From being thrown out of schools on account of disability to receiving the Prathiba scholarship for excellence in academics, and later receiving a research scholarship at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA; from being the first disabled Indian to skydive to being one of the youngest and least experienced to be admitted into the prestigious Indian School of Business, life has been one roller coaster of a ride for me.
And now, as I sit back and look at the past, I must write of a one particular feeling that stands out. The feeling of the surprise and shock that people felt, the discouragement I faced, the fear that was put in and the sympathy I faced, when I first announced to people around me that, in spite of my disability, I will go to the U.S. all alone and study there for my M.S. program.
Having lived as someone who has metallic crutches as an extension to my body and having born into a typical lower middle-class Indian family, my dream of going to the U.S. all alone and studying there was received with a lot of fear by my loved ones and cynicism by the ones who heard it.
Many myths about the U.S.A and the kind of life there were thrown at me. I was made to feel scared, terrified and petrified.
Yet I went. Contrary to common misconceptions, I witnessed the U.S.A to be an extremely sensitive and very accommodative place, especially to the needs of the physically-challenged.
Whether it be a university or a work place, whether it be a restaurant or a sports ground, whether it be in a bus or train, a physically-challenged person is always provided the best of infrastructural facilities that one can only imagine in our country.
In fact, so accommodative are the facilities and so sensitive are people about the needs of the physically-challenged, that even a person like me who hadn't walked on my own for the first 20 years of my life here in India survived there for one-and-half years.
In the harshest of weather conditions, in a place where it snows for seven months of the year and in a place where I was told I can never live all alone, I lived and made a life for myself.
And I made a life for myself not out of sympathy, but made a life for myself out of sensitivity, out of support only for talent and real merit, out of living in top-class infrastructural facilities, out of accommodative and special facilities for the disabled and out of constant awareness of the rights that I possess in that country.
For all the physically disabled people who back their talent and are passionately dreaming of making it to the U.S.A someday, these videos will give an insight into life there - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFA2zUu1rp0 and http:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEXQZycFf0I
(The writer is a physically challenged student who is presently admitted in the MBA course at the Indian School of Business. He did his Masters in Engineering from USA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)