My journey from a hearing impaired individual to a Social Changemaker
What is life, if not a random collection of suffering, blessing, and working? Mine has been no different from that. Born in a traditionally Punjabi middle-class joint family in the small city of Varanasi, I grew up getting pampered and loved.
As a child, I was a bright student who actively participated in extracurricular activities, like singing and dancing. I even took up learning Kathak. Life was like a fairytale till I reached my teenage.
I was in class 10th when I met with a terrible accident. It badly affected three of my major faculties, i.e., sight, hearing, and memory. While my sight and memory got restored after some time with the help of medicines, I suffered an irreparable loss in hearing. I still remember the day when the doctor advised me to wear a hearing aid. But on my family’s insistence, the situation was tackled with a course of medicine. However, at that time, my teenage mind did not fully grasp the gravity of the problem. It later dawned on me that I will have to live with this for my entire life.
The ordeal did not end there. Still grappling with my situation, I managed to get admission in Delhi University to pursue my graduation. But as fate would have it, regular schooling was not in my kitty. I had to drop off in the first year itself owing to some grave family issues.
To continue my education, I joined a distant course through the Delhi Open School of Learning. Then I landed my first job as a sales and marketing professional and got paid a mere 1500 per month.
In the year 2008, after completing my graduation, I got married. Soon enough, all my dreams of a “happy married life” were replaced by abusive, violent ones. I tried saving the relationship, but it was damaged beyond repair. All that pain pushed me into depression. I went to such a dark place that I decided to give up on my life.
It was then that I decided to take matters into my hand and not leave anything up to fate. I pulled the scattered pieces of myself together and joined another distant learning program—this time to pursue a post-graduate diploma in human resource. Then I filed for a divorce to get out of that rabbit hole.
This entire episode was such a roller coaster of stress that it further worsened my hearing problem. It was the support of my family and friends, coupled with the power of Art of Living meditation programs that helped me sail through these turbulent times. I started looking at life through a new lens.
I joined a school in my hometown as a trainer/counselor. And then finally came the crutch I had to carry all my life – hearing aids. Initially, it was very difficult to live with this new appendage. Mainly because of my discomfort and the age-old dictum of “what people would say.” The acceptance came when I joined as a volunteer with an NGO in Varanasi. It was there that my horizon widened beyond expectations. Working with them, I developed a proclivity for social work.
Finally, I was on the right track for the first time in my life. My stint in the social sector started with small things like cleaning ghats, blood donation camps, community awareness, rehabilitation of slum children etc. in Varanasi.
Ever since then, I have only tried to find new avenues to give back to society and make a change for good. I got to travel to the remote parts of our country to work with women of the rural community. Worked with a range of government bodies and organized skilling projects for the youth of J&K. Led the CSR faction of an MNC and expanded their avenues to bring in positive development in the government schools, created women entrepreneurship project in the catchment area, worked on developing a policy for the inclusion of specially-abled people into the workforce, and more. I was recognized for my work on an international forum of the organization – which took me overseas for the very first time.
In last few years I have grown as an individual and professional and have recognized the impact of giving back to the people in my life, which has inspired me to lay down the foundation of my non-profit organization – Protsahan. It is an initiative to focus on sustainable volunteering programs across India, work on women empowerment and inclusion of PWD, partner with community-level NGOs in facilitating their work as a social changemaker, and a host of other issues.
My journey is far from over. There is much I have to learn yet, and there are so many things I learn every day. One thing that the travails of my life taught me is that “no matter how grim the situation is now, you can always change it for the better.”
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