This is a brief story of me from being nothing to being something.
I was born in Kerala and brought up in Goa. For most of my childhood years, I have hopped from one hospital to another hospital for numerous anomalies I was born with. I have congenital disabilities from club foot to scoliosis to CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease). Since I come from a middle-class family, I am indebted to my parents for keeping me alive through all the complications. Due to my ill health, my parents never sent me far from home, kindergarten to a bachelor’s degree, all I pursued in my hometown.
But I was a very determined child; I had made a healthy mind to pursue higher education off from the hometown. I began studying Post Grad in one of the affiliated colleges of Pune University. Everybody believed within a month, I would quit everything and bounce back home, but I proved them wrong; I withstood and had a decent two years. After PG, I enrolled in the International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai. I obtained an MPS and M.Phil degree. After that, I thought to myself, enough of studies and time to start preparing for a job to fund my family. Meanwhile, all other colleagues were in a rush to get a PhD. Surprisingly, I cracked the UGC-JRF exam (of course, I still get to hear jabs on my PH quota). I received admission in the PhD in IIPS.
Being in this stage is not only miraculous, but I would say it is hard work too. I have had mental breakdowns multiple times. When I was in school, I always wanted to get a low-lying job or any job to finance my family. I never had a single thought of acquiring more than what I have ever visualised. I am the only member of my family who has taken up higher education, has attended International Workshops, conferences etc. In my belief, every human has an obsession of assessing each other’s shortcomings, and I continuously come under judgemental lenses.
No matter how much I obtain on my own or the battles I fight and win, people would frequently assume that I have attained it through the disability quota.
Some call it differently-abled, some name it born handicapped, but I proudly introduce myself as an enthusiasm. Life is not manageable for those who are born with a physical anomaly. We constantly need a supporting hand, additional care, a ton of compassion and kindness. Even in this modern era, my determinations are questioned: like “what’s this desire for higher education?, “there are ample of government jobs under PH reservation.” Or “what distress do you have? You have a PH quota; you are so lucky.”
Seriously? I want to raise a question to all these so-called educated people who assume I am ‘lucky’ to have a “PH reservation”, which would make us feel better and believe that we are satisfied to have one and pleased to be born with abnormalities. At what step do you think, limping all my life would make me feel that “thank god I have a quota, and that’s all I ever expected, that was my absolute wish.”
They didn’t halt there; they even dare to pass comments like “wish we too had a broken hand or a leg so we could too avail facilities.” I was awestruck.
This kind of thoughts from our society makes me wonder; to what extremes of stupidity and insensitivity a human being could go. The most saddening part is I hear these kind of assertions from my academic pals.
I remember once I happened to meet my favourite school teacher. As a proud student I ran to him, he was glad to see me, and he inquired about me. The minute I told him that I am pursuing higher education, he just went “oh” with the dissatisfaction on his face. He spoke up “why did you go so far, why didn’t you apply for a job? There is no need for so much education for a disabled person. You would have fetched a job so quickly.” That’s it, I said, “That was my choice, and I am optimistic about what I am accomplishing, have a good day.”
His statement struck me like lightning. And that day to this day, I never stopped. I kept on excelling and will continue. This is a small advice I would like to give away. People should get one thing straight, having a disability reservation is just a way to get in the race but holding on to it, accomplishing through it, and achieving is done on a level playing field – I don’t have any extra help in that matter. For, e.g. I may have got a university seat, but during exams, I don’t get any extra marks for being disabled.
This is just a fraction of my life. Being disabled, I most of the times have social anxieties; people’s gazes make me nervous. It is very stressful when someone offends you on your face due to your disability, which is exceptionally prevalent in an academic life; and I have faced it at every academic juncture.