Featured Storyteller

INDIA: I Am Powerful, Beautiful, and Paraplegic

Jolly
Posted March 2, 2017 from India

Driven by an unwavering belief in herself, Jolly spoke out for disability rights—and won.

“I have had to fight to meet even the most basic of bodily needs at work—access to a clean, accessible washroom.

Karma didn’t make me paraplegic—a doctor did. I was born in Lucknow, India without a disability. But at the age of three, I fell ill and the doctor’s carelessness caused me to lose all feeling in my lower body.

Ever since then, I have battled with the widespread belief in India that being disabled is a sin or related to one’s karma. Today, I advocate for disability rights to help my society recognize that disability is a normal part of the human condition. In the process, I am smashing stereotypes and our society’s prejudiced, non-inclusive idea of beauty.

When I first became disabled, I was too young to understand what was happening to me. But as I grew up, I realized I was different from other children. As a small child I heard people trying to convince my parents that I was useless and had no future. Fortunately, my parents brought me up exactly the same as my sister who does not have a disability, and this attitude has shaped the woman I am today.

My father would tell people who doubted me that time would prove who I am and what I am capable of. I graduated college and started working, proving that I can achieve educational and professional success.

A few years ago, I married a man who has a visual impairment and is a fighter like me. At the time of our marriage, people made comments about this match with a “girl who cannot walk.” Some people talked about my dusky complexion, my body, and overall looks. I pity such people for their narrow-mindedness.

Despite my success working at multinational companies, I have had to become thick-skinned. Coworkers feel embarrassed to have coffee or lunch with a person in a wheelchair, or even to walk alongside me. It hurts, but they cannot hold me back.

I have had to fight to meet even the most basic of bodily needs at work—access to a clean, accessible washroom.

When I first began working at my company, I discovered that the “wheelchair friendly” washrooms were not constructed for specially abled people. They lacked wall railings to help shift from the chair to the pot and the doors were heavy and impossible for a wheelchair user to operate alone. The height of the pot was too low, while the mirror and washbasins were too high for a person in a wheelchair to use.

Worst of all was the lack of hygiene. Imagine a dirty toilet with stinking water all around and nothing to hold onto. I started developing frequent urinary tract infections.

For seven long years, I kept this nightmare to myself. I worried thatif I raised my concerns the company would deemmy demands unrealistic.

I would sometimes wear adult diapers to avoid the hassle of using the washroom. I began drinking less water, which likely contributed to a kidney stone and infection that left me bedridden for four months.

Last December, I penned an article about these challenges on Youth Ki Awaaz. I wanted the world to know what it is like to be a healthy, young adult who still needs to wear adult diapers because we don’t make accessible bathrooms in this country. I wanted to help change mindsets.

It was not easy writing about such intimate details, but to my shock and surprise, my story made a difference. It was read over 200,000 times. The best part is that my company took notice and made sure things changed. They corrected the doors and started cleaning the washroom regularly. They even installed a dryer to help keep my hands warm.

By advocating for myself and moving through the world with confidence, I am changing people’s misconceptions about people with disabilities.

In my heart, I know what I am capable of. I might not be able to walk. But I wheel myself around with attitude. I dress up to the nines, and live my life to the fullest.

I believe that only if we love our own selves can we also love others as they are. Today, I can proudly say that I am hot and sexy and I love my body, and myself, just the way I am. Do you?


STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe everyone has a story to share,and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller!Learn more.

Comments 23

Log in or register to post comments
  • Rupal
    Mar 03, 2017
    Mar 03, 2017

    Dear Jolly,

    I am so sorry for all that you had to go through for so long. But, it makes me so happy that you spoke up for your rights as a human and your step will surely inspire many. So proud of the person you are!! Please add my name in list of the people who love you..

    Keep shining  

  • nessa s
    Mar 03, 2017
    Mar 03, 2017

    Dear Jolly, as you say you are powerful and beautiful and hot and sexy - I'm particularly interested in stories of improving (women's) washrooms and toilets, because they are such a (I was going to say "important" but I should say "essential") part of our life. Good luck in everything you do - you are an inspiration!

