Across the globe, 24th October is observed as World Polio Day. We had a word with Ms Abha Khetarpal, a polio survivor, who is helping those with special needs in their vocational development.
“I am suffering from polio since last 39 years. I have tried to prove Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in a different way. The theory states that only the fittest member of a species would survive which the nature selects. But as far as I am concerned, if I have managed to survive under such extreme and adverse conditions, then I think I am the fittest!”
I was born in Ambala, Haryana. I was a healthy baby. At two and half years of age, I got afflicted with Polio. Since the vaccine had not been administered, the virus caught hold of me in a train journey. The infection was so severe that I almost became a vegetable, with weak lungs, without a voice and without being able to move even a finger. The attack of the virus was all over my body. The things were really bad!
My parents were completely devastated. The pain and panic left them in a situation of shock.
Then started my life of struggle. A whole regimen of medical treatments began….physical therapies, massages and what not. I remember, I used to be massaged even with pig fat and fish oil. Physical pain and emotional trauma were now a part of life. I underwent many surgeries. One was hip correction, another was spinal correction and yet another was tendon transfers in fingers of right hand and a nail in the finger of left leg. The doctors have quite dextrously used their engineering skills on me.
Unfortunately at that time, the concept of rehabilitation was quite underdeveloped in our country. In the name of rehabilitation, orthotic or assistive devices like leg braces and spinal braces were given to me.
With all this it was not practically feasible for me to have a regular schooling and formal education. I got home based education since both my parents were academicians. I started going to school from 9th standard. Most the schools were not accessible. They were ready to admit me on the basis of my IQ level but were not ready to shift the classes to ground floor. One school, Cambridge Foundation School, did understand the problem and came forward to do the needful. I owe a lot to my school principal, teachers and friends.
A regular university level education was not possible again due the accessibility issues. Travelling was a major problem in Indian scenario which still persists. But I had to study. I decided to go for distance mode of education. I did my graduation from Delhi University. Now I am a triple masters i.e. M.A Economics, M.A English and M.Sc Psychotherapy and Counselling. Pursuing courses even through the distance education was also not smooth. At the time of examinations the university people were not ready to make arrangements on the ground floor. Maintaining a mental equilibrium and composure used to be very difficult under such conditions. But still I could manage all such insensitivities of our social and educational system because I had to survive. And for that I had to focus on my target, forgetting all the embarrassments and humiliations. For me it was only education that could become a means of proving my capabilities and making me independent.
I started teaching at the coaching centre set up by my parents. I was financially independent. It was a like a milestone achieved.
I believe that life does not mean only to be living for ones own self. So I decided to launch a website of my own where I could serve the people like me. At my own website I provide counselling services to the people with special needs. I am doing a voluntary service here. I do not charge from them. I want them to develop a sense of self evaluation, self acceptance and self-esteem in them. I do not want that their physical status should make them feel inferior or ashamed of. I do not want that they should plunge into the depths of depression. I want to bring awareness about the counselling needs of the disabled which is almost negligible in our country. Apart from this here I provide information regarding various disability issues like facilities provided by our governmental and non governmental agencies, management articles, mental health articles, real life success stories, disability sports etc. My team here on Cross the Hurdles help me a lot in my endeavour.
People can ask me how I would be able to achieve my objective because there are very less number of people who have an access to internet. My answer in this context is that there is a theory in economics by the name of Pareto Optimality Condition. If we are able to increase the welfare of even a single person without decreasing the welfare of any other, then it means we have succeeded in bringing about total welfare. I work on this principle.
In my free time I love to write and read poetry. I run a literary community of around 525 people on a social networking site. I have great friends and the best parents of this world to support me in whatever I do.
To sum up, I would like to say that I have tried to prove Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in a different way. The theory states that only the fittest member of a species would survive which the nature selects. But as far as I am concerned, if I have managed to survive under such extreme and adverse conditions, then I think I am the fittest!
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