By Karthik Chandrashekar
[This is Part – II of Karthik Chandrashekar’s inspiring life-story. Karthik was born with cerebral palsy. Read Part – I.]
My school was where my life really began. I learned a lot about life and myself. Most important thing I learnt was that if needed help I need to ask for it. I always wanted to go to a regular school to get to know the real world, rather than being protected in a special school.
In Vidya Sagar, we get what we want without asking for it because they know our needs, whereas in a normal school, people may not know our needs and we have to ask for it. Unlike the mainstream school, the syllabus and examination system is flexible in a special school. We can finish our portion whenever we want. All this was fine with me when I was young and grew up in the protected environment. But when I grew older, I wanted a change and wanted to meet new people.
An ideal school should be like any other regular school but it should be disabled-friendly. There should be lifts ramps, if the class is not on the ground floor. There must be toilets for the disabled people. And it should give everyone equal opportunity to interact and use its resources.
I just wanted to be like everyone else, have fun with friends, and go out with them. I feel that one shouldn’t become my friend just because someone telling others to become my friend. That’s what happened at Lady Andal School, which I attended. The teachers asked the students to mingle with us, which resulted in artificial friendships.
When I went to Lady Andal for 11th and 12th, I was excited. But I must confess I was really disappointed. Academically, I achieved what I wanted. I scored 83 percent and was a school topper in my group. But I gained nothing else. I could not make any genuine friends. In the school, there were three of us with disability in the same class. We were left alone often, which made me particularly very sad. I wanted to move with everyone else but it did not happen.
In addition, there was this problem with a girl. She loved me madly but I did not like her at all. To take revenge, she told her father that I was bothering her. Her father shouted at me. My parents came to know about this and it became huge issue. After a long time, the girl apologized to me. But I did not even look at her.
I thought my choice of school was wrong and that I should have gone to Krishnamurti Foundation India (KFI) School. But at that time, I thought that the ICSE syllabus would be tough for me to handle. Also, I did not like the idea of my mother sitting with me in the class. The school said that someone had to sit with me to take notes.
My college life more than made up for my disappointments in school. Loyola College was amazing. I had made a lot of friends. I met my best friends – Vikey, Dheepak, Arun, Nitya, Adarsh, Aravind, Krisnaprabha, Suchi, Raghu and many more – there. My only disappointment in Loyola was that there were no girls. During college days, friends often came home but I could rarely go out.
There were plenty of memorable moments. Our Inter-college debates win on ‘India in 2020’. Twenty colleges from Chennai participated in the competition. Also, I can’t forget my fall down the slope with my wheelchair, when my friend Arun pushed me fast. I was bleeding all over and was very scared. But Arun was there and the fear went away.
I can’t forget the Coffee shop. We had so much fun! We prepared for our exams there. We used to chat over coffee and snacks. Most boys often lied that they had not studied for the exam, even if they had prepared well. There was this boy, who used to do this often. One day, all my friends caught him and beat him badly. He never lied again. When one of my friends wanted to impress a girl, he asked me to speak to her. I told the girl the truth. She poured hot coffee on my friend’s face and walked away. Once we were making fun of a Prof. We didn’t notice that he was standing right behind us. We were shocked and apologized to him a million times.
I loved my College library. It was a place where I spent even more time than I spent in class. But don’t be under the impression that I very studious. Rather, I used to read cricket magazines, Reader’s Digest, Chandamama, and newspapers. I can’t forget a funny incident. One day when I asked a staff in the library for a year book, he heard it as ‘A’ book. He was very angry with me. I had to repeat it to make it clear. All my friends laughed a lot.
I participated in the Bertram Chess tournaments and won a few prizes. I always wanted to win. To be fair, I had no time to practice and, naturally, I lost most of the time. But I made a lot of friends in the tournament.
I had this habit of asking questions in class, which sometimes annoyed my mates. I remember this American Literature class. Everyone was waiting for the class to get over, so they could go home early. Just as the class was about to get over, I asked a question to clarify a doubt. One of the boys threw a big chalk at my head! Though I was an English literature student, I loved Media Studies, which I had as an optional.
I particularly remember a college tour. First, it was decided that we – I and my close friend, Deepak, who also cannot walk – won’t accompany others. This made me so angry that I did not talk to anyone for a long time. They understood my anger, and I finally made the trip to Kerala. The entire class decided to take me along as they could not stand the sight that I was sad. Two of our close mates told they would take care of us and share their room with us.
