Well, meet Ms. Abha Khetarpal, aged eighteen (that’s when she started writing poetry in Hindi, so the way she has grown is just biological number), founder and principle counselor of Cross the Hurdles, a resource and counseling website for persons with disabilities, a triple masters degree holder, a teacher to the university level students, a compassionate company to her friends around the globe, a counsellor with a difference, above all a person with disability due to polio and suffering from post polio syndrome, above all, a loving friend and great woman!!
Abha contracted polio at the age of two and half years. Her parents being migrants from Burma were not aware of the disease and vaccine was not administered and she was affected with polio in a train journey. Nothing could be done really for the fatal loss which reduced Abha’s mobility completely and limiting her to wheelchair finally. My parents tried every thing Abha says with a determined acceptance and a loving tone, “There was a period when I got all, massages from pig fat to the innumerable assistive devices in the name of rehabilitation”- Abha confirms the plight of a person with disability even residing in capital of country and only daughter of academicians. “I am glad they were into academics.. I inherited the love towards studies naturally”- she reiterates like a happy student who understood the real fun in academics, which led her romance with studies and writing on various subjects including most intricate counseling, psychology, literature, poetry among other subjects like economics. “Teaching is my bread and butter i.e… sorry daal chawal”, Sweetly laughs Abha. She runs a coaching centre for graduate and post graduate level students, which is the career path she has chosen.
As a kid, studies eluded her as schools were not accessible, they couldn’t include a person with disability. One school agreed finally, but post those schools again distance mode education. But acceptance of condition and adapting to it is so necessary, declares abha… that gives enough strength and see the life from different perspective. Numbers of surgeries were done on her including a spinal cord surgery to help her stabilize where now she has to live with 8 inch iron rod in her spine for the rest of her life. That’s the surgery that was prescribed to protect my lungs… Abha says matter-of-factly. Traversing the virtual world, like a fish in sea of smiling faces, who sees only ability but not disability, made Abha continue her writing and counseling with sheer determination to help others. She wanted to ease pain of others, make their journey easier and fun! Hence there was the birth of Cross the Hurdles www.crossthehurdles.com which is soon going to be a registered Non-profit. Abha is trying to get her romance with words in black and white…she is trying to get her books published. We see the accomplishments of a person, and say,,,What a wonderful work she has been doing! A friend said sometimes back, by saying so, people closes their share of responsibility and a common understanding and sharing and trying to respect and help. People just simply say- you are great, you can do that!!. Such things are common in every disabled person’s life, especially woman, their emotional needs are grossly neglected Abha says. To help many such persons who are living, buried in their own fear prisons, Abha started free counseling through her website. She believes in virtual counseling. When asked, “Will that be helpful?” She confidently says, “YES…they confide in a voice than a person who is face-to- face and sometimes they confess their innermost fears, including their sexuality problems etc…” Kudos to Abha, who is doing the job of listening patiently, she puts an unimaginable 30 hours per week on social work, without expecting anything in return. It’s my job; she answers calmly, “I can understand us better!”- is Abha’s motto in continuing her relentless counseling sessions. “Now I don’t plan too much, Abha says with enlightened acceptance, I like to do one by one, to the extent of my energy, I don’t fear anything anymore”- Abha confirms.
career is one problem many persons with disabilities facing on a daily basis, Abha sighs. Most of the options available are not accessible at all, and if they are, most of the disabled can’t afford it! She is of the opinion that, India needs many more committed leaders with the same focus so that many students with disabilities can contribute in the process of development.
“Marriage and finding a companion is another problem we face”, she opines. “We are not a society conducive to open talk about issues and further the expectation on a wife/companion is much higher with a stereotype belief that women with disabilities are a burden, they can’t bear children. That belief is there among disabled men also”- Abha says with a wry smile. “Society thinks a Pwd is asexual, family thinks we only have career needs, men with disabilities think they can love us only if we are not disabled, friends think we are great… all leading sometimes to our own self-portrait more scary than we really are!’ Abha summates her experiences in a nutshell. And further adds, “I don’t want any disabled person to succumb to helplessness and deep depression. I wish to help as many as I can to come out of that abyss!”
This is the journey of simpleton Abha Khetarpal, a small, slow and sure candle turning into great radiance, that’s what her name means- Radiance. ““now days, I don’t plan too much, Abha says with enlightened acceptance. “I like to do one by one, to the extent of my energy, I don’t fear anything anymore”- Abha confirms. On responding to question how she wishes to death should knock her door, she says, “While I am sleeping!!” and what her epitaph should say, she answers instantly-
“ABHA OR THE RADIANCE WOULD NEVER DIMINISH!”
You can read more about her views and news on www.crossthehurdles.com and www.abhakhetarpal.in Talking to Abha made me think about Lov’Ability of disability. Presenting my version of sheer respect to the hidden love that world needs