Indiability wants everyone to see that physically disabled people are in no way a burden to Indian society and can contribute just as others do. This is evident from real inspiring life stories of people who have achieved great heights in their respective fields, many defying belief and excelling even further. They have challenged every possible limit in spite of their physical disability and changed the way people perceive ability.
The never-say-die attitude of these famous and famously confident brave youngsters and adults have served as a source of inspiration for many and, hopefully for generations to come.
Even a small selection from a cross-section of society proves that nothing is impossible.
Sudha Chandran is very accomplished and acclaimed Bharatanatyam dancer and actress. Just at the age of 17 years she lost one of her leg in an accident. This brave woman was determined to bounce back to normal life even after this accident and didn’t lose hope. She mastered the art of dancing yet again with the aid of an artificial 'Jaipur Foot' today is back in the limelight across film and television.
Sona Jose was once confined to a wheelchair but spends a better part of her life fighting for right of the disabled to be included in the mainstream.
Sona Jose is the co-ordinator for her brainchild, the Team for Achieving Barrier Free Access in the Environment (tabase) for the physically challenged. It was formed in 2007 in Thiruvananthapuram, in a quest for barrier-free access to the elections, following a court ruling that polling booths should be accessible to all.
“The need is for universal design in architecture, making utilities accessible to all. Buildings of public utility include hospitals and restaurants, road and transport (buses, trains and their terminals) and recreational areas. These should be barrier free, only then can society be inclusive … Traditionally there are four barriers – attitudinal, architectural, (lack of) information and institutional. These have to be dealt with, suitably.”
As a sociology postgraduate, Sona Jose makes a strong case for the rights of physically disabled people, the forgotten people and wants to extend her activities to other parts of the State. She lives in a working women’s hostel, and like any other working woman supports herself.
“I have always wanted to be independent, and not excluded from anything or any activity. With all the awkwardness I can choose to be a candle or a star. It is all God’s grace, I have only one life, I can be sad or happy. And I choose to be happy,” she says. She uses a walker. Wouldn’t a wheelchair be less of a strain? “Why should I use a wheel chair? I have come out of it and I have no intentions of going right back.”
“What we want is not sympathy, which is the most common reaction, we want to be included in mainstream society, it is our right to be included into society. We are/can be educated and employed and be independent too. Then why limit our capabilities? We have a right to live!” she declares, putting a question mark on our prejudices. “Architectural barriers limit people. And I do not mean only persons with disabilities – most places are unfriendly for pregnant women, the aged and very young children too.”
Living day by day
Sona studied in a regular school, in an inclusive kind of atmosphere. Each day is a celebration and every experience an exciting adventure. “My faith has taught me that there is a special purpose for each and every person who is born into this world.”
“I am of the view that the intellectually fit but physically disabled, or the visually challenged or the deaf should not be isolated in special schools. In a regular school there should be a teacher for Braille or sign language, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has provisions for that. Why not use that? Of course for certain cases special schools are the only option.”
As a child, Prasantha Karmakar lost part of his arm in a car accident. Regardless of the disfigurement, he is now an award-winning Indian swimmer and one of many athletes with disabilities representing India at a number of national and international events. He is the Asian record holder in 50m Butterfly, 50m Breaststroke and 50m Backstroke and also is the National Record holder in four events:50m Freestyle, 100m Freestyle, 100m Backstroke and 200m Individual Medley.
2003: World Swimming Championships, Argentina
Prasantha becomes the first disabled swimmer to represent India and win a medal.
2009: IWAS World Games, Bangalore
The most decorated Indian swimmer, winning four gold, two silver and one bronze medal.
2010: Commonwealth Games, Delhi
A bronze medal was India’s first ever in aquatics
2010: Asian Para Games, Guangzhou, China
Silver medal at 50m Freestyle and a bronze medal in the 200m Individual Medley.
2010: International German Swimming Championships for Athletes with a Disability, Berlin, Germany
Bronze in the 50m Backstroke in the S9 category.
2012: London, 2012 Paralympic Games
Competing for the nation amongst the world's best.
Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, lovingly called ‘Tiger Pataudi’ captained Indian Cricket Team from 1962 to 1970. Although not physically disabled, this highly respected cricketer lost complete vision of his right eye in a car accident at the threshold of a promising career. It was after the accident that he went on to captain the Indian side and was regarded as the most attacking batsman of his time.
