It was Onam day and little Saritha, back home from Dubai, was delighted to walk past the lush green fields of Palakkad on the way to to her granny's home. But the little child's happy walk was cut short by a drunken driver who rammed his truck on to the girl, and crushed her leg.
The 8-year-old was rushed to three different hospitals in the area, but none of them had any doctors as it was Onam day. And only after her family created a ruckus did one of the hospitals provided Saritha with first-aid. She was then taken to a hospital in Coimbatore. But by then the infection had spread above her knee and the doctors were forced to amputate her leg at the hip.
Three body joints – ankle, knee and the hip bone – gone, she had to be fitted with a prosthetic leg.
At least a few people would mentally strike out a promising future for the little child. And she could have blamed her stars, withdrawn, and drowned out her life in tears.
But 25 years since that frightful Onam day, Saritha Viswanathan has proved those pessimists wrong. She has a happy family by her side and successful career, a feat she achieved with her never-say-die attitude and the unflinching support of her well-wishers. Saritha, who lives with her husband and 1-year-old baby, is currently pursuing her PhD.
And she marked the 25th anniversary of the horrifying day with a blog post, which the chirpy young woman chose to title 'Happy Silver Ampuversary'.
"It has not been an easy journey. But I guess, anybody who is put in such a situation has no choice but to try and get up. I did just that with the help of parents, sister, family and friends who support me,"Saritha said over the phone from Mumbai, where she currently lives.
"Prosthesis helped me gain mobility but it was still a taunting task when I had to move back to Kerala from Dubai for my college studies. The life here was a cultural shock. Plus, staying in a hostel and having to make do with the poor facilities were all troublesome,"she added.
"But I survived and learned a lot from these experiences."
Even when Saritha is happy for not letting her disability become an obstacle in her life, she is peeved at the general attitude of the people towards physically challenged people.
"Many people have come to me and said: 'this had to happen to a pretty child?' Why such statements? The disability would not have been a problem if I were not pretty?"she asked.
"Keep your such pessimistic thoughts with you. Please don't share it with others and kill their positive vibes too,"she added, while urging people to be sensitive to another person's health condition before blurting out their thoughts.
Some were even heartless to openly wonder whether she would get a husband. But Yogesh Menon, who works in the aviation industry, brushed aside those doubts and vowed to walk with Saritha in both high and low terrains.
Nothing to be ashamed of
Saritha regularly talks about herself and the people around her on her blog. She says that she has finally gotten over her inhibitions and feels the need to talk about the disability.
"You need to accept it and then only can you conquer it. When I went to the gynecologist during pregnancy, she said she was unsure on how to handle it as such cases are highly uncommon. It was a complex situation as I was hip-disartic. But fortunately all went well,"she added.
"So I just want to tell people that all is not lost. But by helping one another, we can lead a happy life.
"Don't shy away when you need to help someone. I'm sure it would be returned,"she appealed.