“To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable.”
He was not born blind, but his vision kept on deteriorating with age. He had a disease called retina muscular deterioration. By the time he was 23 years, he had become visually impaired. Born in Anjar village of Gujarat, Bhavesh and his entire family shifted to Mahabaleshwar, when a severe earthquake hit Gujarat in 1956. His father was a caretaker of a guesthouse in Mahabaleshwar. He used to be teased and bullied in school by his classmates who used to call him ‘blind. ‘He felt so hurt that he decided to leave school.
His mother was a great support to him. He could not see the blackboard or the book, so his mother used to read the lessons aloud to him. This continued till his post-graduation. He remembers her inspiring words,” so what if you cannot see the world, do something so that the world will see you”.
Can you believe it, Bhavesh now has a multicrore business of candle making. He supplies candles of different varieties to corporate clients all over India and even abroad. No wonder, there are 200 visually impaired dedicated employees working with him.
Bhavesh was interested in making something with his hands. He used to make kites, toys of clay and also candles. He had a fascination for light as he could not see. He took training in candle making from the National Association for the Blind, Mumbai, where he learned how to make plain candles. He used to make candles at night, but there was no shop to sell them. He rented a cart at ₹ 50 a day and started selling candles in the Mahabaleshwar market. He used to set aside ₹ 25 daily for raw materials. Even though the business was not good, Bhavesh was enjoying what he was doing. Once some miscreants pulled his candles from his cart, and threw them in a gutter.
One day a young lady, Neeta came to purchase candles from his cart. She was impressed by his sincerity and genuineness. They became friends and soon developed a liking for each other. They started meeting more often and finally decided to get married. Neeta’s parents were not in favor of her marrying a blind, jobless person. However, as always love won, and they got married in 1996.
Neeta was full of hope and optimism. Bhavesh could not afford to buy new containers for melting wax, so he used cooking utensils for the same. After some months they purchased a two-wheeler and Neeta would ferry her husband around the town selling candles. After a few years, she learned to drive a van so that she could transport large quantities of candles, which Bhavesh was making. He proudly describes Neeta as the light of his life.
Initially, when he applied for loans or sought some advice or professional guidance on setting up a candle making factory, people scorned him and refused. He would go to malls with his wife and feel and smell the overpriced candles on display there.
He was sanctioned a loan of ₹ 15 lakhs by Satara Bank under a particular scheme for blind people. To start with, he purchased 15 kilos of wax, two dyes, and a handcart. Sunrise candles manufacture 9000 types of plain, scented and aromatherapy candles. The wax is purchased in bulk from the UK. Their clients include Reliance Industries, Ranbaxy, Big Bazar, etc. He teaches the blind workers not only to make candles but someday set up their own business.
Bhavesh looks after the creative aspect of the business, while Neeta takes care of the administrative issues. After having established the business, Bhavesh finds time for sports like shot put, discus and javelin throw. He participates in Paralympic sports and has won 109 medals. To keep himself physically fit, Bhavesh does push-ups, runs eight kms and exercises at the gym installed in the factory. Neeta helps him in his running practice daily. She ties one end of a 15 feet long nylon rope to the van and Bhavesh holds the other end and runs, while Neeta drives the van at the same speed at which her husband is running.
Germany has made the tallest candle in the world which measures 21 metres.Bhavesh has a dream to break the record. He is also making wax statutes of eminent personalities. Currently, Bhavesh has a dream, he wants to be the first person to climb Mount Everest.He also wants to make every blind person capable of taking care of himself by generating money.
He opened a coaching center at Moleshwar village, near Mahabaleshwar, to train physically challenged people in the art of candle making. He got the National awards for the best self-employed blind person and best employer of the year in 2014 from the President.Bhavesh was invited in the TV show ‘Satyamev Jayate’
Recently, Bhavesh was conferred ‘The Nipman Foundation Equal Opportunity Awards’ for 2016 Bhavesh also travels, shares motivational talks and has plans to set up an old age home and an eye hospital.