Be in love with your failures because you will see them more often. And if that’s not the case with you, then you’re probably on a wrong track.
Born in 1983 and blessed with a mysterious disorder which is slightly close to Congenital Myopathy, I am an independent IT consultant and a software engineer in India. I have done my Masters in Computer Applications (MCA) from IGNOU. I am also a graduate in Indian Classical Music (Visharad) and have undergone regular formal training in singing for 9 years. Professionally I chose computers as my career as I am very passionate about programming and developing software. Oh and yes, people call me “Sumit Mehta“. 😉
"Why Am I Sharing My Story!"
The reason of my writing is to bring two things majorly into light:
- If you feel that you are not a disabled person, you can do a lot in life.
- Always have faith in God. He is always with us, in good times as well as in bad times.
It not at all means that I have done something extra-ordinary in life that can inspire anyone but I would just like to share some unforgettable moments of my life with you along with the difficulties that I faced and their outcomes and how God and my family helped me at every stage of life.
I have a joint family. We are two brothers. My brother is 9 years elder to me. He is married and has two kids. I am having the physical disorder since birth. I was referred to PGI (Chandigarh) immediately after my birth. After full examination, doctors said that it was one of the rarest cases where this form of disability happened at the time of birth because normally such disorders happen at a later stage of life. But I take it positively, thinking that I am really very special as I carry a rare disorder.
First few years were very difficult for my parents as they had never expected such a thing after having a first physically normal child. They went for every possible treatment at different hospitals and doctors, be it Allopathy, Homeopathy, Ayurveda or even the non-conventional treatments. But doctors had already clarified them that this disorder didn’t have a treatment. After trying for a few years and losing their time, energy and hard earned money, they settled down and accepted the things as they were. Fortunately, I am blessed with a normal brain and everything was normal except the development of my muscles.
"The Phase Of Education"
Education at home..............
My education started at home. My parents were worried to send me to a normal school. Their worries were genuine. During young age, children fail to handle the innocent jokes and pranks done by their classmates. This generally affects the social development and can leave bad traces on mind which can affect the whole life. So initially, people living around my home started teaching me, some for money and some without money. There was one lady in our neighbourhood who was very dedicated towards her profession of teaching. She worked really hard for me, so much that she would even prepare question papers for me so that I could feel the pressure of examinations and know about the school environment. There were also a few more people, who taught me and made me ready for schooling.
At this time, besides education I was very much loved by people living around our home. There was a homely environment on the entire street of houses nearby and I used to sit at the top most bench near the gate of my house and see the whole street. I was very talkative and every passerby used to talk to me. There were some young girls who took me to their homes and I used to spend the day with them. They treated me like their child or brother. They used to take care of me in times of emergencies, when my parents were not there.
Formal education starts.............
In the year 1992-1993, I was admitted to Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Sector 27 Chandigarh which is in itself a very renowned school across my city. My dad took up the great responsibility of dropping me to the school and taking me from the school everyday in the middle of his busy schedule and hectic private job. I was admitted to the special cell which was basically for the kids who had mental disabilities. Though initially I was not very comfortable with those kids but during the course of time, I realised that people with mental disabilities are real gifts of God. In fact I would say that they are here to balance the cruelty of the world. I can’t forget their unconditional love.
After a few days of my attendance in school, they started loving me so much. They were really my care takers in the school and used to protect me from the other kids who were more aggressive in behaviour and could potentially harm me. The teachers were also very loving and caring. They gave me all the possible chances to show my talent and skills.
Key takeaways from this phase of life....
Here, I want to highlight two points. One is that my parents were never shy about my disability. They never kept me in the four walls of the house ever since I was a kid. In fact, they also got me a tri-cycle on which I could just keep fiddling and sometimes I would even cross miles on it with my friends. There was a routine of all my friends to go to the temple every evening and sing devotional songs. Secondly, most of us feel that people sympathise with those having disabilities. May be some people did have sympathy in their hearts for me, but I always feel that I was purely loved and not only sympathised. Some sympathy comes out naturally which is not bad if it is accompanied by love, affection and dedication.
