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Biryani with Balakrishna

Story of reconnecting three years later with a scholar who we lost in touch with after CLAT

[About the author: Prajwal Gyawali is former Team Leader of IDIA Hyderabad chapter. He is currently working with ICICI Bank.]

I got the great opportunity to reconnect with Balakrishna after almost 3 years since I last saw him. Balakrishna, was one of our visually impaired CLAT aspirant for CLAT 2013, along with Sudheer, Vamshi, and Chenna Reddy. One of our most open and interactive scholars who used to keenly ask us questions during the training sessions, he unfortunately did not make it through the first CLAT list back in 2013.

This was a picture taken in 4th January 2012 when IDIA Hyderabad chapter first visited Sai Junior College for the Visually Impaired. Here, while taking a break from the sensitization, Balakrishna was teaching me how to write my name in Braille.
This was a picture taken in 4th January 2012 when IDIA Hyderabad chapter first visited Sai Junior College for the Visually Impaired. Here, while taking a break from the sensitization, Balakrishna was teaching me how to write my name in Braille.


In the months following CLAT 2013, most of the energy and efforts of the IDIA Hyderabad team was focused on helping Sudheer, Vamshi, and Chenna Reddy for their admissions to NLU Orissa – buying laptops, arranging for admission fees, coordinating with parents, coordinating with the local IDIA Chapters to inform them about the scholars, booking tickets, and of course celebrating the fact that our effort, to some extent, had paid off. In all this excitement, Balakrishna’s priorities took a backseat, which I regretted as a team lead.

It was only after the second and third lists were announced, that Balakrishna got through RMLNLU Lucknow. However, upon receiving the news from us, he refused to take up the seat. This came to us as a surprise, and we never understood why he had taken such a decision. In the weeks, months and years that followed, my own engagements at college and at work, made it near impossible to get in touch with him. However, the questions of where he was and what he would be doing, always came back to me time and again as a gentle nudge to my memory.

Picture 2
Nagababu and Vamshi (Both visually impaired IDIA Scholars at NLU Orissa) talking to the CLAT 2013 aspirants at Sai Junior College.

Recently, while meeting Vamshi and Naga Babu (both visually impaired IDIA Scholars at NLU Orissa who originally hail from Sai Junior) during their winter vacations in Hyderabad, I got the opportunity to reconnect with Balakrishna after almost half a decade. His energy level, and the humble smile on his face, seemed the same even after all these years.

While catching up over a plate of Hyderabad biryani, Balakrishna opened up to me about the reason why he didn’t take up RMLNLU. He informed me that after his CLAT results, he was disappointed for a while, but he found an individual who was willing to sponsor his education at Aurora Degree College at Chikkadapally, Hyderabad. It was only after his admissions formalities were completed at the degree college, that his name in the new CLAT list was announced. Unfortunately, as the degree college refused to release the college fees back to the sponsor, Balakrishna felt the moral obligation to continue his education in B. Com.. In hindsight, he informed me that he did not regret his decision to stay in Hyderabad and not pursue law.

In our meeting, what I enjoyed the most was listening to old friends catch up over a plate of scrumptious biryani. True Hyderabadi style I must admit! Balakrishna, Vamshi and Nagababu all shared their experience about being exposed in an environment with students across various backgrounds (visually impaired and not, along with students from various economic strata as well as different cultural background in India). They all admitted that they were being spoon fed in many ways at Sai Junior College as all of them were visually impaired, Telugu speaking students. All of them agreed that the greatest lesson they have learned after graduating from Sai Junior was to learn how to be independent at every step – whether it be studying and researching, or interacting with other students and knowing and learning new cultures.

While hearing these discussions gave me some sort of a kick, I knew that the ones who would benefit the most out of these discussions would be the present CLAT aspirants of 2016 at Sai Junior College. While I mooted the proposition of meeting another weekend to speak to the CLAT aspirants of 2016, the ever enthusiastic Balakrishna suggested that we go immediately to Sai Junior College and speak to the students there about the soft skills that they need to focus on. Of course, I bantered a little and asked them to wait till we finished the biryani!

Going back to Sai Junior once again after graduating from NALSAR, and walking across the checkered courtyard, felt like a jog down a memory lane. I couldn’t help thinking about the times the Hyderabad team had come down to Sai Junior for training scholars, and assisting as scribes for the students who took the INAT test during sensitization. Meeting the aspirants of CLAT 2016 was a great experience for me, and this time, visiting together with Sai Junior’s alumni made the experience a much more humbling one.

Vamshi, Nagababu and Balakrishna all spoke to the CLAT 2016 aspirants about the soft skills that visually impaired students had to pick up in order to compete with the others. They explained how once you graduate from Sai Junior, one’s confidence gets affected in a competitive setting of college, and it is up to each individual to build their own confidence. Eshwar, Pavan, Srikanth and Chanbhasha all listened carefully and had many inquiries about the experience after graduating from Sai Junior and attending a National Law School.

A group picture with Balakrishna, IDIA Scholars Nagababu and Vamshi along with the CLAT 2016 aspirants
A group picture with Balakrishna, IDIA Scholars Nagababu and Vamshi along with the CLAT 2016 aspirants

While Balakrishna too listened to Vamshi and Nagababu speak about law school, he was able to relate to a lot of issues highlighted by our scholars. Balakrishna emphasized about the importance of taking initiative and writing down class notes on your own, the importance of being confident in asking the most ridiculous questions in class and the value of being fluent in English. These were experiences both Vamshi and Nagababu concurred with and they further said that in a diverse setting, there is a lot to learn, and a lot to teach to the others as well.

It was great reconnecting with Balakrishna. Even though law did not work out for him, he has been able to pursue higher education nonetheless. He now works part time as an editor with Telengana Vikalangula Co-operative Cooperation in Hyderabad and has also enrolled for the MBA Finance course offered by Pondicherry University. I thank Balakrishna for taking the initiative to meet me even after all these years, and a bigger thanks for opening up to answer those questions which kept nudging my memory.

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