    Nessa

  • Anjana Vaidya
    Mar 03, 2017
    Mar 03, 2017

    Dear Jolly,

    A great salute to your confidence and attitude. I can imagine, how difficult to survive being a specially able person. My one of best friend is also struggling a lot after she paralyzed and bedridden due to doctor’s negligence. Since two decades she is struggling even for very small small things. It’s so pity that even the provisions and facilities for specially abled person are also not accessible due to the unfriendly service mechanisms. Thank you so much for being louder and clear on your issues. Indeed, your voice and thoughts are as hot and sexy as your look.  Keep shining and inspiring my dear.

    Warm love and hugs,

    Anjana

  • Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
    Mar 04, 2017
    Mar 04, 2017

    Dear Jolly,

    You a truly very beautiful and very hot and very sexy. You a real heroine to many and you have done well by speaking out about the evils that you faced and by doing so you have spoken for millions of people with disability. Thank you for bringing change and may you continue with the good work. Remember you are beautiful and no one should ever make you feel less. stay blessed my dear sister 

  • Jodie
    Mar 04, 2017
    Mar 04, 2017

    Dear Jolly thank you for your inspiration. I really am listening to your message of loving your self so that you can love others. As someone who has MS I am becoming more and more specially abled, I am going to take a leaf out of your book! No more hiding or feeling like I am not beautiful! Keep being yourself, thank you for your spirit. From another person who loves you ❤

  • IAmBeautiful
    Mar 05, 2017
    Mar 05, 2017

    Jolly,

    Your story is an inspiration and thanks for sharing. I am also gathering courage to speak up. How long to live in shadow for mistakes of others? Spread the love and unite to solve with truth and Respect for all. If it sounds offensive but I hope you get my spirit of what I intend well when I say it's not about being sorry but it's about the future. After reading such an inspiring story, I do not want to associate the word sorry but I also recognize it's something that will always be with you for rest of your life. So be well and keep inspiring and sharing. I dream of pink elephants can fly, they can call me crazy but then they also say anything is possible - perhaps discovering a pink elephant OR finding any elephant who can fly. It's a dream of endless possibilities. All the best!

  • Colleen Benack
    Mar 07, 2017
    Mar 07, 2017

    Thank you for sharing your story. You rock! Your confidence is empowering and inspirational. 

  • SallySmith
    Mar 07, 2017
    Mar 07, 2017

    You go girl. You are so inspiring to every girl in the world disability or not. Alsways remember the word disability has the word ability. You can do anything you put your mind to. Remember the disability doesn't define you, you do.

  • Northtea
    Mar 08, 2017
    Mar 08, 2017

    You are inspiring Jolly. You remind us that we lose our power when we are silenced because problems are intimate and that speaking up - especially when it is hard - can make change. I think the fact that you were quiet about this for so long is such an indicator of the challenge you felt. You are unstoppable.

  • kkayser
    Mar 08, 2017
    Mar 08, 2017

    What an amazing story! You have inspired me and so many others no doubt. You are beautiful inside and out. Thank you for sharing your story, your battle, your strength and your voice. You will inspire many more women to come.

  • irenee french
    Mar 08, 2017
    Mar 08, 2017

    I was just speaking to my Mum yesterday about some difficulties she is facing in Ireland raising a child with some disability. Your story is inspirational and I will be sure to share it with her to offer her support and confidence in your story. You are making a global impact.

    Take care of your beautiful self.

  • Grishma
    Mar 08, 2017
    Mar 08, 2017

    Only after reading your story did I realize that the day to day things that I take for granted. It is amazing that you had the courage and support to raise your voice. You are not alone and I along with all the other women will be standing behind you. 

  • anetrgt
    Mar 08, 2017
    Mar 08, 2017

    Dear Jolly,

    Thank you for sharing your story.  You are an inspiration to EVERYONE.

    Annette

  • Molly Mary-Harriet
    Mar 08, 2017
    Mar 08, 2017

    Thank you for the article and keep up the great work! Your voice matters hugely.

  • Immaculate
    Mar 08, 2017
    Mar 08, 2017

    Dear Jolly

    You are a brave woman, I salute your courage to break the stereotypes.

