I have a warrior spirit – My Take by Priya Bhargava
In My Take, Priya Bhargava, who is among the top 25 finalists for the Miss Wheelchair World contest, talks to Newz Hook. The final event will be held in Poland on 7 October.
I am very excited that I have this opportunity to represent India on the world stage. This is the first time that India is taking part in the Miss Wheelchair World contest, and it is a chance to show the world what is happening in India in the space of disability. I will also get to find out what is going on in other countries in terms of access for the disabled.
Until I was 19 years old, I was not disabled in any way. I used to drive a scooter and has participated in many extra curricular activities. I was studying physiotherapy when I was diagnosed with lupus, which is an autoimmune disorder. The disease damages vital organs like the kidney and heart. I have a rare version where my spine has been affected.
I was bedridden for 18 months, and suffered from intense depression for nearly two months. My parents gave me a lot of support although I faced a lot of stigma and negativity from friends and relatives. My dad’s colleagues passed weird comments that still give me goose bumps. They would ask me things like – ‘What will you do in your life?’ ‘What will happen to you now?’
This was very hard to take and I was also very low that my education was interrupted. This was a major setback because I wanted to help society by becoming a doctor. But now I was a patient instead of a doctor!
I still held on to some hope that I would eventually be able to walk. But I developed infections that weakened my muscles and my right leg was almost amputated. Doctors declared me dead almost three times!
My parents are my gods. They never let me feel alone for a minute. Even close relatives stopped connecting with us, but they never gave up. I was determined not to let my condition become an excuse to not do anything. I used to paint, teach students and spend my time productively.
One of my professors suggested that I apply for the Miss Wheelchair India competition. My first reaction was that glamour and disability do not go together. I used to compare how I looked earlier with how I appeared now. I had scars all over my arms and legs so I never thought I could be glamorous.
I sent my pictures anyway and was shocked to know that I was among the top seven finalists from 250 applicants. I controlled my weight, saw videos of Ms India and Ms World competitions and prepared myself. I also learned how to apply make up from YouTube.
I feel disabled people become disabled due to attitudes. Wherever I go in India people turn and stare while in countries like the United States, no one gives me a second look. Disabled people need to come out and be visible and this can only happen through inclusion.
About the Writer:
Priya Bhargava is a 2015 Miss Wheelchair India beauty pageant winner, a motivational speaker, fine artist, and author.