As he sits on the perch of his modest dwelling, he now watches over the one hectare thriving areca cultivation, while his two small children playfully frolic around their father, he narrates his tale.
With frail legs rendered useless after being struck by polio, occupation would have seemed hard for Harish Chandra (53), who comes from an economically-backward agricultural family in Kollamogeru, a frontier village overlooking the Pushpagiri ranges of the Western Ghats.
However, he refused to allow the disease define him. As he sits on the perch of his modest dwelling, he now watches over the one hectare thriving areca cultivation, while his two small children playfully frolic around their father, he narrates his tale. Although modest in his narration, adaptation, and sheer determination underlines his achievements.
Even reaching his house seems like an arduous journey. Off the pot-holed road, over a bridge, it is a five-km trek or jeep ride through the steep, forested path to his house. Mr. Chandra doesn’t own a jeep nor can he afford to rent a jeep every time he has to go for supplies.
“It’s just adjustment,” he modestly says when asked about this. “When I was around eight years of age, I learnt to walk on my hands. I learnt to walk upside down so my legs do not drag. Eventually, I could walk even 8 km without trouble. At the peak, I weighed 60 kg,” he said.
The weight becomes all the more significant considering his lower limbs weigh next to nothing. Being mobile allowed him to handle the farm, gain confidence for marriage, and importantly, he says, financial freedom. “Anything on the ground, I can do. I have never used help except for spraying and plucking areca nuts,” said Mr. Chandra.
At 53, age has finally caught up with him. Although his toned upper body still bears testimony to his labour, he can no longer “walk” with the gay abandon as he had done. “Doctors have told me that due to my position of walking, there was stress on my heart (blood circulation is against gravity, instead of with gravity for a standing person). There is a 30 per cent block, and they have told me not to walk anymore,” he said.
It is only now that he feels, with marked sadness, that he has to rely on the government’s help. He is now in a protracted struggle to increase his disability dole from Rs. 400 to Rs. 1,000. Apart from this, he is going from pillar to post to get a government-sponsored specially-designed scooter. “They expect me to spend Rs. 30,000 for this. If I can’t work from now on, it is impossible for me to pay so much,” he said.