#ChampionsWithCP – “I am born to change mindsets towards disability” – My Take by Shourya Sood, Research scholar & activist
In My Take this week, Shorya Sood, a Delhi University student and disability rights activist shares his journey overcoming the challenges of living with cerebral palsy and finding independence.
I am a master's student of political science in Delhi University with a goal to do a doctorate in the subject. My father is in the Indian Air Force (IAF) and my childhood was quite regular, like that of any other kid. I am blessed to have the kind of parents I do. They took me everywhere and treated me as equal to my older sister. My mother, who's a homemaker, worked hard in the early years to make sure I did my physiotherapy and exercises every day.
That support at home was reinforced by the larger IAF community I grew up in the midst of. All the families were warm and accepting. No one ever made me feel like I was different. The problems really started for me in school. I would not get admission because I had cerebral palsy and schools would refuse saying things like 'We don't have adequate staff', or 'Who will take him to the washroom?'.
No outside support
Even when I finally did get admission, teachers were quite unhelpful and unwilling to understand my issues. They would scold me for not completing my work with others and get angry. This is something I encountered a lot as I had to frequently change schools when my father got transferred to different bases. Every few years I would find myself in a new school, adjusting to new teachers and to classmates who would openly stare at me. Many of them did not even know how to talk to me.
Finally, in class 7, I joined St Mary's School in Dwarka and I found the supportive atmosphere I needed. I made many friends here and the good part was that I studied here right up to class 12. There were some issues, like I would never be taken for school trips because of my disability. But my parents ensured I never missed out on any school picnics because they would call a few of their friends over and go the same place so I did not miss out on the fun.
It is this kind of unstinting support I am most thankful for. I was never made to feel like I had any problems. In India, people tend to believe that a family's life changes for good when a child has a problem. But my parents did not believe that. In fact, if someone showed sympathy, my grandmother would turn around and firmly tell them, "He is better than thousands of people". That's the attitude my grandparents had.
So, even when the outside world would react by making faces or with comments like 'He is being punished for past life sins or previous karma", I would not get too affected. I remained a positive person and that attitude coupled with my parents' support has helped me come this far.
I do feel down and discouraged at times and when that happens, I look around and see my world - my parents, sister, friends - and I feel like I was born for a purpose. I was born to change society's attitudes towards disability, to break the stereotypes. This keeps motivating me to do something different in life and inspire people with what I do.
When I started college, I started taking the Delhi Metro in my wheelchair and people were surprised and impressed by the fact that someone like me travels independently. Their reactions motivate me to travel everywhere on my own and interact with people. It has pushed me further and convinced me that I am born to bring some change in the mindset of people in our society towards disability.
I am also a disability rights activist. This is something I started in college. I started approaching the students' union and asking them how they planned to address the issues faced by disabled students. I plan to continue doing in different ways in partnership with people like me. I believe that together we can raise awareness about the need to look at accessibility in a serious manner. I hope to help bring about that change. A lot of changed but things to move faster.