Kammari Devaraju from Chinna Shankarapet in Medak district has been a news reporter for 18 years, reporting from in and around his village for 18 years. Between assignments, the 44-year-old also teaches part-time at the Zilla Parishad school in the same village.
While this might not sound like a very unusual life, what makes it atypical is Devaraju himself. Standing at a height of four-and-a-half-feet, Devaraju has had to work to overcome the difficulties of dwarfism. But this has not stood in Devaraju’s way during his education or his career.
In fact, Devaraju holds a double Master’s degree in Political Science and History from Osmania University, Hyderabad, besides having a Bachelor’s degree in Education. This despite the everyday difficulties that his academic ambitions would throw up. Talking to TNM, he said, “I was always interested in studies. After I completed Class 10, my parents asked me to start working, but I insisted on pursuing my education further. My friend, who studied in the same college, used to take me on a cycle for seven kilometers daily for two years, and that is how I completed my intermediate (Class 11 and 12),” he explains.
Devaraju has been working as a reporter since 1998, covering a range of social issues including many stories of farmer suicides from Medak district. “R. Satyanarayana who is an ex-MLC, once heard me speak and encouraged me to start reporting as I was an educated person and could read and understand government orders and policies. That is how I started reporting from this region,” he says.
Devaraju says that as a journalist he is a well-known figure in the region, and hence does not face many situations where people dismiss him because of his short stature. “I am a recognized person, so I escape the usual laughter that people direct at dwarfs. I am recognized more as a reporter than anything else.”
However, he says, that when he goes to a new place he still encounters strange looks. “I learnt to ignore such things ages ago. I don’t even think of such laughter and stares as a problem,” he clarifies.
Living and working away from urban centres, one of the biggest everyday difficulties he faced was of transportation, as alternatives for differently-abled people like him were not available. “I was finding it difficult to travel and report, but I could not afford a bike and moreover I could not ride a normal bike. But when I visited Hyderabad eight years back, I saw a disabled man driving a scooter with additional wheels on the sides to balance. I took the details from him and went ahead and purchased a scooter on finance.”
Despite the limited income he earned, and his disability, says Devaraju, such investments in his life have not been subsidized. “I was not given any special subsidies for being disabled. I paid Rs 33,000 as the first installment and the remaining amount I cleared in four years by paying Rs 1500 every month from my salary, which is Rs 6000.”
Married in 1996, Devaraju has two children. Manjula, his wife, makes beedis at home. His elder daughter, Sai Divya, who is also a dwarf, is studying in Class 8 at a residential school in nearby Siddipet. His son, Munindrachary, who is of average stature is studying in a government residential school in Toopran, 30 kilometers away. For Devaraju educating both his children is one of the high priorities in his life. “I am working hard to educate my children and I only wish to see them settled in life. In spite of being disabled, my daughter is competing with normal children in her school and I feel proud of her.”
As a highly educated person, Devaraju wishes that others like him were given opportunities to pursue education and more lucrative jobs. “The government should launch some educational programs specially designed for disabled persons like us. And employment is another serious issue. Though I am a reporter and I like the job, I wanted to join government services. But even my double MA couldn’t fetch me a job, he says in a dejected tone.