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Visually impaired UPSC rank holder Sparsh Gupta wants to change the system for disabled people

The phone hasn't stopped ringing for Sparsh Gupta. Congratulations are pouring in for this 28-year-old who has cracked the Civil Services Examination 2018 with a rank of 562. Some of those calling are people who had written off his future prospects after he lost his vision completely in 2016.

It's a sweet moment for Sparsh and his family, who have stood by him rock solid from birth.

"I had cataracts at birth and got operated on my eyes at the age of four months, says Sparsh. "I could see with lenses and glasses after that, but at the age of 10, I developed glaucoma and lost vision in my left eye. My right eye vision deteriorated as well and in 2016, I lost total sight.

Those were hard times because, as Sparsh points out, adjusting to life as a late blind person is not easy. "When you are used to something from the beginning it's easy, making adjustments later on is hard.

Not that Sparsh ever let disability come in the way of excellence. He was the All India topper in Special Category in his Class 12 board exams and went on to study law at the prestigious National Law School of India University in Bengaluru.

I give full credit to my parents. They were always there for me despite society and many relatives saying why are you bothering to push him further. Be it my class 12 or later moving to Bengaluru for my law degree, they were always there giving me the strength to perform well. Once I was in college, I met many bright minds, my capabilities developed too, and the desire grew to set a positive example to the visually impaired community. - Sparsh Gupta, Rank 562, UPSC 2018 Exam

Many setbacks

Despite the family support, the challenges were many. "It was very hard. Society and institutions in our country is living in the past and you have to ask for everything, says Sparsh. But every time he came up against a wall, he emerged stronger. "Like when I lost my vision in my right eye, I performed my best academically that year.

By joining the civil services, Sparsh wants to address the challenges faced by the disabled community. "I chose the civil service because it gives opportunities to contribute, especially for that section of our society about whom there is lack of awareness. There are many children like me, but they are not as lucky because their parents think they are less capable.

His father Arun Kumar Gupta, a chartered accountant, says like many parents with disabled children, he faced his share of negativity. "People would say don't make him study too much, let him do some business but we ignored them. I would tell parents never to lose hope and to stand by your child.

Gupta is also clear that if anyone in the family deserves the lion's share of credit for Sparsh's success, it's wife Lakshmi, who lives by one mantra.

"If you are strong, your child is strong, she says. "We shared all our difficulties and handled them together. Sparsh is God's gift and God gave him to us for a purpose.

Sister Kritika Gupta too shares that conviction. "Sparsh had been preparing for two years and in the last one year his dedication was really deep. He has struggled a lot to come this far. "

This sense of conviction and support Sparsh draws from his family he also found in his coach Karamjeet Gill. Gill runs a coaching center called Nirvana Academy and has helped other disabled candidates to successfully clear the civil service exams.

"There is serious passion in Sparsh. He cannot read but he will keep hearing things, says Gill. Sparsh, he laughingly adds, also made him work the hardest. "We had to give him word files that were typed but he had such commitment, we wanted to help him. When I met him a few years back, he had just lost his vision completely and was demoralized. He has a wonderful family and brilliant friends and once he got motivated, he worked hard.

Given a choice between the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Sparsh is clear where his heart lies, and that's the IAS. Because it gives him the opportunity to change the system for others like him. To show them, in his words - "Disability is a mental barrier. If you can get over that, nothing can stop you from achieving what you want.

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