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#BeingMom - Scientist, Teacher, Fighter - The many sides of Pushplata Sinha

In our month-long campaign #BeingMom, we bring you the story of Dr Pushplata Sinha, mother to the well known innovator and disability rights activist Dr Riitesh Sinha.

Growing up with a disability in India is not easy. In a town like Karnal in Haryana, it can be even harder as Dr Riitesh Sinha, an innovator with cerebral palsy, will testify. Riitesh faced difficulty accessing things many of us take for granted - medical care, education and employment. But if there's one person whose support he could count on, it was mother Pushplata.

Every time the clouds above Riitesh seem to be at their darkest, her words come to his mind - "Do not trouble take over you, overtake the trouble and do something by which lives of other persons with cerebral palsy become easier.

Dr Pushplata Sinha, a scientist, worked full-time and raised two children with her husband's support. Riitesh, her first-born, showed no signs of disability at birth.

"I was in Vadodara for the delivery and suffered intense pain for a week before he was born, she recalls. "Later I got to know that the amniotic fluid had come out and doctors should have operated immediately, which they failed to do. Riitesh was born looking blue in colour and I saw a swelling at the back of his head.

The alarm bells rang even louder at a later stage when Riitesh could not sit. His parents struggled for proper diagnosis in the absence of any awareness regarding cerebral palsy in Karnal at the time. "We took him to AIIMS in New Delhi and to a facility in Patna and he was finally diagnosed, says Dr Sinha.

Pushplata and her late husband were determined to give their child the best possible support regardless of the drawbacks. "We ran around between hospitals, even kept a physiotherapist, but he was not trained. There was no concept of such things at the time. He finally improved when we took him to a hospital in Vadodara.

But the world outside was not so generous or patient and the family faced much negativity.

People would say things like 'don't bother with him and just let him be'. But we were determined to give him the best. We were both working and it was not easy caring for a child with a disability. We would leave home, drop him off to school, go to office and then go to school to bring him back home. It was hard, doing a full-time job and caring for him but we were determined to do our best. - Dr Pushplata Sinha

Those times are vividly etched in her daughter Anila Sinha Sharma's mind.

"The kind of struggles and discrimination my brother has faced cannot be put into words. Each incident would have broken anyone else down completely but our parents and Riitesh had immense faith in God. My parents' persistence and immense love for him is incomparable. They completely ignored whatever could have been a hurdle, and embraced every positive outcome.

Many struggles

Education was the next big barrier. No school would admit Riitesh on the grounds that he "would disturb others. "When this happened, my mother started teaching me at home, says Riitesh. After persisting for nearly five years, his parents were finally able to get him admitted to a convent school. "Every day, my parents would drop my brother to school, take him up to the third floor by the stairs and bring him back, says Anila.

This unstinting support continued right through college and beyond, right through the discrimination Riitesh faced during job interviews due to his disability. In 2011, after much struggle, Riitesh got a job at the Districts and Sessions Court, but after a few months he was asked to go because he was disabled. He fought a case in the High Court for three years and won.

Today the world knows Riitesh as an academic, teacher, innovator and a disability rights activist but his mother says that the discrimination faced by people with disabilities continues. "Disabled people face so many struggles in accessing their rights and even after the RPWD Act, not much has changed because so many provisions are not being followed.

Yet, she remains undefeated, and when people show sympathy or pity, she fights back. "When people tell me things like 'bechaara', I tell them to stop. I say God has given a child like this for a reason. What I want to tell other parents in a similar situation is that there is a lot of information out there today so they should give their child proper rehabilitation and treatment.

No wonder Anila describes her thus - "Our mother is not just a person. She is actually an experience. A deep, enriching experience. Her whole life is a glowing testament to this fact.


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