Real Life Portraits: Sandeep Kanabar


Some people leave behind interesting impression which can last for a lifetime. I am a people person, but I would rather admire them from far because of my natural shyness towards strangers that forces me to keeps a emotional distance from all. I like the spirit of the person and spiritual progress reflected in their person when they strive hard in their life to pursue their dreams.

Human Eyes the Window To Their Spirit

The human eyes are a window to the very Soul of the person, as the saying goes, so the eyes of a person fascinates me a lot. One look at it and I see that spark of pent up energy to do something extraordinaire in life shining brightly from them. That very spark makes me spell-bounds in altered state.

One such person whose eyes speaks a lot more than he did was Sandeep Kanabar, our guest of the evening at Ability Foundation office in Adyar, Chennai. He had that studious looking personality and he also had a look about him of being a sage of experiences.

Ability Foundation’s Drive for Career Enhancement

Ability Foundation had organized a course for people with disability to perform well in the interviews and to acquire required skill-set to ace it. We, as in the students and the employees will get a sneak-peak into Sandeep’s life and his career journey and gather life’s vital lessons from it.

Friendly and Spirited Sandeep

Jayshree Raveendran, Founder of Ability Foundation, was introducing us to him and I got up from my chair. Since both of us were at a distance from each other, I folded my hands and said ‘Namaste.’ He followed suite. His eyes arrested my interest. It was just like the ones in a child’s when they are planning a mischief. Well, I was eager to listen to him speak in the Career Enhancement Program to the candidates waiting to be inspired.

We gathered in the conference room while trying to make sure that everyone was seated in a clear view, so that Sandeep had a uninterrupted view of their faces for easy lip-reading. The spark in his eyes and his positive body language made me super-enchanted to hear him share his experiences.

Positive Energy Abound All Around

On reflection, I now think or rather feel that people who have overcome negativity in their lives, tend to have a high quotient of positive energy around them which infectiously spread over to others. When the infectious positive energy spills over you can’t help being influenced by it. It was the most productive hour listening to a person who not only overcame his short comings, but also planned for things in his life.

This reminds me of one of his suggestions, that was, if one were mobility restricted, then planning to start early and reach the place in advance would give the person some time to relax before the interview, instead of starting at the last moment. It took me to my own nervousness of travelling which forces me to start early to any place and I am always two hours ahead of the meeting. But the downfall is that I spend most of the time worrying about getting a less crowded bus to board.

Sandeep’s Life and Lessons

He was around 8 years when he began unconsciously to lip read and when he was 15 years it was discovered that he had hearing impairment. This didn’t deter him from his passion to learn more. So, he prepared way ahead of the next day’s class and filled up the gaps in his understanding of the subject, when his teacher took the class. In this way he progressed and excelled as a conscientious student.

He then joined a college where he found new challenges to face. Now his strength lies in lip-reading and the first row was the only spot where he can lip-read well. But the hurdle was the first row was exclusively held by girls.

In India, girls and boys don’t sit together. And the second row was left empty out of modesty and the rows behind were occupied by boys. Seated on his assigned place prevented him from having a clear view of the lecturing professor’s face. So, the next day Sandeep decided to arrive early and took the center place of the first bench much to the surprise of the girls and the boys.

They soon understood that he was not playing a prank on the girl like Lord Krishna but was genuinely in need of that space. Later, one of the girls who sat beside him became his very best friend.

Sandeep’s Interviews A Galore

Campus interview in those days were rare and much rarer chance for persons with disabilities bagging a job. His first few years was a huge struggle as to learn through a system that was not even looking at what support he needs. But surprisingly, Sandeep never mentioned once that the college didn’t support him in his eagerness to learn by providing him with the required assistive device. India being India, I was not surprised but a question did arise was he not given special attention. But our warrior Sandeep chugged on forward in his desire to become educated.

With great difficulty he was able to get first mark in his final year and unfortunately the year of his passing the campus interviews were not happening for him. After graduation, he spent his time as a tutor and took classes for students of 11th standard. His passion was Physics. Though there were some misgivings in the mind of his parents, but Sandeep was determined to do his best come what may.

He spent the next two years excelling and extolling as a guru. While he was moderately satisfied, but he still felt that he was just short of gaining an experience that would change his perspective of facing new challenges. So, he upped and packed with much angst from his parents, but he had a vision to find himself and to prove something for himself. When he came to Chennai in the hope of finding a job with just the fire in his belly and the spirit in his heart, he found it was not enough to survive the interview marketplace.

Connecting With Bangalore Friend

Sandeep who believed in not giving up understood that come what may he will get a job. That is when he decided that he would try finding jobs in Bangalore too. There he met a person who passed out with him from the same college. They were just bare acquaintance but soon a good friendship was born in teaming up for the job hunt. Not surprising that his non-disabled friend bagged a job in a week and while he was still hunting for a job the week after.

The passing years were adding up days of not being employed and stating a local experience as a Tutor was not acceptable for the organization that interviewed him. When his resume was picked and they called to him, Sandeep had another person answer for him who would mention his disability as per the plan.

The Struggle to Get a Opportunity to Prove

Once the disability of hearing impairment was mentioned then the calling companies never reverted. Then he decided to put his resume on a job portal and provide the cell number of his friend and gave him a small cheat sheet which provided all the answer that the company needed about him. Then he would get many invites for an interview with the company.

Sandeep had a planning method for finding out what possible questions will be asked for a specific job by attending interviews a galore. This allowed him to learn, to polish and to improve himself for the face-to-face interview.

Laser Soft and the Journey of the First Success

Laser Soft was the first company to give him a chance against all odds. His initial job was just a simple one of unconscious working. Sandeep slowly fell into the routine of 9-to-5 existence and pushed virtual papers. The euphoria of having gained a job made him complacent of his achievement. There were no new goals for him. When he described this, I visualized him being with the spark missing in his life. The spring in his foot must have become a dragging of his foot to the office now.

That is when he realized that he was not constructive and productive nor efficient. So, he asked his Manager, if he could join another team and his Manager was skeptical about the move but gave him a few months to prove him wrong. Turning point in his work life started here when he decided that he would take any task whether he knew about it or not and get it done. Soon he was handling task which seemed impossible in the beginning but by sheer verve to excel and perform to his best, Sandeep crossed all the hurdles that was placed in front of him.

This was where I would have appreciated his hard-work more, if he would have given an example of, how he faced the challenge of the unknown software, what did he do? How did he overcome it? But he simply said in a broad sweep of his hand, ‘well I worked hard.’

He rose in the company to become the most sort after and reliable work force member. He even mentioned when one of the customers mentioned that he would only want Sandeep to investigate the project and no one else, there was joy in his voice. This customer was the very same person who was initially skeptical about his working capacity. How people change when they encounter abilities in people who rose above all hurdles.

Tear-Filled Parting and A New Beginning at Symantec

Later, when he joined Symantec, after much tear-filled parting with his earlier company, he remembers with nostalgia that his work and life was motivated by the ideology that he held dear to his heart. A strong belief in god and a determination to see the finish line of an assigned task, a do or die attitude, to feel each goal holistically and emotionally became the staying order and wings of his aspiration.

Certain details maybe out of place more because of my memory and note-taking but my impression of the person is indelible from my memory. Anything can happen when real-life heroes put in their best efforts.