perform at par. They should get a chance” he kept insisting while this led me to cut the conversation.
“Sandeep, I am getting late for another meeting. We will discuss this later” I declared.
“Sure Sir” he said grimly and left my cabin.
I again assessed his proposal. I am a partner in one of the India’s leading law firms. Fact that the lawyers’ job is one of the most high pressure jobs is not hidden from anyone. Besides, I thought that others might not treat them normally. I wondered what if those special few missed important deadlines and that led to complaints of discrimination. But, don’t I respect them and believe that they should get equal treatment. Many thoughts were crossing my head.
Then after all the contemplation I was clear in my mind, but Sandeep was still waiting for the decision. I thought if I do not give him time for few days then he will forget this. Resultantly, I started ignoring him but that didn’t last long. Sandeep was unrelenting while I was also not ready to mellow my stance.
“Sir, did you think over the internships?” he asked.
“Yes” I said. I was still thinking about how to say no.
“I don’t think this is a good idea” I said.
“But why Sir?” he inquired.
“Sandeep there are things which I cannot explain to you” I asserted.
He looked at me dismayed.
“Sir, I can understand” he lamented. I saw an uneasiness developing between us. Sandeep is young, hard working associate of my team. I usually do not get so open with the juniors but I like his attitude towards work. He reminds me of my early days. I did not want to dishearten him.
“You can ask them to send one intern just for a month on a trial basis. I will observe his or her work and would then decide” I said.
Sandeep jumped from his seat.
“Thank you Sir” he said.
“But there is a condition. You will have to take care of the candidate. I don’t want any complaint from any staff and nor from that intern” I said.
“Definitely Sir, I will ensure that” he affirmed.
After that he left my cabin. Next day he introduced me to Raghav.
“Sir, he is Raghav Purohit. He is joining us as an intern for a month” he smiled.
Raghav Purohit was just like any other college going student. He was carrying a bag on his shoulders. His hairstyle was funky. The only difference was that he was wearing thick black glasses and was also holding a folded white stick.
“Good morning Sir” he said in a pale voice.
“Hi, good morning welcome to our office” I said.
“Thank you Sir” he replied.
“Sandeep help him out with our policies and procedures. He will assist you” I instructed Sandeep. When I was instructing I didn’t realize that indirectly he was going to assist me.
After that for days I didn’t get any chance to speak with Raghav. At times I saw him working on his laptop with earphones gear mounting on his head. On that, I checked with HR and I was told that he researches on his laptop by listening to the webpages. As expected, HR also informed general feedback on him that he takes longer in doing research and staff faces communication issues with him.
One day Sandeep was out-of-station for client work, and Raghav was sitting in the conference room to attend an urgent client-call with me. I checked with HR, no one else was free. As I was left with no other option unwillingly I took the client-call with him.
“Mr. Mehta we have been informed that there are some recent changes in the Indian Companies Act which will affect our businesses in India. We would have expected proactive information from you” Client said.
“Karry actually companies law in India is in transformation mode. We are closely following the developments. I think it shouldn’t affect your business” I said. Karry was an important client for us. If he gets upsets then we may loose several foreign clients. I was in urgent need of help. I looked at Raghav he was busy typing. If Sandeep would have been here he would have read my facial expression and would have given me some research.
“Mr. Mehta I need a confirmation now. I have a meeting just now. I can’t wait for a later response” Karry warned me.
“ah..ah..Karry we will revert to you…” I was trembling. Raghav turned his laptop screen towards me. I looked into his laptop and saw exact piece I was looking for.
“Karry it doesn’t affect your business and I am emailing you the reasoning” I said. I looked at Raghav he was showing thumbs up insignia to me. For a minute I forgot that he cannot see and I responded to him with a thumb up.
“Sir is my analysis correct?” he asked hesitantly.
“Yes, absolutely. How did you read and analyzed it so quickly?” I asked. He smiled.
“Sir I can hear and type simultaneously. My laptop is designed in such a way that I can hear the findings. When you were speaking to clients I typed analysis” he said.
I realized that he was right he has got brilliant typing speed. He can listen and type almost instantaneously. Above this he has got an analytical mind which is crucial for our profession. I realized that I was only focusing on his visual inability and not on his numerous valuable abilities.
“Will you like to join us?” I asked.
“Thank you Sir” he said. I patted him on his back and went out. We gave him pre-placement offer to join us. I asked HR to note his requirements. He will need few basic things such as e-books with access softwares, few journals in Braille, few basic changes in office infrastructure so that he can move with ease and most important our support. We also did staff training for sensitizing ourselves with the help of “Access”.
This was my inclusion moment. We are waiting for Raghav to join us as an associate and to grow in his career so that he becomes an inspiration for all.
This short story is an entry in the ManipalBlog.com writing contest 2014, in support of India Inclusion Summit 2014 to be held at Bangalore on November 29th and 30th. To know more about the idea of an #InclusiveIndia follow @IndiaInclusion on twitter or visit their Facebook page at India Inclusion Summit.
About the author: Mr. Arunabh Choudhary is a Corporate Lawyer based out of New Delhi.