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#WonderWoman - Priya Bhargav embodies the warrior spirit in many ways

In our month-long series #WonderWoman, Priya we have Priya Bhargav, 2015 Miss Wheelchair India beauty pageant winner, motivational speaker and writer.

who made India proud when she made it to the top 25 finalists for the Miss Wheelchair World contest in 2018.

Until I was 19 years old, I was not disabled in any way. I used to drive a scooter and participated in many extra-curricular activities. It was while studying physiotherapy that I was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disorder. The disease damages vital organs like the kidney and the heart. In my case, the spine has been affected, which is rare.

I was bedridden for 18 months, and suffered from intense depression for nearly two months. My parents gave me a lot of support but the stigma and negativity from friends and relatives was huge and got me down. Even my dad's colleagues would say things like "What will you do in your life, what will happen to you now?"

This was very hard to take especially because my education was also interrupted. This was a setback I took very badly as my dream was to help society by being a part of the medicine field. Instead, here I had become a patient.

I still had 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 rallied around, for me they are nothing less than gods. They never let me feel alone for a minute. 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 painted, took up teaching and tried to spend my time productively.

One of my teachers 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 attitude. In India people turn and stare at me but in the West, no one gives me a second look. That will change only when disabled people become visible. Only this, will promote inclusion.

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