Kolkata-based Athira Bhaskar did not stop pursuing her dreams even when she was afflicted with muscular dystrophy. Despite the odds stacked against her, this woman, who is originally from Kerala, scripted her own success story.
Athira, who lives with her family in Kolkata, returned to the southern state to write the Kerala Administrative Service (KAS) exam. An official with the Water Resources Department in West Bengal for the last two years, Athira started preparing for the KAS recently.
She wrote the KAS examination at Government Cotton Hill Girls HSS in Thiruvananthapuram.
It was for the first time that she wrote an exam with other differently abled people, Athira said.
"My aim is to provide rehabilitation facilities for people, who are suffering like me. My life is dedicated for this cause. The KAS exam was the first step in that direction," she said.
Athira, who was hopeful of clearing the exam, wanted the society to be more inclusive.
"When we venture out into the society, we are made aware of our shortcomings. That's not just because of people's behaviour or attitude. It is also due to the lack of facilities for people like me. There are no ramps or wheelchair facilities at government offices or public places.
"Only when the society starts thinking about our needs, will we also feel a part of it," she pointed out.
Battles in life
Athira discovered that she was suffering from muscular dystrophy when she joined for plus-two. Her life was thus at a crossroads .
"For 12 years I had been learning dance. Then suddenly I couldn't move my hands and legs," Athira recounted.
She somehow managed to complete plus-two studies. But she still nurtured the dream of clearing the medical entrance exam.
As her medical condition prevented her from going for coaching, she studied on her own at home. She could secure admission for BAMS with a decent entrance score.
"However, lack of adequate facilities like ramps prevented me from reaching my goal. All my efforts of an entire year were washed away," she said.
But Athira's ordeals did not end with this. Due to her medical condition, she kept losing balance and falling down. Grappling with depression, she spent her next two years inside her room.
"I even reached a point where I had suicidal thoughts," Athira said with a shudder.
Even when she decided to continue her studies and return to life, Athira kept facing more hurdles. After she discontinued her studies, she had to pay huge sums of money as compensation at the government college to retrieve her certificates. She had to make several attempts to get back that money.
Once she got hold of her certificates, Athira joined for the BA Economics at the Calcutta University. After completing two years at the college, Athira managed to get herself a job with the Water Resources Board. She could complete her studies even while working.
But Athira had to face several discouraging questions even at the university.
When she joined there, her mother met the professors and told them about her daughter's problems. "However, one professor then asked if it wasn't better that I studied at a college for the disabled. Then I resolved to study well at the same college. Finally, when I got a job, this same professor helped me in completing the studies. These later became huge motivational factors for me," Athira said.
Athira's parents, who work in Kolkata, have been her biggest pillar of support.