"My Hidden Talents"
I started learning sketching and music during this period due to the insistence of my teachers. I started learning sketching from a private instructor and music at Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, both in my city only.
In fact a very funny but memorable incident happened when I first met my sketching instructor. After looking at my hands, he was seriously in doubt whether I would be able to sketch or not. He asked me to draw an apple. I sketched it successfully and he was very surprised. My dad asked him “Chalega sir? (Will he be able to do it sir?)“. He replied, “Chalega nahi, daudega (Not just he’ll be able to do it but he will do exceptionally well)“. Me and my dad never forget that incident and his words.
I got a number of chances to participate in drawing and singing competitions. I got an opportunity to perform in front of Mr. Chibbar, the then governor of Punjab. I was also interviewed by most of the newspapers and also at the radio station in Chandigarh where I also performed classical singing, however that was a few years later. I also managed to win 2nd prize in drawing completion at city level and then 3rd prize at the district level during 1997-1998. It was my privilege that I got a chance to perform at reputed centres like Chandigarh Tagore Theatre, Maharashtra Bhavan and also received a special excellence award at district level. I was also offered a scholarship from Army school but I couldn’t accept that as my parents were reluctant to send me to a normal school and in the middle of normal students at that time.
"A New School Environment"
In the year 1995-1996, my parents realised the need of proper schooling as the education quality at the special cell was relatively low in according to the needs of those special kids. Considering my future, they got me admitted to a normal school, called St. Michael’s School which was located near my home. It was a small school and I studied there for 3.5 years.
The first day at the new school i.e. 7th July 1995 was a terrible day for me. That time I couldn’t speak English and everyone was talking in English. I tried speaking as I could understand everything. But I still remember I was given my first recital on the festival of Rakshabandhan and my teacher made me feel better than others. The behaviour of other children was a real surprise. They never made fun of me and always loved and helped me. A point worth highlight here is that if you are positive and consider yourself as one of many others, society accepts you too.
I still remember that on my first term exam, I fell severely ill due to the pressure of normal level studies. My score wasn’t very good in those exams but it was the continuous support of my teachers and parents that in the next exams and also in the following classes, I scored the highest marks in my class. I really thank my teachers and everyone for this.
In 1998, I left the school after passing my 8th standard and then pursued my studies through correspondence studies. I completed my 10th and 12th from National Open School. By the year 2002, I passed my 12th standard and also became a graduate (Sangeet Visharad) in Indian Classical Music (Vocal), thanks to my music teachers Sh. Arvind Sharma and Smt. Anita Sharma.
"Some Sincere Feelings"
My parents are a real support for me. I recall one incident that will show you what important role my parents have played in my life. In 1994, there was an occasion of my cousin’s marriage. I was playing with my cousins and they were running here and there and I was also running on my tri-cycle. Suddenly they climbed a step and moved towards the garden but I couldn’t go there and felt depressed. I landed myself around the gate and started crying. My mom discovered and asked me the reason behind me sobbing there. I told her the entire scene. She just said “Why do you think that you can’t do what they can do, why don’t you think that you can do so many things that they can’t!”.
Those words by my mom settled in my mind very deeply. To be honest, that was the last day when I cried upon my disability. I always thank God that I have been blessed with such a beautiful life where I have all the facilities, financial backing etc. I got a divine brother who always loved me and somewhere he too had to sacrifice his childhood as my parents were more inclined to me. Most of all, it’s my parents who took me everywhere and always made me feel that I am just like others. Whatever I could do, it’s all because of their hard work, love and care. I deserve nothing out of this.
One more person without whom my life is incomplete is my uncle Mr. Sudarshan Gupta. He used to learn music with me and later on, we became very close. He is my life guru, friend and guide. Uncle has always been with me in every tough situation of life even after moving to USA.
