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"As my vision grows weaker, the will to try harder grows" - My take by Gaurav Jhunjhunwala

January 29, 2019

In My Take, Gaurav Jhunjhunwala talks about his experiences coping with vision loss. Formerly an entrepreneur who was heading the digital vertical in a top publishing house, he is now exploring new business opportunities.

I was born in Hong Kong and had a really happy childhood full of fond memories. Looking back now I think its because it was the only period in my life where I didn't feel I was very different to the people around me.

I realized I was different around the time I entered Class 7. This was the age where children become very good at identifying and exploiting the insecurities of their classmates. I was not spared and was a soft target for the fact that I had very weak eyesight and had to keep my face very close to the textbooks while reading, and oftentimes could not even read what was written on the blackboard.

Although every annual trip to my eye doctor revealed that my vision was slowly deteriorating, the doctors assured me that there was nothing to worry about and that at the age of 18 I could opt for corrective Lasik eye surgery, which would give me near perfect vision. These constant reassurances buoyed my hopes. Time seemed to move too slowly and I was consumed only by the thought of how happy I would become once my vision was restored.

A few years later while travelling in the US, I visited an ophthalmologist to reconfirm the diagnosis of the doctors in Hong Kong. After a lengthy examination, the doctor sat me down and told me that I was afflicted by a genetic disorder which had no known cure or treatment. Not only was Lasik eye surgery not an option, but the disease was progressive, and my vision would continue to worsen over time.

Away from home

Post completing my schooling in Hong Kong, I went to the US to pursue my higher education. Although I knew that the US was more accepting of persons with disabilities, I still had a difficult time to adjusting to life away from home. A constant fear of quitting and the pressure of trying to fit in with my peer group kept me going through the first few years. Eventually the constant daily challenges of living alone and managing my education became too much and I moved back to Hong Kong with my greatest fear of not fitting in having come true.

Through some chance encounters my family heard of an Ayurvedic Hospital in Kerala which specializes solely in the treatment of vision loss. Although the treatment did not help me regain my vision, I made a lot of friends who were suffering from disabilities similar to my own. Through these friends I learned that there is no prerequisite for happiness and that one can be happy despite whatever external situation one is faced with.

Turning point

Around this time, I was also blessed to have met with a spiritual mentor who further helped me to develop my mental and inner strength. The most important lesson he taught me was that the two most important days in a person's life are the day one realizes their purpose, and the day one fulfills this purpose.

After much introspection, I was able to move past my fear of being different and understood that my life's purpose is to inspire people to be the best they can be and to live to realize their full potential.

My journey to inspire saw me play an active role in my family business, which is in the textbook publishing industry, where I shaped the strategy and thought process to digitize and modernize our content and offerings.

Recently my search to inspire has taken me in pursuit of starting my own business venture. I do not know whether I will fail or succeed. The only thing I do know is that as my vision grows weaker, my will to try harder and to inspire will only grow stronger.

My advice to anybody facing adversity is to try and understand what is your life's purpose. Once you realize this, no hurdle will be insurmountable in your journey to achieve this.

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