ITS ALL IN THE MIND

ITS ALL IN THE MIND

December 3rd every year is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It is an international observance promoted by United Nations since 1992. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues, mobilize support for the dignity, rights, well-being of these differently abled people. It is an integration of these people in every aspect of political, social, economic, cultural life and they can be made inclusive into the main stream.

Every human being is special, hence,

1.      Do not humour the disabled.

2.      Stop discriminating based on disability.

3.      Help them live their lives with dignity, self-respect, self-worth.

“Between adversity and our response is a space. In that space are the power and freedom to choose to crumble or to elevate both ourselves and others” Stephen R. Covey.

“SWARNALATHA, one among the four daughters born to a typical patriarchal run family in Bangalore, who supported her family and herself right from 14 years by taking tuitions to children in neighbourhood. After school she did Diploma in Computer Science. When she was in the second year of her college she was sexually abused by her uncle, with a fractured jaw in the ordeal, when she brought this matter into the family fold, she was made, seem the culprit and no one supported her cause or stood by her at the time of need or believed her.  This incident left a deep scar and it took her two years to recover from this trauma and to finish her studies. By then her father died, with her elder sister married, she had turned 18, the family responsibility fell on her shoulders. She took the first job that came her way and juggled between multiple jobs to keep the family afloat, to meet their household needs.

It was during this time that she met Guruprasad cupid struck them, when they decided to get married much to oppositions from both the families, eventually got married and later her in-laws accepted her, but her own people again turned hostile and disowned her. All was well and she was managing both home and work.  In the year fourth year of marriage they were blessed with a son, gagan. In the year 2009 when her baby son was two years old, swarnalatha, had fever one day, took leave from office and after administering paracetamol it had gotten worse. By the same day afternoon, she could not feel anything from neck down. Fortunately, she and her husband rushed to the hospital nearby immediately. After many tests it was concluded that she had MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS. Until that time both of them never knew anything about this and when they came to know the full details of this debilitating condition both of them were devastated. The medications for the treatment gave her 60 percent of her mobility but the rest was gone for ever.

Five months after the diagnosis, the family shifted to Coimbatore. It was then swarnalatha felt the need to come out of her flat confines as it was becoming more and more depressing as from being independent on her feet, she turned to assisted walking, later used walking stick and lastly got confined to wheel chair. By this time, she lost her friends and the was also asked to resign from her job. Light came into their lives, they had a baby girl, Gaana, against opposition, she wanted and longed for a girl baby whom she wanted to shower all her love and affection which she was deprived as a young girl. After this, just to keep her motivated and engaged she began organising puppet shows and other activities in their residential complex. This helped her to overcome depression and people started recognising and appreciating her. By then her health also took a toll.  Her father-in-law too had Parkinson’s and there were two people in the house with disabling conditions. It struck her then, that with her knowledge and education, privilege, she could be of help, for the better benefit of others.

In 2014, swarnalatha and Guru laid the foundations to this dream by founding Swarga Foundation. They just wanted to improve the lives of individuals with multiple sclerosis, other neuromuscular disorders by increasing awareness among the general public and to transform the general attitude in society towards differently-abled individuals. This transformation will increase empathy, improve access to opportunities that are currently inaccessible due to lack of infrastructure and misinterpretations of disabilities among the general public. In 2016, to fund all these projects what they did was, unique in its own way by making a calendar featuring 12 remarkable people and their extraordinary stories of endurance. This was much appreciated and many corporates supported them in their different initiatives.

YEAR

PLACE

PROJECT - PURPOSE

2016

SALEM STATION IMPROVEMENT GROUP

IMPROVE ACCESSIBILITY ISSUES FOR THE DISABLED

2016

RESIDENTIAL COMPLEX

THEIR OWN APARTMENT, PUBLIC PLACES WITH RAMPS

2016

COIMBATORE RAILWAY STATION

RENOVATE THREE WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE TOILETS ACROSS SIX PLATFORMS

2016

PUBLIC

REGULAR TOILET INTO UNISEX WHEEL CHAIR ACCESSIBLE, 8 GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS IN THE CITY DISABLED FRIENDLY

2017

TAMIL NADU

FIRST WHEEL CHAIR ACCESSIBLE TRANSPORTATION SERVICE CALLED SARATHY

2017

BANGALORE

SOWKHIYA FREE PHYSIOTHERAPY CENTRE

 

In the future, this 39-year-old envisions establishing a rehabilitation centre for those grappling with multiple sclerosis as she feels this would bring a respite to many who are being abandoned by family members and spouses and give them another chance/shot at life.

In all her endeavours her husband has been her pillar of strength, support who stuck with her through every setback life gave her. Apart from this tryst, she engages in different activities including singing, photography, writing short stories. She is a motivational speaker. She also participates in various beauty pageants, emerging as one of the finalists. She asserts, “My achievement was to prove that no disability can be an obstacle to a mind that is determined to achieve”. We salute the indomitable spirit of swarnalatha, as to how she braved through obstacles that snowballed into her life and emerged victorious through them all. We hope that her story will inspire not just those with disabilities, but also remind each one of us NEVER TO TAKE OUR ABILITIES FOR GRANTED.

-          VIJAYASHREE RAMESH, CHENNAI BASED ADVOCATE