Disability is not a physical deformity but a state of mind and this 32-year-old brave woman from Jaipur has proved this at every stage of her life. What’s more? She doesn’t recognize the word “impossible”.
Shatabdi Avasthi, while sharing her incredible story with LifeBeyondNumbers says, “I thank God that I am not a victim of female foeticide, forget about dreams, we live in a country where women are not allowed to born. Over the years, my struggles and difficulties have made me ready to face the world. I am not scared anymore. I wish to make India proud wherever I go.”
Watch this short documentary on her by The Binoculars Club:
Like other women, Shatabdi also dreamt to do something big for her country by joining the Indian army. She was so active in all her activities as a child that her parents decided to name her after a train, Shatabdi Express, which was the fastest train in India back then.
But, life had different plans for her and when she was 21, she fell down from the terrace while playing with some kids. All her hopes were crashed on that day.
“After completing my BSc, I wanted to join Indian Army and even sat for MIA exam but the spine fracture was so massive that it was life and death situation for me. I have no sensation below the waist. Life came to a standstill. I feel the most expensive thing in the world is to let go of your dreams,” she says.
I feel the most expensive thing in the world is to let go of your dreams.
“I used to live in constant fear and humiliation. At times, even if I sneeze, the urine leaks and I am not even able to sense it. It becomes hard for me to go out and enjoy like a normal person.”
In 2006, she went through a series of treatments and surgeries but that didn’t work and she made up her mind that she is left with two options- either stay in bed and wallow in self-pity or do something great and make life worthy of living.
Life was not so easy for Shatabdi after the accident. She had to make many difficult choices. “My mother worked as a teacher at a government school, and that very year she retired. There was no other earning member in my family. My father worked at a private firm and he also left that job. So, I had to do something about it,” she says.
In April 2012, she won Rs.50,000 in Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) and that made her life a bit easy. Even though she had to erase the dream of joining the Indian army, she channelized it in a very positive manner and instead started working on the social issues.
Apart from planting saplings and getting water pots for plants, she also went to slums to teach the underprivileged children- making the world a better place to live in.
“I feel sad for women who do not get support for being disabled. What few people don’t understand that being a disabled person is not a choice and it is not fun to live like this. But at the same time, I also feel lucky that I am part of a family and I am surrounded by friends who have always supported me and respected my choices.”
One of Shatabdi’s seven sisters, Kavita Avasthi has helped her cross this hurdle. Also, her friend Priya Bharti Sharma used to teach her at her home.
“If a person suffers from polio since birth then that becomes the new normal for them but when you are born normal and then you have an accident and few parts stop working, it is difficult to adjust to that kind of life,” says Shatabdi.
In November 2010, she got selected as a probationary officer in SBI but only after 6 months of joining, her father expired due to cardiac arrest and that was another huge shock for the family.
Life was difficult back then but sports saved her. I started sports when I was 31-year-old, she says. “In 2016, my teacher Mahavir Prasad Saini coached me. He took my trial while I was sitting in a car. I started my sports career with archery. But, later I shifted to shot put, Discus and Javelin. That year in December, I participated in the state-level tournament and I won three gold medals.”
“In 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio, India won 6 medals in total. Even in games, the disabled people are bringing more medals than the abled ones. I am not trying to compare them but what I mean that government should come forward to support them financially or any other way if they can.”
Her practice sessions used to take place at Sawai Man Singh Stadium in Jaipur and as you can guess, it was never easy for her. Her mind and body were never at sync due to the spinal cord fracture that affected her whole body.
Even though the physical injuries in her body slowed her down, it could never stop her from moving forward. In March 2017, she bagged silver medal in Shot Put at World Para Athletics Grand Pix in Dubai. Shatabdi says, “I am probably the only athlete to take part in an international level before playing at National level.”
A sports event was organized by National Paralympic Committee of India and Rajasthan Paralympic Committee of India in April 2017, where she bagged Gold Medal in Javelin and silver medal in shot put.
“It was a proud moment for me because I got to represent India in July, during the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships. But, unfortunately, I couldn’t perform well because my health deteriorated tremendously. I have no sensation below the waist and therefore, I didn’t realize that I had developed bedsore and therefore I had to get a hip surgery to fix it. Therefore, from September 2017 to February 2018, I was at rest and couldn’t participate in Asian Games.”
“After recovery, my sir arranged a small gym in my room so that I can practice over there. In 2018, at National Para Athletics Championship, I won a silver medal in shot put and Javelin. In June, I participated in Berlin World Grand Prix 2018 and won a bronze medal in shot put.” Shatabdi also won a gold medal in shot put at Indian Para Athletics Championships 2018 in Bangalore.
“I am thankful for the crisis in my life, if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have reached here. I have always wanted to do something for my country and I feel proud of myself. But, at times, I come across people who find it difficult to consider disabled people as a part of the society. They either hate us or shower sympathy.”
“A very common scene that we see in award function is the stage they make are not disabled people friendly. Because somewhere this idea exist that disabled people cannot achieve enough that they will be called to the stage for delivering a speech. This bothers me because people like us cannot reach the stage.”
People always have a tendency to tell me or my family that it is better for me to stay at home and at times while attending weddings ceremonies if I go and grab my plate, people seemed to throw a disgusting look that “ghar pe hi reh sakti thi, phir khaaney aa gayi.”
In another instance, a landlord once denied to rent her a room and told her, ‘it is shameful for us that a wheelchair will be parked in front of our house.’ “Incidents like these make me feel that the society is mentally disabled,” says Shatabdi.
On asking about marriage, she says, “I am self-sufficient and I love myself so much. I don’t need a partner for myself. I feel I am lucky that I am surrounded with people who love me, accept me for who I am and also tell my parents that everyone should have a child like me.”
Shifting to her education- Shatabdi has completed her masters in History, sat for National Eligibility Test (NET) and also gave bank exams, where she got selected in the very first attempt. Last year in December, she has joined the State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur as a Deputy Manager.
Currently, Shatabdi is preparing for Asian Para Games in Jakarta, which is scheduled to be held in October, this year. “Life is very beautiful and there is no fun living life without problems. If you don’t come across difficulties, you won’t be able to find solutions. It really makes me happy that people draw inspiration from me. It gives me strength, willpower, and the hope to move forward in life.”
These beautiful lines by Harivansh Rai Bachchan will not only sum up Shatabdi’s story but will also inspire people like her to come forward and dream big, no matter what.
Nanhi Cheenti Jab Dana Lekar Chalti Hai,
Chadhti Deewaron Par, Sau Baar Fisalti Hai,
Manka Vishwas Ragon Me Sahas Bharta Hai,
Chadhkar Girna, Girkar Chadhna Na Akharta Hai,
Aakhir Uski Mehnat Bekar Nahi Hoti,
Koshish Karne Walo Ki Kabhi Haar Nahi Hoti.