    Thank you for sharing your story it has touched many, Its time to free our selves from enslaving cultures

    Much love

  • Joanna Smieja
    Mar 11, 2017
    Mar 11, 2017

    Dear Jolly, 

    it is good to read your story! I know what you are going through because I have some disabilities myself. Despite of my disability, or maybe thanks to it, I am a strong and independent women. But it took me some time to accept my body, to feel sexy and beautiful. So many people on my way have doubt about it, and I started to do the same. But just recently I realized that there is nothing more sexy than accepting yourself. Accepting yourself makes you beautiful. I think it is true for all people, not only for people with disabilities. 

    Keep my fingers crossed for you. You go girl! 

    Joanna 

  • Mercedes
    Mar 14, 2017
    Mar 14, 2017

    Beautiful in all ways!!! I am inspired by the strength of your father and by your positive attitude. Keep on loving you and spreading the word!

  • LillianVB
    Mar 15, 2017
    Mar 15, 2017

    Dear Jolly,

    very inspiring story that only makes one want to fight harder to see that all people are included in all aspects of life, brings close the reality of everyday experiences that has an extremely huge impart on lives of many people, impacting on everyone negatively , causing missed opportunities could even cost lives! Reminds me of one construction engineer who told me that when you are constructing a house always be mindful of accessibility and functionality for all people. No one chooses disability and anyone can get a disability anytime! Thanks for reminding us to be good advocates for inclusion in all forms. Fighting all these odds? you indeed have a thick skin, I  admire your resilience and wish you the best in your work - Keep going girl!

  • QueenVirtuous
    Mar 17, 2017
    Mar 17, 2017

    Dear Jolly,

    I'm so proud of the person you are and the person you have become. It's heartbreaking that the professionals who are supposed to help us keep well end up being the ones who take our wellness away and put an impediment on our bodies, often for life. But you took that impediment and turned it into an empowering force for yourself and others. That's what intrigues me about your story.

    Thanks for sharing. Thank you for loving and marrying the man who is now your husband. Thanks for living your life to the fullest in spite of your challenges and society's narrow-minded perception of the wheelchair. These insensitive folks, they forget that it could have been them, or could be them someday. I do not wish anyone ill. However, life is unpredictable. For this reason, we should be considerate of those with special needs in our midst as we do whatever it is that we do.

    You are stronger because you survived the trauma. Now you are unstoppable. Let your voice be heard.

    I'm looking forward to hearing more from you. You are welcome.

  • helen.ng
    Mar 24, 2017
    Mar 24, 2017

    Thank you for sharing your very inspiring story, Jolly! It was hard to read about your struggles and how hard you had to fight just for basic rights that are taken advantage by so many people. I am so glad that you stood up for yourself, having your voice be heard by hundreds of thousands of individuals, and opening their eyes to the pains that many disabled people must endure, but also the strength that they acquire coming out the other side. You are evidently a fighter, and I wish you all the best.

  • jwhybl
    May 15, 2017
    May 15, 2017

    You are an inspiration!  Thank you for sharing your story, not only of how you've held yourself high, despite others who try to bring you down ... but how you've used your voice to effect change at your company & hopefully many others.  

  • Tejaswini Tilak
    May 15, 2017
    May 15, 2017

    Dear Jolly, 

    Yes, you are beautiful. You are strong and powerful. You are paraplegic and we are proud of you. 

    I have always complained about the dismal public toilets situation in India for women - very often, we can't find loos and, when we do find them, they are usually dirty and unusable, as you describe. I don't think I ever used the washrooms in my school or college growing up - which meant 10-15 years of going 10 hours a day without using a toilet. I cannot imagine my kids having to go through this. 

    But, on a scale of 1-100, my problem was at 10 and yours at 70. 

    You have proved that you are a changemaker. Hope you seize and create many more opportunities for your voice to be heard - because it is powerful and inspiring!

    Keep going, girl!

  • sridevi k
    Mar 09
    Mar 09

    Dear Jolly,
    Every woman has to look up to you, U r really an inspiration to the world, U r indeed powerful and way above the rest of the world, courageous, fearless and inspiring every1 through ur deeds, U have tremendous potentiality to change the world by ur heroic way of life. Keep achieving greater heights in life. I wish you achieve many success in everything you do by the grace of Almighty.
    Lots of Love and Best Wishes
    Sridevii