At four years of age, Anuradha contracted Polio, affecting her limbs.
Although polio has affected the way she walks it has not slowed her down in any other way. Anuradha has been determined to do everything she can to make her family proud. Underterred by her condition, Anu has studied very hard at school and won a place at Jodhpur Medical College, where places are reserved for students with physical disabilities. In 2010, Anuradha graduated with an MBBS and is now a qualified doctor. Her determination hasn't stopped either; her ambition is to open her own medical centre in her village with free medical treatment.
“When you go to school and do well, the world forgets what you cannot do and starts seeing what you can.”
“If you believe in yourself then every dream you have becomes easy to believe.”
““I’ve found that if we study, and achieve something through education, people forget about the things we can’t do; they only end up remembering what we have achieved”
Anuradha was educated at SKSN Institute and today she works at the prestigious Indian railways and is the main breadwinner for her family. She says:
“Now I am very proud of reaping the fruits of my labour. I am helping my family financially and I can provide for my personal necessities. The people in our community who used to stare and laugh at me have changed their perception of me. Now I can see admiration in their eyes that even with disability I was able to attain the status where I am in now. My self-esteem and confidence have been enhanced, enough to give me strength to face the challenges that may come along.”
In spite of being wheelchair bound for many years, Jaipal Reddy is a Union Cabinet Minister for Urban Development for the Indian Government and a renowned parliamentarian. People recognise him for his prowess in tackling political debates in parliament, rather than his physical disability; in 1998 he was awarded the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award. He has demonstrated that abilities are not limited by physical disability.
Both of Janak’s knees were left paralsed after suffering from Polio at the age of three. The early years of Janak’s life were not easy. He was made fun of at school and back home; his relatives reven refused to invite him to social functions as they considered his presence a bad omen.
Janak has always been passionate about sports. As a child he would go and support the village cricket team, despite often being abused when he would offer his hand to congratulate the players at the end of the match.
At ten years of age, Janak joined SKSN (India's largest educational facility for physically disabled people), for the first time feelng part of a community. Here, Janak was able to satisfy his hunger for sport and very soon began competing with senior boys in various events including Santolia, Kabbadi, Malkhamb as well as cricket. Whilst in the 4th Standard, he represented the school’s boys at the UK Mini Games in 2002, winning no less than five gold medals! In the 8th standard, he was selected to captain his side in the inaugural Indiability Games.
“I’m not lesser than anybody else. I can compete with anybody else and in my mind I have no disability. There are kids with worse disabilities than me, and if those guys can run around and play sports, why can’t I?”
Since completing his scholastic period, Janak has been undertaking training in the sport of Wheelchair Racing in England. His training has been supervised by Baroness Tanni-Grey Thompson (one of the most successful disabled athletes in the UK), with a view to participation in the future sports events.
“Whereas previously I was not even acknowledged on my own village’s cricket field, I now captain my village cricket team. Most neighbours and relatives now welcome me into their homes, and many of them encourage their children to spend time with me so that I can teach them how they, too, can accomplish what I have done with my life so far. Most importantly, to me, no one now looks at me with pity in his or her eyes.”
Lakshmi Tatma became a worldwide sensation when a moving television documentary followed the surgery to remove the parasitic conjoined twin which had give her eight limbs, instead of four.
Worshipped as a goddess in her home village – and believed to be an incarnation of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth – she was two years old when first visited by a doctor. He saw instantly that her condition was life-threatening, and arranged for dangerous surgery to remove the twin.
Since her operation, Indiability have taken Lakshmi under her care and given her and her family a place to live. She still faces many medical challenges, only some of which can be tackled in Jodhpur where she lives. The aftercare fund exists to support her when she needs expert treatment elsewhere - be in Bangalore, Mumbai, or abroad. It also allows for regular checkups on her condition, and supports her and her family as they seek to rebuild their lives now the world's media has gone away.
Kuljit Bhamra has had a successful career in the global music industry. Despite being struck with polio at an early age and walking in his younger years with the aid of crutches, today he only needs the aid of a walking stick.