"Computer - A New Part Of My Life"
Moving ahead, in 2002, a big turnaround came to my life and a small box called ‘Computer’ came to our home. I started learning computers and eventually I found that it was something I wanted to do. No doubt music was always close to my heart and I always wanted to be a performer. Due to the physical limitations and keeping in mind the comfort of my parents and also my new found interest, I decided to choose computers as a career option. However in those days I was very much stressed as I couldn’t decide convincingly and people who knew my music background wanted me to pursue it further. But I played the biggest gamble of my life and started working for what I chose. That was where the real challenge of my life unfolded.
Until that time, I had received everything relatively easily. But now life started showing the difficulties. The biggest problem was that it was not easy for me to go out and learn computers as majority of the centres were located at top floors and there was neither a ramp nor a lift. This is a point of highlight. It is very disappointing that government as well as the service vendors pay little attention to the needs of the physically challenged people. Later, me along with my friends also appealed to the local court to make the city wheelchair accessible.
University education starts.......
So I started learning myself. Some people came into my life who promised me to teach or help but never did that. I felt really bad to see this gesture though I still thank them for showing me the right path in life even if they couldn’t keep their promises. Moving ahead, I started learning Graphics Designing and Desktop Publishing first and later went deeper into programming. I tried my hands on languages like C, C++, Java, VB etc. I still remember that I made my first software for an inventory warehouse and got Rs. 4000 for 45-60 days’ work and my family was very happy that day. However that software couldn’t succeed much and I was very depressed. I didn’t lose heart and went ahead, did improvisations in my techniques and my second project for property dealers in 2005 was a success.
I realised that keeping the job consideration into hand, I needed to have a degree in hand in computer science. So after a gap of three years i.e. in 2005, I decided to go for my second graduation i.e. Bachelor in Computer Applications (BCA) from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). However it was very difficult for me to resume studies after such a long time and that too of a specialised branch i.e. computer science.
I started my BCA in 2005 and also continued my research studies in programming side by side. On a suggestion of one of my friends from USA, I started learning Java so that I could learn the core concepts of programming like OOPS etc.
Tip for young programmers....
I want to highlight one point here, especially for those who are new to programming. Starting my programming by learning C++ first was a mistake and a bad suggestion by someone in my view. You should take it easy and start learning some easy-to-code language like Visual Basic.NET. But it’s very easy for you to have a false belief that you can make a good software very easily in VB.NET as it is quite easy. VB is fun to learn in the beginning and can really help engage you in programming which is really important initially but once you have got good hands at VB, move to some other profound language like C++, Java or C#. The core concepts of programming will be more clear by learning those languages and you will be a better coder.
"Meeting The IAMD Family"
During 2004-2005, one of the best things of my life happened when I met the then president of Chandigarh chapter of Indian Association of Muscular Dystrophy (IAMD) Sh. Gurbir Singh Kocchar after he had read my interview in ‘The Tribune’ and called me to meet him. He told me about IAMD in detail and in 2005 I got a chance to meet Ms. Sanjana Goyal, President, IAMD. I am attached with them since then and my life is not complete without the IAMD family.
In 2005, 2006 and 2007, I attended the camps of IAMD and I was not in much notice of the people. I was a new member and it was only in 2007 when I got a chance to attend the first national camp at Chail, Himachal Pradesh. One thing that was one of the very new experiences in my life was travelling with a group in a train for Jaipur and Jodhpur camps. Both the camps were awesome, especially Jodhpur camp as I was also assigned duties for the first time. But my journey with the group and that also in a train after 15 years was a remarkable experience for me. IAMD also brought many new people to my life and many of them became very close friends at personal level.
In 2008, I completed my BCA and till then, I was close to Ms. Sanjana Goyal and started participating in some small activities. I was keen to be an active part of IAMD and they also motivated me and encouraged me and it’s just because of it that today I get a chance to speak to so many youngsters for their career and other types of counselling.
