Dr. Mahantesh G Kivadasannavar
His life has always been about determination and conviction that if you set your mind to it, nothing is impossible. There is an obvious but massive distinction between sight and vision. Despite being born blind, Mahantesh G Kivadasannavar became a visionary, refusing to blink in the face of adversity and today presides over a trust for the disabled and a sports body promoting cricket for the blind.
Mahantesh was born into a loving, extended joint family which made sure that lack of sight was no impediment to the young lad’s development as a person. Like all Indian kids his age of that and subsequent generations, Mahantesh was hooked to cricket. The transistor became his best buddy, and not merely because live television had not yet taken deep root in India.
While he could have coasted through life cocooned in the warmth and affection of his family, Mahantesh was keen to make a difference to the community at large. His move to Bengaluru to pursue education was to prove a massive game-changer. He came in contact with people willing to go out of their way to help him in his endeavours. It was a lesson well learnt, for as he grew in stature, Mahantesh embraced that very trait of selflessness.
Channelising his massive love for cricket into organizing tournaments for the visually challenged was a huge exercise often thwarted by bureaucratic red-tapism that is such an integral part of Indian society. Again, falling back on people skills and his extraordinary managerial capabilities, Mahantesh found a solution to every problem with no little support from his best friend as well as mentor, the late Nagesh.
Feeding off each other’s enthusiasm and drive, the duo founded the Cricket Association for Blind in India, under whose aegis the national team participated in global tournaments. Despite a constant scramble for funds, they managed to host World Cups for the Blind in India, not merely raising the profile of the sport but also reiterating to the blind that a physical disability not of their own making should be no impediment in chasing their dreams and translating them into reality.
In keeping with his propensity to move out of his comfort zone, Mahantesh looked beyond merely cricket and the blind. That was the genesis of the formation of Samarthanam, a trust under whose umbrella come people with disabilities of different kinds. Samarthanam doesn’t just offer people livelihoods; it also teaches them valuable life-lessons and instills in them a sense of self-confidence and self-esteem, driving home the point that when life throws lemons at you, you can so easily make lemonade out of them.
Today, if Mahantesh finds himself in the enviable position of rubbing shoulders with the rich and the powerful, it’s only because of the path he charted out several decades back. Few people are blessed with the desire to make a difference, fewer still have the drive and the enterprise to give shape to that desire. It just goes to show that, if the intentions are noble and the body, mind and spirit are willing, the sky is the limit.