Ability To Look Beyond Disability
“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do; it comes from overcoming the things you once thought you can’t.” The story of Nisha Das is one such inspiring story of strength, will power and overcoming the hurdles, which she and people around her once thought she can’t overcome. Now the transformation not only has changed her life but also has been inspiring many lives.Life has not been that easy for Nisha, who demonstrate how easy it is for her now to fold one’s leg even though she is one leg short. “Nisha was born a disabled girl,” says her father Manoj Das. “She had a damaged spine which left her right leg senseless and crooked. She could not walk and had to be supported to walk. As a baby, people commented a lot. When she began growing up, she was stared at and pitied upon, but we never gave up hope, we knew that one day this same girl would make us proud,” states the 40-year old father of the teenage girl.
“She was a special gift from God,” opines Nisha’s mother Lila. “We live in a society where the birth of a girl child is considered inauspicious and is looked down upon, leave alone a handicapped girl. But people forget that a girl grows into a woman- one who has the power to create and give birth. My girl, Nisha has given birth- she has given birth to the power that is inherent in each one of us but only needs to be channelled in a positive way,” reflects Lila.
In 2012, at the Balaji Institute of Surgery, Research and Rehabilita-tion for the Disabled (BIRRD) in Tirupati (south India),the brave heart underwent a major operation to rectify her leg. A steel rod has been placed to straighten her leg. Prior to that, a local NGO donated a calliper for Nisha’s right leg with the help of which she was able to walk to and from school. Earlier, till the age of seven years she had to be carried around.
The sixteen year old says, “I did not have many friends. Children looked at me differently and made funny faces. Yet I knew there was something in store for me. I never gave up hope and kept aspiring. I love drawing. I draw sceneries, butterflies, birds and flowers, but more than drawing I love dancing. I am so in love with Indian classical dancing that I have also joined an institute where they teach me Bharatnatyam (a classical dance form),” appends Nisha.
The young girl has been attending classes once a week for the last one year, but one can be amazed not only at the girl’s zest for life but also her perspectives. She wants to become a teacher when she grows up, because she believes, “a teacher can change the lives of young people. So many young people waste away their lives in depression, substance abuse and negative activities.” She expresses, “teachers are our first friends, guides and show us the true path.
I want to be able to show young people a new path.”
Indeed she is creating a new path for herself, encouraging many others to walk upon. Nisha never fails to take part in variety of entertainment programmes, events put up by the community centre involving dance. This in itself is an inspiration for many others and has drawn many youth towards her ‘spirit for life’.
The life and the story reminds one of “Naache Mayuri”, the classic film released in the year 1986, directed by T. Rama Rao, story of a passionate Bharatnatyam dancer played by Sudha Chandran, who loses her leg in an accident, but never gives up dancing and after receiving prosthetic leg, learns to dance again and triumphs over her fate.
The biggest turning point came in the life of Nisha in 2011, when she was chosen to be the part of a team (the only girl from India) led by World Vision India to attend a conference called at the United Nations Assembly. In New York she spoke on the thematic debate on Inequality for disable people.
Life changed after 2011 and Nisha never looked back.
When she got back, overnight she had become from a no one to one who was known to speak out her mind not only for herself but for the others like her who had little or no dignity in a fast developing economy like India.
“It is time for the government to wake up to the plight of the thousands of disabled people in our country,” says Nisha. “How many of our cities have low-floor public transportation systems like buses and trains?” she questions. “What about obtaining a handicapped certificate from the government? It takes ages and you are pushed from one department to another. Do you call this respect and honour?” she asks.
Life for the aspiring youth moved from a state of depression to fulfilment. “I realised that I had to find my place under the sun. When I was admitted into the hospital for the rectification surgery, I was afraid but when I looked around I realised that there were people in a state worse than me. It was then that I learnt to let go of my half-life and started believing in myself.”
“It was thereafter I began collecting my life into my hands,” beams the young lady.
She believes that the CI-SAHAY sponsorship programme, which helped her attend the conference called at the United Nations Assembly, came at the right time in her life. It empowered her; it created something new inside her which gave her hope.
“Post her operation,” recalls Lila, “all of us wondered if she would ever be able to walk and be like everyone else. Today this girl not only walks but also dances,” she smilingly says as tears well up in her eyes.
“When people ask me how many children I have,” expresses Manoj, “I tell them I have three sons, the eldest being Nisha.”
Nisha’s siblings Sumit (8) and Sandeep (13) are also inspired by Nisha.
“Didi (elder sister) teaches me and helps me with my homework. Three of us also play together,” says Sumit.
The vibrant youth says, “The sponsorship programme and the various youth trainings by Children International—SAHAY, have instilled in me a spirit to never give up, to go ahead and not feel lonely because of my condition at all. It has encouraged me.”
In conclusion her mother feels that the programme helps ‘bring out the best’ in her daughter; it gives her ‘a platform to showcase her talents’ and ‘make new friends’. She expresses that Nisha ‘is blooming’ just like ‘any other girl of her age’.
Here, we can sum up with the words of this inspiring young lady: “I want to focus on my studies, now that I am in grade 10. I believe that the only way to break this cycle of poverty is to get a good degree and become self-reliant.” The message is clear, we all have dreams and fire within, but few dare to give wings to them. If we want, we can.
By Joydeep Dasgupta