As a full time musician based in the UK, he travels frequently across the world (often driving a car himself) for films, TV and stage musicals, delighting worldwide audiences. His commitment and aspirations have been awarded by the Queen for his service to British Asian music.
(Photos: British Airways ‘Business Life’, The Economist 'Intelligent Life', Britten Sinfonia orchestra)
Tanni Grey-Thompson is known as one of the UK's most successful disabled athletes and TV host. She was born with spina bifida.
Tanni has now retired from her sporting career during which she won a total of 16 Paralympic medals (including 11 golds), over 30 world records, and over ten years won the London Marathon six times.
Izthak Perlman is regarded as one of the world's pre-eminent violinists.
Perlman contracted polio at the age of four, and learnt to walk with the aid of crutches. Today, he performs the very high quality of music he is known for, with crutches for mobility laid by his sides whilst performing.
Melody Gardot is a Grammy-nominated American singer, writer and musician in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
At the age of 19, Gardot was hit by a car while riding a bicycle. The injuries sustained mean Gardot now needs to wear dark glasses and carry a cane. Prompted by a tending physician who believed music would help her regain some of her former cognitive abilities, her first musical venture was in 2005, an EP titled, “Some Lessons” recorded from her bedside.
Gardot’s story garnered attention as a fighter who has overcome adversity and risen above her limitations. City Paper Philadelphia honored her with a People’s Choice award saying, “To our eyes, nobody's a more inspiring, more talented fighter than young singing-songwriter phenom Melody Gardot. She turned the pain of a life-changing car accident into surprisingly mature and utterly enthralling music.”
“It was a most unusual start, but when you come from a place where things are tough it makes it that much easier to appreciate the times when life is easy.” she says.
(Extracts: All about Jazz)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt led the United States during both the Great Depression and World War II. Paralyzed from the waist down after suffering what was during his lifetime thought of as polio, he overcame his disability and was elected President of the United States an unprecedented four times.
After studying at law school and working for a few years in a New York law firm, Franklin wanted to rise in politics like his fifth cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt. However, failing to win every election, Frankin decided to take a short break from politics and re-enter the business world. However, just a few months later, he became sick.
During a summer vacation, Franklin began to feel weak afte a day spent outdoors . He went to bed early but woke up the next day much worse, with a high fever and weakness in his legs. Soon he could no longer stand. It looked like he had lost the use of both of his legs at only 39 years of age. A doctor soon diagnosed him with poliomyelitis (polio). Before a vaccine was created in 1955, polio was an unfortunately common virus that, in its severest form led to paralysis. (As recently as 2003, researchers decided it was likely that Franklin had Guillain-Barre syndrome rather than polio.)
Franklin refused to be limited by his disability. To overcome his lack of mobility, he had steel leg braces created that could be locked into an upright position to keep his legs straight. With the leg braces on under his clothes, he could stand and slowly walk with the aid of crutches and a friend's arm. Without the use of his legs, Franklin needed extra strength in his upper torso and arms. By swimming nearly every day, he could move himself in and out of his wheelchair as well as up stairs. He even had his car adapted to his disability by installing hand controls rather than foot pedals so that he could sit behind the wheel and drive. Despite the paralysis, Franklin kept his humour and charisma. Unfortunately, he also still had pain. Always looking for ways to soothe his discomfort, he found a health spa in 1924 that seemed to ease the pain the most - to such a degree that he actually bought it. At this spa he subsequently built a house (known as 'the Little White House') and established a polio treatment center to help other polio sufferers.
In 1928, Franklin as asked to run for governor of New York. He had to determine whether or not his body was strong enough to withstand a huge campaign and in the end, decided he could do it. Franklin won two elections as governor of New York. However, during his tenure, President Herbert Hoover was taking to solve the huge economic crisis of the Great Depression. In the election of 1932, citizens were demanding change and Franklin promised it to them. In a landslide election, he won the presidency. Franklin D. Roosevelt won as many as four presidential elections; however, he did not live long enough to finish the fourth. On April 12, 1945, he was sitting in a chair at his home in Warm Springs, Georgia, having his portrait painted, but stated "I have a terrific headache" and then lost consciousness. He soon after died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage, at 63 years of age.
(Extracts: about.com 20th Century History)
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