“Accept your disability & move ahead in life”- My Take by Rajeev Palluruthy
49-year-old Rajeev Palluruthy is a wheelchair user from Kerala. He is the secretary of All Kerala Wheelchair Rights Federation that empowers wheelchair users in the state. Rajeev has a spinal cord injury after he met with an accident when he was 30 years old. Ever since then, he has been working closely in the disability space. He has become instrumental in empowering hundreds of people with disabilities especially wheelchair users.
I was just like any other 30-year-old brimming with confidence and looking ahead for a happy family life. But one day, while walking on the road, a truck hit me. I spent almost 48 days in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital in Kochi. The next few months were spent at different other hospitals. Slowly, I started doing physiotherapy. Before leaving the hospital, my doctor told me that due to a spinal cord injury I will be a disabled person for the rest of my life.
For someone like me who was very active in politics and social work, this was a huge shock. The next few years were hard for me. In fact, it took me at least two years to completely come out of that shock. I felt like my youth was shattered. I kept thinking about what the future holds in store for me. But gradually, I realised I had to come out of it.- Rajeev Palluruthy.
Foray into disability rights activism
Gathering all the broken pieces and starting anew was not easy. I wanted to work for other people like me who are wheelchair users. I realised the many hurdles that a wheelchair user faces. The main one was accessibility issues. I realised how public places are not disabled friendly. The situation is not any different today.
I became a member of Thanal Palliative Care where I could do many things for the welfare and empowerment of people with disabilities. I made an exclusive paraplegic wing so that we could reach out to more people. Soon, we formed the All Kerala Wheelchair Rights Federation (AKWRF) to help wheelchair users across Kerala. I started off as the general secretary and later went on to become the secretary for the organisation.
The society is becoming more aware and sensitized about disabilities. But there is still a long way to go. Earlier, people used to look at a disabled person in the weirdest manner. But now, when they see a disabled person, they come forward to help.
A disabled person is unable to fully become a part of mainstream society. For example, when we attend events, wheelchair users cannot become part of it due to steps. There are no wheelchair ramps anywhere. These steps become a hindrance to our independence, self-esteem and confidence. The government must step up and make places accessible. Only officials can help us in this.
Torch-bearer to independence
Today, many organisations and renowned people call me for their events. I inaugurated the Palluruthy Carnival last weekend. I have received almost 40 awards and recognitions for my works. All this makes me happy and proud. I hope I can inspire more people like me. Fighting a disability was not easy for me. But I have emerged out of it successfully.
My mother is my biggest pillar of support. I’am her only son and when I met with an accident, she was equally shattered. But I realised that if I stay sad, even she will have to go through the same. Now I’am a happy person who takes life as it comes. The smile on my mother’s face is all that matters to me.
Accept your disability and move ahead in life. Look at different ways in which you can improve yourself. At least I’am able to move my hands. I know many people who cannot do that. So that way, I feel blessed. I would rather count my blessings than mourn over my loss.