IAMD brought some changes in my life....
IAMD brought significant changes to my life. I could never feel that I can live outside of my home for a couple of days without my parents. But on the endeavour of Ms. Sanjana, I went to Solan to participate in a program organised by the ‘Art of Living’, as a part of IAMD’s team. I stayed at her home for two days. I was completely alone, with none of my family members with me. And I managed to stay there without any problem with the supportive help of their care-takers. I realised that day that I could also live an independent life if I have an attendant with me. Besides this, IAMD made me aware about the usefulness of a powered wheelchair and today, I am almost 75% independent at my home due to that.
IAMD has a unique way of inspiring as most of the members managing IAMD are themselves people with disabilities. Since they have seen the challenges themselves, they are the right people to inspire others and what they say is actually a true reflection of their own lives.
The year 2008 was the best year for me as God made a turnaround and I got my first job in an Indian IT company which was operated from USA. My job was unique because I was a regular salaried employee but I was still operating from home. In the past, people used to discourage me that I won’t be able to get a regular job at home. I used to feel down also but I always had hopes. I knew if I am honest and hard working in my field, God will never let me down. My association with that firm continued for one year and I learnt a lot of business techniques, client dealing etc. I got full opportunities, in fact more than others to deal with projects and clients.
In 2009, I also started my MCA and went on to complete it in 2011. Also in 2009, I got a big offer from an Indo-Canadian firm. I accepted the offer, though my old company didn’t want to leave me but the new offer was so good that I was compelled to switch over. The nature of the job was same but I was a manager here and my responsibilities and work was a lot more versatile.
In 2012, I decided to work as an independent consultant. Now I am doing independent IT consultancy and freelancing. One of my long-term clients has worked with me for 6+ years now (as in 2019) and I am one of the lead developers in one of their B2B products, which is used in market research. The product is doing quite well in the markets of UK and Australia and we have plans to expand it across USA and Canada too. It has been a great experience to be a part of this project.
"My Perspective Towards Life"
So that’s my life story in brief. One thing I want to mention is that it is only your belief that makes the difference. Consider yourself as a normal person and then see the magic. In my life, lots of miracles have taken place by the grace of the divine. If you look at my hands, you will think that I can’t write but I have written my exams on my own and finished them in the normal time frame of 3 hours. In BCA, I took admission under the general category and not the physically handicapped category. It’s not easy but it’s also not impossible.
However I have such a strong faith in God that he is the only one who operates me. By God, I don’t refer to any deity, I only mean the supreme power operating this universe. I sincerely believe that I am not intelligent enough to complete my studies from 8th standard to MCA without any classes (except Mathematics). It’s all his blessings and I feel his presence in my life and believe that he teaches me when I am studying. And of course, as I mentioned above, the love and care of my parents also played a major role.
My friends and relatives have also played a major role in my life. They never make me feel like I am some different than them or their children. My colleagues also take me as a normal person. I never face any kind of discrimination in my work. Of course little bit of adjustments are inevitable part of life everywhere but one has to adjust to those and be at peace.
"A Ray Of Hope"
Today when I see most of my friends being married, it is difficult to maintain the state of mind. Like everything, marriage is also an important part of life. I am not after it but I am writing this because I want to let people know that keeping a ray of hope is not bad. You will only be loved by someone if you first learn to love yourself. Many disabled people say that no girl would love them. One in my very close relations also said to me that I should never think that someone may fall in love with me. But I always have had a hope. I don’t expect but hope is there because God has given me everything in life. And even if that doesn’t come in, life is not all about it. But never let yourself down by saying that no one can love you.
Looking at my physical condition, anyone will say that it’s impractical and not possible. I know all that and maybe it will be difficult for me also to accept that whenever if it comes. But it’s not bad to hope that someone may love me someday and be my true soulmate.
So in the end, I would say that life is too short to live with regrets. Enjoy every bit of it. Realise your strengths and see the difference.