Tue, 26 Mar, 2019

Only sight lost, not vision!

Fascinated by the magic of ‘artificial intelligence’ Ankur Kankonkar is aiming to invent some apparatus to help visually impaired persons like him in learning skills and leading their lives comfortably

Story: BHARATI | PAWASKAR | 12th July 2018, 02:44 Hrs

He is the master of a playful mind. A sportsman, he admits that football is his first love and cricket, a childhood passion. A computer savvy, he enjoys coding and gaming in their entirety. A voracious reader, he believes in himself and hopes to live his dream - eyes or no eyes. “I may have lost my eyesight but I am cherishing a powerful dream, and sensing a long vision of researching in the ‘artificial intelligence’ field to gift mankind something extraordinary,” announces Ankur Kankonkar, a visibly challenged youth who was honoured for topping the entire BSc stream in Goa at the recently held convocation ceremony. He scored 94.5 per cent in Computer Science which was highest in all nine streams in BSc that Goa University offers.   

Absence of sight (the act or power of sensing with the eyes) does not necessarily mean losing the power of anticipating that which will or may come to be - Ankur feels and experiences this. Gifted with an exceptional vision and intelligence, Ankur is pursuing his MSc in Information Technology at Chowgule College in Margao and is determined to achieve what he aims for. He does not shy away from sharing his vision, “Nothing can deter me from my goal, not even my physical disability. I may have gone blind due to a rare and incurable disease, but I don’t use a stick. And come what may, I am going to follow my goal blindly, in the literal sense of the word blind”.   

Ankur recalls that he was into his second year B Pharm studies when he lost total vision to Retinitis Pigmentisa. “Born with normal eyesight, I suffered from night blindness as a kid but with growing age the disease advanced, finally shadowing my entire world with darkness. Thankfully, I had seen the world with my own eyes before they went blank and this has come handy while learning diagrams, graphs or flowcharts,” shares this persistent boy who answered his XII exam second time after he went blind.   

“I had to give up my pharmacy course halfway and opt for BSc. As my combination for XII was Physics, Chemistry and Biology, I took Maths, Physics and Computer Science while answering XII for the second time. Scoring 83 per cent in computers I finally got admission for BSc at Chowgule College in Margao. Initially the management and faculty were reluctant to admit me for BSc, thinking it would be a challenge for them to teach me. But I convinced them that I would manage studies so the professors agreed,” he recalls.   

Initially attending lectures seemed difficult for Ankur who had joined college after a gap. But the principal and professors were cooperative and accepting. They tried to explain diagrams creating models using paper and sticks, but as Ankur enjoyed eyesight earlier, he could visualise totally what the teachers wanted to impart. Blessed with a vast circle of supportive friends Ankur studied with them at his home. This made learning fun and not boring. It helped him to learn point of view of others and was a better way of studying. He could do a lot in short period. In the first semester when Ankur bagged 80 per cent, he felt, “Yes, I belong here.” Then for 2nd, 3rd and 4th semester he continued with three subjects and for the final, fifth semester he chose Computer Science as major. “I had aimed that I will top as I wanted people to take notice of me. This would change their attitude towards looking at me,” he maintained.   

During the first two years of BSc he took a writer for answering his papers but for the third year he put forth a special request that he does not want a writer but a permission to type his own answer papers. “I didn’t want the writer to make mistakes and lose my chance of topping the class. I was granted permission to type my answer sheets. This is as per the Supreme Court guidelines and was not a special relaxation for me. I was given a keyboard. And things worked out well. I topped,” elaborates Ankur who is currently doing MSc in Information Technology which is a two-year programme at Chowgule College. He is still top in his class of 16. After his MSc he aims to do research in ‘artificial intelligence’. 

Ankur hopes that there would be some place in India which would offer him what he wishes pursue before trying for such opportunity abroad. He wants to study hard and earn his scholarship to pave his path in his desired field of research ‘artificial intelligence’.