New Delhi: For someone with faith and determination, the odds of life cannot be a deterrent. A living example of such indomitable spirit is Sruti Mohapatra whose life changed forever after a near fatal accident.
The accident left Sruti paralysed waist below. But despite being confined to the wheelchair, she did not allow her spirit to be chained.
"Life was so nice to me. I was getting everything that I desired. Throughout my academic career I was a topper. I was very good at sports and represented my state in basketball and was a national debating champion thrice. I was then 22-year-old and had qualified for the Indian Civil Services in first attempt. I was about to get married to the boy whom I had chosen," says Sruti.
"But, then came the fateful day- April 14, 1987 and my life changed forever. My car collided with a bus while we were returning from a temple and in that accident I lost three of my close relatives and I became quadriplegic," she recalls.
She says that the attitude of the society towards her changed after the tragic accident. "I was the same Sruti, but unwanted. UPSC did not allow me to join the civil service. My marriage was over. I was on wheel chair and had to depend on somebody for very personal things," says Sruti. But destiny had something else planned for her.
After struggling for two years in the hospital, Sruti found her strength in her family and began working for the disabled, in her home state of Odisha.
An active member of Disabled Peoples' International, she has travelled worldwide to know how issues of the disabled were being addressed.
In 2001, 14 years after her accident, Sruti founded 'Swabhiman' where the cause of the disabled was going to be championed through partnership, advocacy and most importantly self respect.
Many like 20-year-old Harihar Deo, son of an Odishi dancer, found everything with 'Swabhiman', a platform and a means where they can express themselves.
Step by step Sruti covered ground and forced the government and authorities to take notice of her initiative.
The 3 per cent reservation in government jobs for disabled was not being implemented in Odisha, Sruti lobbied hard to make sure it was followed in letter and spirit.
Accessibility to public places for disabled was never a priority but Sruti fought this issue as wll and ensured that not just government buildings but the world famous Jagannath temple in Puri made special access for the disabled. She got the University Grants Commission to agree to set up a Department of Disability Studies in every University across the country.
Sruti is now 46, the last 24 years of her life have been an example of how someone found opportunity and ability in every disability that came her way.