CHENNAI: From the outside, 27-year-old Siddharth Jayakumar is like any other banking executive, but when one delves deeper, his life is an inspirational tale that speaks of grit and determination. Siddharth, who was born with cerebral palsy, is a noted TEDx speaker who has been invited on several platforms to talk about his experience. Malvika Iyer, the founder of Global Shapers, lost her arms and legs in a freak accident that cast doubts about her future. But today, years after the incident, Malvika, who is in her 20s, is a dedicated social worker, motivational speaker and a model for accessible clothing in India.
Siddharth and Malvika, both based in Chennai, are among the 15 highly-motivational heroes profiled by writers Sudha Menon and V R Ferose in the book Gifted- Inspiring stories of people with disabilities that was launched here recently. At the launch held in Starmark, Siddharth and Usha Ramakrishnan, chairperson, Vidya Sagar, were in a conversation about the book.
Siddharth spoke about how important familial support and institutional recognition were in the lives of the differently abled. Sudha said that the book was an attempt to create awareness in a country where very little is done for the differently abled. “We don’t have enough amenities for them, be it in transport or public spaces. When you compare the scene with the West, where disability is part of mainstream, here it is a very abysmal picture. How many toilets do we have for the section of people or for that matter, what about facilities for them in public spaces like parks? This observation infuriated me and I wanted to pen a book about them,” she told CE.
Sudha and co-author Ferose, who has a five-year-old autistic child, and founder of the India Inclusion Summit, began working on the book in 2012. Over two years, they met over 30 people from across the country with very different kinds of disabilities. However, 15 stories were selected for the book.
Sudha, a journalist-turned-writer who has books like Legacy and Leading Ladies to her credit, says that writing the book changed her as a person. “The book opened my eyes to their capabilities. Normal people probably use only 10 per cent of their potential, but those with disabilities use 200 per cent of it. When I spoke to each of the heroes in the book, I realised that they didn’t whine or complain about difficulties. Today, I have immense gratitude and contentment for what I have.”