My life story

Dr. Shyam Prasad

Assistant Professor

Central University of Kerala

             Success does not have short cuts or limits. If you are determined it will follow you. The author Dr. Shaym Prasad was born with Cerebral Palsy. With his strong will power and hard work he is now an Assistant Professor in the Central University of Kerala. He is narrating his life journey through this blog entry.

I was born with CP, a neurological disorder. Came out of jaundice within a week of birth. I am standing in front of you as a teacher, which I never dreamt of. Till 5 years I was totally bedridden. I've reached here though physiotherapy. I could not even hold a pen. At 6 years I went to school. Dr. KJ Menon advised my parents never to send me to a special school. They've only people with lesser IQ. So my parents, who were teachers, sent me to a normal school. My grandparents took me to school. They fed me into the mouth till my fourth standard. Afterwards, I strived to become independent. We believed in modern medicine, doctors, and physiotherapy. In the 1980s, the field of medicine had not advanced this much, my parents had to take me as far as 80 km for physiotherapy.

By class 5, I was almost like a normal student. I was a good student. Only mobility was my issue, not intelligence. I was better than many, but could not be physically active. My parents never created a feeling of inferiority in me. My parents told me about role models who have successfully overcome the limitations of disability like President Truman and others. I never felt any inferiority complex. My parents taught me that I'm equal to anyone else and supported me. From 5th standard I was in a residential school. Navodaya School.

My college days made me what I'm today. I traveled by normal bus to my college. Often I may not get a seat and would need to stand holding the bar. This gave me lot of Independence and confidence. My parents never told me No for anything. I was encouraged to do anything a normal kids or student would do. Cut classes and watched football match. I studied at Nirmala Giri College run by Catholics. I am a product of the support given by my parents and teachers.

 I participated in quiz competitions, college level and University level. At Nirmala Giri, I for the first time spoke on the stage. I passed with first rank with highest mark ever for PG in 2003. Applied for MPhil in two places. One of was 15 km from my home. The other was a bit far away, at CDS (Trivandrum). I chose the difficult option and came to Trivandrum. At least three films a month. CDS made substantial changes in me as an academic. MPhil and then PhD.

 I became an individual called Shyam Prasad during my PhD. Everything to be done individually. I went to conferences. Got the opportunity to travel from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and Mumbai to Guwahati. People would look at me with awe. The attitude of the society towards people with disability is not quite warm. Many ask me if I got job through reservation quota. The society looks at people like me with curiosity. I've been to Berlin and Tokyo. They do not stare at disabled. I've 15 papers. Job to evaluate NGO s in India. As part of this I had to travel widely including the interior parts of some states like Maharashtra. I had to travel by air, train, bus, but I never had a problem.

 I have many limitations and can't do many things others can do. I have the confidence to teach, research, and publish. I don't think about my limitations. I think only about my capabilities and competencies. Now I'm a teacher. My students have to evaluate me as a teacher. I can't write on board, but I use technology including power point presentation. Hence I'm competitive. About life, what I have to say is that we may have limitations that we can't do much about. We have to manage them and live. Differently abled is the term used internationally. Infrastructure needs to be accessible. Now things are improving and becoming disabled friendly.

The government, policy makers, and the society need the right attitude.

Not everyone may achieve what I could. My family has the right attitude and education. Sometimes money is also a factor. I'm from Kasaragodu where disability is more prevalent than other parts. Government needs to invest in supporting those people to become independent and be self-reliant. I'm thankful to my parents, doctors, teachers, friends… not everyone may be as fortunate. If I can influence others I'll be happy. The government and society need to provide some basic support.

Differently abled is the better word than disabled. United Nations charter is directed this way, since 1995. National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH), Trivandrum is also following the same. The Indian parliament has passed an act for differently abled a few months ago. The act ensures legal rights of the differently abled. Our British legacy has made us think of rights as favours received. The rights of disabled are rights, not favours. Every person is disabled in one way or other. Even the most perfect person may not be able to read an article and write a summary. Hence everyone is differently abled. I have certain imperfections. Each of you here also have imperfections. These imperfections should not be seen as limitations. At least in our own eyes. A sugarless tea is not considered imperfect, it's perfectly fine for many.

What I have to tell everyone: don't think you are imperfect or anyone is imperfect. It's a matter of attitude.

Thank you.