#ChampionsWithCP – Miranda House student Anushka Tiwari aims to make the world a better place for people with disabilities
In our October series #ChampionsWithCP, we profile Anushka Tiwari, a second-year student of Miranda House in the Delhi University. Anushka, who is studying English Literature is inspired by Pranjal Patil, the first visually impaired woman IAS officer. She too wishes to enter the government service and dedicate her life to helping people with disabilities.
Nineteen-year-old Anushka Tiwari defies every stereotype associated with disability. She is independent, lives away from home, and travels by herself. Medical negligence at birth led to some early tough years but Anushka refuses to be defined by her disability.
"There was an emergency during Anushka's birth, and she needed oxygen", says father Kuber Tiwari, a Kanpur-based businessman. The hospital could not organise an oxygen cylinder on time and the delay led to some damage to Anushka's brain cells. She was kept in the hospital for two months, but doctors never told us what was wrong".
For over a year, Anushka's parents thought she was fine. When they found her limbs were stiff, they approached experts. There was not much awareness about cerebral palsy in Kanpur at the time and doctors called it a case of delayed milestones and no cause for worry.
When Anushka was nearly two and still could not stand, her parents went to various experts. The enormity was brought home ironically by a patient who as waiting at one of the doctor's clinics they were visiting. "That person told us she had cerebral palsy and that she needed expert help. We contacted specialists in Delhi and Mumbai and eventually started the right course of treatment", says Kuber.
Despite the rocky start, her parents were determined to send Anushka to a mainstream school. Their support, says Anushka, has been her biggest strength.
I give credit not to my willpower but to my parents. How parents groom and motivate a child makes all the differences, whether there's a disability or not. Parents are the biggest support system. If my parents had lost hope or motivation, I wouldn't have achieved all that I have - Anushka Tiwari, Student, Delhi University
Few schools in Kanpur were willing to enroll Anushka. "They were worried she would fall down", recalls father Kuber, who decided to take full responsibility for her safety. This meant dropping her off to school everyday, making sure she was seated properly, and putting a helmet on her to guard against falls.
The goal, he says frankly, was to ensure she completed class 10 at best. "We never thought she would come this far and go to college. The idea was to educate her enough so she could read the papers, have some understanding of the world around her".
Anushka surprised her parents. She worked hard and did well academically every year. When the school asked Anushka's parents to enroll her elsewhere when classes shifted to the top floors, she refused. Instead she asked her parents to help her climb the stairs for a week only. "I said I would do it on my own after that", says Anushka.
Her determination to be independent was so strong that she went to a boarding school out of Kanpur for higher studies and got 94% in her class 12 board exams, gaining admission into top colleges in the Delhi University like Lady Sriram College (LSR) and Miranda House (MH). MH won out because of its hostel facilities and campus atmosphere. The college also offered her a scholarship. In a remarkable gesture, Anushka gave up her hostel seat for a visually impaired student.
"One of her classmates is visually impaired and was not getting hostel accommodation so, Anushka decided to surrender her seat", says her father with pride. Today, Anushka lives with a group of students in a PG accommodation and commutes to college.
Anushka's plucky nature is a source of special pride for Dr Narendra Kumar Pandey, a Neuro Developmental Therapist in Kanpur, who has been treating her since childhood.
"From the start we never made her feel that she has a problem", says Dr Pandey. "We told her she was just like all the other kids and that she could do whatever she wanted".
Anushka was recently recognized with the ADAPT Achievement Awards and traveled to Mumbai for the ceremony. The award has given her a major boost and she has made up her mind to study for the Union Public Service Commission exams.
"My goal is to work to help the disabled community in India and their families. So many people lose hope, especially the families of people with disabilities' and I want to show them that there's no need to feel like that".