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A Bundle of Contradictions

I was a runaway topper in school, college and university, but when it came to my work, I realised that my past was confined to my efficiency & competence on the job, very much like a record-breaking cricketer, who, for his team, was as good as his current performance.

I was born in a well-educated but middle-class family but was pampered like a princess. My parents exhorted that discipline was higher than pampering, and I maintain it to this day.

I did not have it easy because of my disability. The ‘enabled’ persons fail to understand that disability is not a single entity but a spectrum. With reference to locomotor disability, people presume that one was not differently abled if one were not ‘on a wheel chair’ or ‘on crutches’. Many a time, I was refused help on this presumption!

Often we keep uttering the words, ‘I can give my right arm’ for this or for that. It actually happened to me. With a slight change. To my left, instead of the right, the entire left side, instead of the arm alone, and in a deal which I don’t remember having done in this birth. Often, I would ask my parents the stereotypical questions, with a twist, ‘Why is God so angry with me that He punished me with hemiplegia?’ or, ‘Did you ever regret having me, the lame me, for a child?’

My mother would reply, ‘God is never angry with you. You are the best child in the neighbourhood. You are unique & different, don’t worry’. My father would chip in, ‘Not every parent can be blessed enough to have a daughter like you. The punya (good deeds) of our previous births gave us this privilege. We’ll bring you up like no other can. We will prove that we are worthy of God’s grace’.

They stood by their word and devoted their lives for my upbringing. My sweet little sister never ever got curious about me. She just supports me when required.

I suffer from hemiplegia, which is a rare type of cerebral palsy. I can walk on my own but only for short distance; I find it difficult to climb stairs. People are, no doubt, curious to know about my disability but are far from being empathetic. It took a while for me to understand that a blocked and unempathetic mind had a greater disability than mine. Thank God, I wasn’t so disabled as them!

The doctor issuing my first ‘Disability Certificate’ a few years back wanted to check with ‘the previous one’ to take note of changes, if any. He was surprised that this was my first one. Needless to add, I did not invoke any reservation at any point in my life, even while appearing at the life-changing Civil Services Examination- hadn’t me and my family concluded long ago that it was meant for those divyangs (disabled), whose education would have been adversely affected by the disability?

I guess many people opine that divyangs (disabled) are not entitled to confidence and cheerfulness. I saw many eyes turning green given that I defied the stereotype that they defined in their mind! After all, how much do I owe to the world that I should abide by its stereotypes?

The Surya who went inside the hallowed portals of IIM Bangalore had the habit of taking a lot of negativity in her stride but the one who came out one year later would not want to get hurt by the energy vampires, but still be empathetic to their insecurities & emptiness.

Despite this, there was a phase of my life when I was frequently ill, but was holding a heavy charge which did not allow me the luxury of taking leave as frequently. Some days were so bad that I wondered if the end were near.

From this situation, I discovered the power of meditation, which gave me happiness & exuberance. A fully recharged me emerged out of this! The pie in my hand, called time, expanded to help me include a lot of activities in my daily routine & even reduce the number of drafts a story had to go through before finalization. Amazing, I thought! If only I had practised it earlier!

Happiness is something I cherish. I have always tried to be happy despite whatever I went through, primarily because of my loving family. Now, I have started to dream big post-meditation- I want to undertake the Kailas-Mansarovar Yatra. Given that I am a bundle of contradictions, my Divine Father may actually make it a smooth rather than a bumpy ride!

2. Cerebral palsy to writing

Dr. Surya Lakshmi Chellapilla – A 2000 batch Indian bureaucrat ranked 218 in the UPSC exam, Surya works for the Indian Railway Accounts Service. She has a Ph.D. in History from Andhra University and PGPPM from IIM Bangalore. Despite her cerebral palsy, she was consistently rank holder throughout her educational career. She says “The real journey began in 2015 when a junior in college, Shri Rajesh Yalla, encouraged me to write in Telugu and also monitored my progress.   In just over five years, forty-two stories and one novel got published.  I write so that the society around me can become better.  What I write about are the values I follow.”

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author.

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December 3, 2020 2:44 pm

It inspires so much, thank you for sharing your story!

Akshaya Narasimhan
December 3, 2020 5:07 pm

Very Inspiring story. Thanks for sharing!

Bhaswar Mukherjee
December 3, 2020 7:08 pm

Surya… I am so blessed to have made your acquaintance! Your inspirational journey and especially not to seek the excuse of your affliction for all that you have perused is especially impressive. The phrase “People are, no doubt, curious to know about my disability but are far from being empathetic. It took a while for me to understand that a blocked and unempathetic mind had a greater disability than mine.”… Will remain with me for a long, long time…

December 4, 2020 12:08 am

Though I can proudly say that I was your childhood classmate, reading your blog made me realise that I was too immature to realise the gravity of your situation back then. After reconnecting with you in our school WhatsApp group, your writing skills caught our whole group’s attention. After reading your blog the reality finally hit me. You are a shining example of scaling all possible barriers, be it physical, social, mental, psychological to ascend and establish yourself firmly in our minds, hearts & souls!!!

December 4, 2020 12:38 am

[…] A Bumpy Ride with Cerebral Palsy […]

Murthy Vadapalli
March 17, 2021 2:27 pm

Hi Surya, having grown up together as neighbours, never felt anything different about you. The only complain I have and had was, whenever I wanted to go out to play, my mom used to take your name and say ” look at how she studies all the time…learn from her” Trust me I used to curse you for being the reason to my mom’s anger on me. HAHAHAHA… Life has taken many turns but we remained the same even as grown-ups. I am very proud of you for your success and more than the success, your humility. You are an… Read more »