Open Doors' Blog

In the journey of life, having a vision makes life really interesting. Your eyes can only get you so far, it is your vision that will really take you places…

Posted in Life stories by Open Doors on December 18, 2010
, On Saturday 18 December 2010, 8:55 AM


Breaking records has been a way of life for this 30-year-old banker from Mumbai — be it in life, at work or in sports. But he is a trader with a difference.

Ashish Goyal works for J P Morgan Chase as a chief investment officer and is passionate about macroeconomics and the financial markets. And Mr Goyal is blind.

A New York Times article says looking at Ashish work one can hardly figure out that he is visually impaired-the speed and accuracy with which he manages billions of dollars of the bank’s exposure to risks like foreign exchange fluctuations.

Outside his official assignment, Ashish represented the Metro London Sports Club in 2009 in the United Kingdom’s domestic blind cricket league. In his very first year, he became a prominent member of the team contributing to winning the UK league. His friends find it difficult to keep pace with his social life that ranges from theatre, music, charity work to Formula F1, tennis and globetrotting to ‘watching’ cricket matches.

Ashish, who was born with perfect vision, suffers from a disease called retinitis pigmentosa, which robbed him of his sight after the age of 15. He did not lose his vision at one go, but gradually went blind over a period of three years. By 18, he couldn’t see anything at all.
He was the first blind student to make it to Wharton Business School, Philadelphia, four years ago. If that isn’t enough, Ashish cleared his MBA with honours and went on to win the Joseph P Wharton award, given to one student every year who symbolizes Wharton’s way of life.

Ashish, who now lives in London, is the first blind trader at J P Morgan, and possibly in any bank anywhere in the world. His near-impossible feat has earned him the National Award for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, 2010, an honour that he will receive at the hands of the President of India this week.

Ironically, while Ashish will return to India to receive his award, this country has been a trifle hostile to him during his first attempt at entering the job market. He had a tough time getting a job in India, despite securing a second rank in his batch while doing an MBA at NMIMS.


From BITTER to BETTER, my life has been an exciting journey – by Dr. Chandni Alexander

Posted in Life stories by Open Doors on September 13, 2010

As a child, even though I was a First ranker, I always got to hear that I wasn’t studying hard. My mom had high expectations and made sure that I was never out mixing with kids of my age, just being a ‘kid’. So I grew up self-centered, disinterested in any social activities and needless to say – friendless.

I joined a medical school but was a loner; on the inside I wished to share my pains with someone but on the outside I sported a ‘Nothing can touch me’ attitude. In the first year of MBBS I royally failed. My whole family treated me as a failure. That’s when I decided that life was not worth living and became extremely suicidal. One day my mom expressed doubts on whether I had a boyfriend. Honestly, I didn’t. But this left extremely hurt, bitter and angry. The only person I loved dearly-my mom- had lost trust in me.

Soon pride and folly became my best friends as I started to think of how to hurt my family. That’s when I met my husband Alex. He had a life that was totally opposite to mine.  He had a loving family that was seemed too good to be true. Hence Alex loved his family and I hated mine.

We got married but I still continued my struggle with failures. By the time I completed my medical studies, I had failed 9 times. Every time I’d have only Alex’s shoulder to weep. Finally I knelt down one afternoon at my window and looked to the skies to ask God one last time for help. If I didn’t clear I would call it quits with everything. The only regret would be to leave Alex who, even today loves me more than I could ever ask for.

Miraculously I cleared my exams that very attempt; it was new lease on life from God to me. What followed next was a year of rigorous internship which brought me in contact with the broken and battered lives of the patients. I couldn’t handle it alone. Alex who was a social worker in an NGO knew all this and had the patience to hear me out. The silver lining was when I received the Best Intern’s Award in a hospital that was filled with hundreds of interns. The following year, I delivered our baby ‘Shekainah’ after my internship and continued to help Alex in his work. We worked among the slum dwellers in Mumbai and saw the lives of many families being transformed.

