‘Give us such strength o creator, that our belief in our self does not fail,’ says the cheerful girl, as I sit on the floor making a sincere effort to fold my legs and make myself comfortable.Nisha Das, the girl demonstrates oh how easy it is to fold one’s legs even though she is one leg ‘short’.
My interaction with her, changed my perspective of life, the challenges we face daily and how to smile.“Nisha was born a disabled girl,” says her father Manoj. “She had a damaged spine which left her right leg senseless and crooked. She could not walk and had to be supported to walk. As a baby people commented a lot. When she began growing up, she was stared at and pitied upon,” he adds.“But we never gave up hope,” states the 40-year old. “We knew that one day this same girl would make us proud.”
“She was a special gift from God,” says Nisha’s mother Lila. “We live in a society where the birth of a girl is considered inauspicious and is looked down upon, leave alone a handicapped girl. But people forget that a girl grows into a woman- one who has the power to create and give birth.”
“My girl, Nisha has given birth- she has given birth to the power that is inherent in each one of us but only needs to be channelled in a positive way,” reflects Lila.
In 2012, at the Balaji Institute of Surgery, Research and Rehabilitation for the Disabled (BIRRD), Tirupati (in South India) the brave heart underwent a major operation to rectify her leg. A steel rod has been placed to straighten her leg. Prior to that a local NGO donated a calliper for Nisha’s right leg with the help of which she was able to walk to and from school. Till the age of seven years she had to be carried around.
The sixteen year old says, “I did not have many friends. Children looked at me differently and made funny faces. Yet I knew there was something in store for me. I never gave up hope and kept aspiring.”“I love drawing. I draw sceneries, butterflies, birds and flowers, but more than drawing I love dancing, I am so in love with Indian classical dancing that I have also joined an institute where they teach me Bharatnatyam (a classical dance form),” she exclaims.Nisha has been attending classes once a week for the last one year.
I am amazed not only at the girl’s zest for life but also her perspectives. She wants to become a teacher when she grows up, because she believes, “a teacher can change the lives of young people. So many young people waste away their lives in depression, substance abuse and negative activities.”She expresses, “teachers are our first friends, guides and show us the true path. I want to be able to show young people a new path.”
Indeed she is creating a new path for herself, encouraging many others to walk upon. Nisha never fails to take part in any variety entertainment programme/ event put up by the community centre involving dance. This in itself is an inspiration for many others and has drawn many youth towards her ‘spirit for life’.
In 2011, Nisha was part of a team (the only girl from India) led by World Vision India supported by NGO CI-SAHAY to attend a conference called at the United Nations Assembly. In New York she spoke on the thematic debate on Inequality for disable people.
Life changed post-2011 and Nisha never looked back.When she got back overnight she had become from a no one to one who was known to speak out her mind not only for herself but for the others like her who had little or no dignity in a fast developing economy like India.“It is time the government woke up to the plight of the thousands of disable people in our country,” reports Nisha. “How many of our cities have low-floor public transportation systems like buses and trains?” she queries. “What about obtaining a handicapped certificate from the government? It takes ages and you are pushed from one department to another. Do you call this respect and honour?” she asks.
Life for the aspiring youth moved from a state of depression to fulfilment. “I realised that I had to find my place under the sun. When I was admitted into the hospital for the rectification surgery, I was afraid but when I looked around I realised that there were people in a state worse than me. It was then that I learnt to let go of my half-life and believe in myself.”
“It was thereafter I began collecting my life into my hands,” beams the young lady. She believes that the NGO CI-SAHAY sponsorship programme came at the right time in her life. It empowered her, it created something new inside her- it gave her hope.“Post her operation,” recalls Lila, “all of us wondered if she would ever be able to walk and be like everyone else. Today this girl not only walks but also dances,” she smiles and says, tears welling in her eyes.
The undeterred will power only can make such impossible things and happenings, possible. It is therefore rightly said “the only disability in life is our bad attitude”. Change your attitude and be free.
- L-R- Mother Lila Das, sibling Sumit Das and NishaDas at their home
- Father Manoj Das with Nisha
3-4. Various dance poses by Nisha