Pratishtha Deveshwar, a third year student at Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi is the first wheel-chair bound Indian to study at the prestigious Oxford University. Her inspiring journey from fighting for her life after a fatal accident, to getting admitted in one of the best colleges in Delhi University and then securing a seat at the Oxford university stands testimony to the fact that people with indomitable faith and determination can achieve anything.
A few years ago, a severe car accident left Pratishtha with a spinal cord injury paralyzing her lower body for life.
“YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO WALK AGAIN IN YOUR LIFE.” This is what her doctor said 8 years back, after her family met with a horrendous car accident that crushed four vertebrae of her spinal cord completely. Her medical reports were not positive either, according to it she lost her bladder and bowel control and the ability to feel or move anything below her chest, Pratishtha lost the ability to walk forever.
The accident had not only affected her physically, but also had a detrimental mental and emotional impact. Unfortunately, due to the negative attitude that many in the society posses towards the people who are differently abled, relatives and acquaintances started to discourage her parents from investing in her education and called her a ‘liability’. However, she didn’t give up and kept fighting for her dreams, working hard each day, not letting her adversities affect her. Eventually she topped her class 12 board examinations and got admitted into one of the country’s best colleges- Lady Shri Ram College, in the University of Delhi, proving all who discouraged her wrong.
“For years I knew of nothing but pain, isolation and failure. I remember crying my eyes out for days and telling myself that this was the end of my dreams, my hopes and perhaps, my life. But it was not. Because it never is. That accident or my wheel chair do not define me. I am bigger than what happened to me. I am what I choose to be,” says Pratishtha while speaking to DU Beat.
Life is full of challenges, but for Pratishtha her condition makes the challenges even more difficult and it is only with her resolute will and determination, she overcomes the challenges at every step of her life moving towards her goals. Even after securing admission in to one of the best colleges in the country, her parents and her well-wishers were hesitant to send her to Delhi from her small hometown as she was differently- abled and required their support for her daily living, but she didn’t give up and convinced her parents to send her.
“Everyone advised my family to not to send me to Delhi because I’m differently-abled and was dependent on them. So, it would be impossible for me to live alone. But the word impossible was never in my dictionary”
exclaims Pratishtha, who was soon seen on Delhi roads, seated on her wheelchair, shopping with carrier bags on each side, living all by herself with no depending on none.
“I started living by myself — did grocery shopping, paid bills and even travelled, by myself, almost the whole of the city in the metro train”said Deveshwar
Apart from excelling in academics, Pratishtha has also been an advocate for the specially abled people’s community and has spoken at several events and is also one among the the six people to be awarded the fellowship by I Can Lead, a fellowship programme for disabled women, launched by Mumbai-based NGO Rising Flame.
Pratishtha’s steely resolve didn’t let small minds or her condition convince her that her dreams were too big. She continued to dream big, work hard and stay focused, which made her reach her next milestone- getting admitted in one of the world’s most prestigious universities- Oxford.
“I applied to Oxford because their course on public policy is one of the best in the world, and I?got through. In fact, I’ll be the first Indian who is wheelchair bound, to study at Oxford,”says Pratishtha
Pratishtha intends to study there and then return to India so as to use her knowledge for the betterment of the people with disabilities in the country.
“One thing I have learnt through all these years of the trauma of an accident, loss of my control over my own body, the challenges of restricted mobility, the struggle of accepting my new self and denial of rights to finally getting into Oxford is that – No matter what you are going through in this moment, no matter how difficult it is; it will pass and there will be a better tomorrow. I assure you of that my life is an example of that,” said Pratishtha
The optimism and inspiration one derives from Pratishtha’s story is infectious and strengthens each one of us with a will to stand up to any adversity we face with a positive frame of mind and to overcome all hurdles to reach our goal. The strength and passion she exemplifies in her daily life must be imbibed by every individual to explore possibilities and overcome challenges in life.
Featured Image Credits: Hindustan Times