One day my mom met a young parent in a hospital whose son was in the psychiatric ward for treatment because they had put alot of pressure on him to score well. My mom saw a glimpse of herself in that parent and couldn’t handle it. She immediately called me to say how sorry she was for the way she had treated me all those years. Her call to me that afternoon brought us close once again and all the hurt and pain just melted away. My mom has encouraged me ever since. She now saw the potential in me as I shared about my work with her.

After 4 years, a chance meeting with a social worker from South India caused Alex to feel led to do something in one of the most backward districts of TamilNadu. After doing our research we decided to move to Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu which was in a dire state because of crippling social issues.

It’s been 3 yrs now since we came to Dharmapuri and today we run an English medium school for the children of the underprivileged up to the 4th grade where sixty three children study here. We also started a small clinic which by God’s grace, eventually converted into a fully equipped hospital. I completed my Post Graduation in Family Medicine from CMC Vellore after coming to Dharmapuri. This has equipped me to cater more effectively to cases from cradle to grave so that we refer fewer cases and resolve more. We have also networked with the District Director for TB to start a TB-DOTS center in our hospital to reduce the number of TB cases in this district. We also treat HIV infected and affected patients who are sent to us by other NGOs here and visit a children’s home where children of HIV positive parents are cared for.


Life is like a house, Being furnished time and again.

But after it is painted, And furniture rearranged,

We see the real picture, And forget all the pain.

While on the job, problems crop up anew

But it is never the end, only the beginning of something new.

Today I don’t feel like a hopeless failure.

My failures have only helped me.

From BITTER to BETTER, it has been an exciting journey.

-As shared by Dr. Chandni Alexander

Your desires need to match your abilities – By Lydia Mehta

Posted in Life stories by Open Doors on September 6, 2010

 Choosing a career: I was a very confused child when it came to choosing my career as compared to my sister who was very focused right from the start. She was good at writing and language and she knew she was headed towards mass media and journalism. Me on the other hand liked a little bit of everything and thought I could do everything reasonably well, and I was not particularly inclined to ‘a’ particular stream. It kept changing every time. Initially I thought I would take up medicine, then it changed to architecture cause I kind of liked it & liked designing and so I did 11th standard Science which I found a huge challenge because that was also the time my music was gaining momentum & doing science dint gimme too much free time. And also not to forget to mention my Math was weak. So basically my desire did not match my ability. I also did a lot of career guidance tests to help me in my decision making. I wont say they didn’t help, but they only confirmed what I already knew about myself that I was more inclined towards the Fine Arts. They said the same thing every time. So I shifted to Arts in the 12th Std and phew! that was such a relief for me, cause I felt I finally did fit in there. Did my 11th and 12th in Sophia College and then my interest in Political Science started emerging, and at that time St. Xaviers offered a full major in that subject.So I decided to change college and move to Xaviers to graduate in Pol Sc. Law also crossed my mind, but I realized my arguing skills were pathetic, and I would have to study an extra 4 years after graduation, which I didn’t particularly want to do. I should’ve probably done that soon after my 12th. But then I also wanted to experience college life and Xaviers was the most happening college and I wanted to get involved in the extra curricular. So i joined Xaviers and thoroughly enjoyed myself there. Did participate and volunteer for Malhar, & did some sport activities too. Got a first class in my tenth and twelfth and a second class in my graduation. Post grad I did a one years diploma in Human Resource Development and Management. Again because I enjoyed being with people and I liked administration and management I thought the course would help me in case I decided to pursue HR.

