Miss Wheelchair India 2015, Beautiful Smile winner Srilatha KS tells Parvathi Benu that barriers in life aren’t the end of it
Almost a decade ago, Srilatha KS was a youngster, new to the big city of Bengaluru. She crawled through the streets and travelled in BMTC buses hoping to find a job as a fashion designer.
But that’s an old story. Today, she is a senior practitioner in accounts at IBM India. The 33-year-old is the winner of the ‘Miss Beautiful Smile’ title at the Miss Wheelchair India pageant 2015. Hailing from Siruguppa in Bellary, Karnataka, Srilatha was like every other child until the age of three. She was affected by Polio and lost the ability to move her legs. “After that day, my childhood was between hospitals. Someone would always suggest a hospital better than the other and my parents would take me there. But there wasn’t any improvement in my condition,” she says. Her mother home-schooled her and she joined Class IV in a regular school at the age of 13. After completing her PU, she moved to Bengaluru to pursue a Diploma in Fashion Designing from Indian Institute of Fashion Technology.
A designing job was her dream. But physical disability stood as a hurdle all the time. “Everyone liked my designs, but they wouldn’t give me a job because of an access problem,” she recollects. Not losing hope, she joined a call centre where she worked for a few years. After three long years life changed when she attended the India Inclusion Summit 2013. She started working for the NGO, Enable India. Then one day, she was told that IBM was looking for a differently-abled person. But there was a compulsion – she had to use a wheelchair. She had never used a wheelchair until that point, she had only crawled everywhere. “My family couldn’t afford a wheelchair back then. Also, I would need someone to help me carry it, which I did not like. I wanted the world to see that I’m independent,” says Srilatha. Miss Wheelchair India was totally serendipitous. Coming across a random Google ad one day, Srilatha thought of giving it a shot. “I happened to see the ad and sent the nomination. I was the only contestant from Bengaluru. Later, I was shocked to find, on their Facebook page, that I was short listed,” she says.
A modelling dream had now come alive. She designed her outfits herself. “I would explain my designs to my mother and my sister-in-law who’d go out and buy the materials. My sister-in-law would help me make the clothes too. I’m confident about my designs,” she says, proudly.
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