The college tour to Kerala was damn good. The tour in itself was a mixed bag as most of the places were not accessible and disabled-friendly. The only place I loved was the Veegaland Amusement Park. I went on all the rounds and ate a lot.
I don’t think I have loved any girl so madly that I wanted to write poems for her. I have had crushes on many girls, which I later realized was not true love. I felt so insecure about my future that I wanted to marry as soon as possible and settle down. There was a time when I would propose to any girl of my age, who got close to me. This resulted in many problems and the breaking of friendships.
My most memorable moment in life so far was when I got to meet Sachin Tendulkar and the Indian team. I honestly felt like I was seeing god. He is such a simple person. He advised me to keep smiling. He gave me a small autographed bat, which I value like my life. I also met all the Indian cricket players. They are so jolly and down to earth. The World Cup win is one of the most satisfying moments in my life. I always wanted India to win the World Cup for Sachin Sir!
Next memorable moment was when I got to play chess with Anand Viswanathan. When I sent an email to Vishy Sir, he immediately replied and played chess with me in Vidya Sagar. He also became the Brand Ambassador of Vidya Sagar because of my request, which made me so happy. My first friendly game with him was reported on TV and in newspapers. He told me that I played really well, which made my day. I have played four friendly games with him overall.
I also met Vijay, the actor, during a shooting. He was so silent and soft. Ajith is another actor I desperately wanted to meet but didn’t find a chance so far. I have heard a lot about him. I love his acting very much. I like the fact that he has bounced back every time he is down and out. I would love to meet him.
I also did a program with the music director, Yuvan Shankar Raja. The program was telecast on Jaya TV.
And I can’t forget the Max Memory Demo I did in front of thousands of people. I did the perpetual calendar, that is, if one told their date of birth, I would tell the day of birth very fast. In addition, I memorized the names of the capitals of all the countries. I also memorized all Chennai city pin codes. I had attended a workshop conducted by Max Academy, which made this possible.
I also attended many disability workshops rallies.
The KFI Drama Fest has a very special place in my life. I have attended it three times so far. I really enjoy the plays and the discussions after each play. I like the fact that they respect and take our views very seriously. I have learnt a lot from these plays and the discussions. Honestly, I never knew that KFI took me so seriously.
Along with the memorable ones, I have had some sad moments in life: little failures in love, not finding a job, and my worries about the future. I had crushes on three girls. I declared my intentions to them but they didn’t show any interest. I always have fear about my future. I wanted to marry soon but that didn’t happen so far.
Despite doing everything I could, I still think I have not done much in life. I still need a good job and a good girl. I don’t know how to get a job. No company is willing to give me a chance. Yes, I am slow but, once I get used to it, I can do any job. While looking for a job, transportation always becomes a barrier for me.
I would like to draw attention to the fact that there is a hierarchy among persons with disabilities. A person affected with my condition, that is, cerebral palsy, finds it very hard to locate a job, while people with other lighter disabilities get jobs easily. All we need is a chance to prove ourselves. Without even seeing us work, most companies deny us an opportunity.
I had thought that it won’t be very difficult for me to find a job once I completed my higher studies. Accordingly, I completed an MA and an M.Phil. Many people had told me that persons like me would land a government job easily. But the government gives jobs to persons with mild disability.
What I am still looking for is a good job without transport hassles. But I am not very keen on a home-based job. I have attended many Job Fairs and interviews for the BPOs, content writing, online work, and library jobs. I have gone to several Job Fairs for persons with disability. Most of them say that they will call back but they never do. They say my voice is not clear or my typing is slow or that the office is too far off.
Because of all this, I have started a library at home. It is making slow progress. But I am hopeful.
From my account, you might think I am very self-centered. That is true because I love myself and I want to win always. I know that there are lots of wonderful persons with disabilities, who have achieved much more than I have. Nobody is perfect in this world. I have a lot of flaws in me. But I am a very serious and caring person.
This is a partial narrative to allow you a glimpse into my mind.
[Kartik Chandrashekar was born with cerebral palsy. He lives in Chennai. He has completed an M. Phil in English, a Diploma in Media Studies, an MA in History, a Diploma in Astrology, BLis, Basic Computer Diploma, and a Disaster Management Diploma. He runs a library from his home. Address: 81/D Tambah Road, West Mambalam, Arihant flat, Chennai – 33. Mobile number: 8122542365.]
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