And this how Lydia became a music teacher – While I was doing my 16th year in Human Resource Management (in 2002 – 2003) which was an evening course, I started teaching music in St. Annes High School, Colaba. And by the end of the year, I just knew I was cut out to be a teacher. I definitely loved being with children and I loved teaching music AND I had the skill. So my desire definitely matched my ability and my talent enhanced it. Just to rewind a little, I had already started giving private lessons in the guitar and keyboard before I started teaching in schools and so it was just adding to my chosen profession. Till then I hadn’t had any formal training in music cause till then I wasn’t sure I was even getting into music full time. I had begun playing the guitar when I was 9 followed by the piano when I was 11, then drums when I was 13 and the sax when I was 15. I played all these instruments by ear with a little bit of sight reading. Then I realized I better get formally trained if I am going to continue in this line. And so I hunted for a good teacher and was recommended to go to Mr Ivan John who also happened to be my Sociology teacher in Sophia College. And he was a fantastic teacher. He completely made me love theory of music and I was also able to give my music exams through him. With his efficient training he brought me to merit and distinction levels. As I did my grades, my credentials also increased & I was also getting the job experience I needed to boost up my profile. I then ventured to pursue teaching in other schools and soon after started teaching in Cathedral and John Connon High School and in Christ Church School and Activity School. The advantage with this kind of a profession is that its quite rare and in high demand. Schools are in constant need of music teachers. You can even do this part time. And right now with the international school boom, there is a tremendous scope to make a fabulous living out of being a music teacher. Giving private lessons is a huge added bonus. I also send my students for the Trinity College of Music exams, plus the Royal School Exams and the RockSchool Exams in the drums, keyboards and guitar. Not trying to trumpet my achievements, but all my students so far have scored merit and distinction. And I am a very pleased and satisfied teacher at the end of the day.

My present – I am teaching in Sophia High School, one of the top elite schools in Bangalore run by the Sisters of Notre Dame. I continue to give private lessons in the Keyboards, Guitars and Drums. I also work with a kids choir, head the worship team/band in church and am part of a quartet.

As a musician and a teacher, I am able to guide students to choose the right kind of instrument for themselves. I have been able to be part of and form bands, been part of & form choirs, direct kids musicals, judge and hold music competitions……etc. Have attended a whole lot of music seminars and workshops conducted by various resource people from around the world. I try and attend all the concerts, both Western Classical as well as the Pop Bands and try and keep in touch with the current happenings on the Music Front at least. I do my own self study either online through the internet or through books available in the store. Its a constant learning process and there’s always something new to do. Married now into a family of musicians, there is definitely no end to this venture.

My advice – I think gone are the days when one had to choose only between Engineering or Medicine or Teaching. There are a whole range of fields come up right now that you can literally make your hobby your work. For example I came across a person who does ‘Surprises’  – Thats her job. She basically arranges birthday surprises or delivers the surprise for the person….etc Because nowadays people don’t have the time or the creativity to plan out surprises for their near and dear ones. So this lady has thought of this need in the city and makes a bomb out of this ‘new never done before’ concept. And I thought that was so cool. She’s using her creativity in a unique way, but it brings her fulfillment and to her customers too. Another example is of a person I know who graduated in Commerce or Science one of them and then did her MBA to please her parents and now she’s an upcoming artist in her own right. She’s extremely creative with her artwork. I’ve personally seen all her work and even gone for her exhibitions at Kalaghoda & she’s really brilliant. And to think she would have ended up in an office with a computer in front of her, with clients calling her up…….etc. But I’m glad she stood her ground and is now absolutely loving what she’s doing & excelling in it. And I think thats what we need to look at right now. Don’t box yourself into thinking that you can’t fulfill your dreams. Its time to stand up for what ‘YOU’ like and not what your parents would like you to be. I didn’t mention but I had my share of struggles too in pursuing my kind of profession. I did have to finish my graduation in ‘any’ stream and do a 16th year. Even after that my parents were a little apprehensive about my career choice. But they gradually realized how much I was enjoying doing what I was doing and excelling in it as well. However hard it may be initially, you have to believe in yourself to accomplish it and persevere with all your heart. Of course you must take suggestions and guidance and input from people you respect, but don’t let any criticism dampen your desire to fulfill your goal. You’ll be a very happy person at the end of your life believe me.