“Education is the key to acceptance in society”- My Take by Athira Bhaskar
23-year-old Athira Bhaskar from Kolkata was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of 15. Mobility challenges have not affected this youngster’s ambitions. A central government employee, Athira aims to enter the administrative services in Kerala. Her dream is to work in her hometown in Kerala.
I was born and raised in Kolkata, city of joy. But I originally belong from Pandalam in Kerala. I led a very normal life, just like every other kid. Ever since childhood, I wanted to become a doctor. So I started preparing for it soon after I completed my class 10. I started attending entrance coaching at a center in Kerala.
When I was in class 11 is I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. Until then, I had issues while walking and moving around. I realized the seriousness of my disability by around 15 years of age. My life was never the same after that.
Things changed after that. My life took a totally different turn.
A life-changing diagnoses
I remember how my life changed drastically after diagnoses of a disability. While at school, my friends started making fun of me. They used to mock me a lot because I fell down quite often. I started becoming depressed. I took leaves from school to stay at home. My school authorities and teachers were supportive. They let me study from home and I used to attend school only to write exams.
When I was in class 12, I did not have an option but to attend school because I had to undergo lab sessions as I took the Science group. I passed out in flying colors and even got admission at the Trivandrum Ayurveda College. I shifted completely to Kerala in order to pursue medicine, the career of my dreams.
When fate had other plans for Athira
I stayed with my cousin’s family instead of being at a hostel because it was impossible for me to do things independently back then. My parents left to Kolkata because they had their jobs here. Gradually, it started being difficult for my cousin and family too. Moreover, the college was not accessible at all. But my cousins were supportive and helped me a lot in spite of all the obstacles.
I decided to move back to Kolkata. My dreams of becoming a doctor had shattered. The state government during that time asked me to pay a refund of Rs 70,000 since I left the course in between. We had no other option but to pay it so that I get a certificate. But in 2016, when the government changed, current Finance Minister TM Thomas Issac ensured that I get the money back.
I returned back to Kolkata. But I felt my life ended there. I did three suicidal attempts. I couldn’t study what I wanted.
Looking at the brighter side of life
After a few months, I joined a college in Kolkata to pursue Economics. I completed a graduation in Economics. I met a friend Shampa with whom I became really close to.
Life started becoming more meaningful and colorful to me. She was the reason I completed my course as well. Shampa helped me a lot during that time. While studying for my course, I wrote an exam and got placed for a central government job. Everything started to fall in place for me.
Hands full of activities
I was a Bharatanatyam dancer though I cannot do it anymore. I also love public speaking. So I’am looking out for more platforms to do that.
My dream is to get an administrative services job in Kerala. So I wrote the KAS exams last February. I’am awaiting its results. I started using a wheelchair since last one year.
I love making online memes on politics and politicians. So I do that quite often on my phone, especially during this lockdown period.
There are differences in ways disabled people are looked at in Kerala and Kolkata. Development of disabled people and things related to that is much more in Kerala. In Kolkata, nobody cares whether you have a disability or not. So they don’t even look at you. But in Kerala, you are started at a lot!
I have been married for the last two years and have a lot of support from my husband and parents.
“Education is important for you to be accepted in society. So if you are a disabled person, do not confine yourselves to the four walls of your house. Make sure you pursue education so that you are respected in the society”.
Watch in Sign Language
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