Meet the Man Who Turned Disability into Ability

Shreenarayan Yadav

 “He will be good for nothing without his arms. It is better that he dies otherwise who will take care of him?” was the reaction of Shreenarayan’s father when the doctors told him that his son’s arms will have to be amputated if he is to survive.

Shreenarayan Yadav was just ten years old when he suffered an electric shock while trying to pull a wire from a tube well perhaps to water plants. This had happened in his village Mudadar Maniyar in Mau district of Uttar Pradesh. He was rushed to a hospital in Mau where seeing his condition doctors suggested amputation of both his arms shoulder downwards to save his life.

“How can one let a child die?” Shreeenaryan’s mother was shocked to hear this. As the family looked for alternate treatment, the boy’s condition improved after taking some herbal medicines as much that doctors felt his arms needed to be amputated below the elbows and not from the shoulders. A surgery to amputate both his arms below the elbows was performed in Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh where his father worked for a living.

“My father was still not happy as I could not do much. He would often scold my mother for supporting me. It was difficult to watch my mother being abused every day. I too wanted to find out some way out of the situation to be on my own. With the help of some money given to me by my mother, I decided to travel to Delhi,” shared Shreenarayan. With the support from an influential person, he was admitted to a Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Institute in the capital where he got artificial hands.

“They fitted artificial hands but they would break whenever I tried writing,” explained Shreenarayan.

“Why don’t you try to write using your elbows?” a worker at the hospital suggested.

At his suggestion, I tried to hold a pen with my elbows, it was difficult initially but with continuous practice I was able to write. He never used artificial hands after that.

“My disability became my ability.” Today, he is a well-known name in Allahabad and beyond for empowering hundreds of physically challenged in every which way. “One has to fight for everything in life, nothing comes on a platter,” said Shreenarayan who went to Allahabad for graduation after completing his school.

“I realised too soon that one has to struggle even to access legitimate rights because of rampant corruption in the system at every step. Even to get a room in the hostel was not easy,” he said. He formed a group to fight for the rights of physically disabled – organized protests or even resorted to hunger strikes to demand what was rightfully theirs.

What began as a small fight for the rights of the physically disabled in getting hostel accommodation or fulfilling the quota of seats for them in education, became a lifelong mission for Shreenarayan to empower the challenged with financial independence and fight for their inclusion in the mainstream.

For making ends meet, Shreenarayan worked as a part time tutor. After completing his graduation, he qualified to teach in schools for children with special needs. After clearing the written examination for teaching in a school for visually challenged children, he had to appear for an interview with the board.

“How are you going to write and teach in Braille to the children?” asked one member of interview board. “I asked for permission to demonstrate,” said Shreenarayan who impressed the board with his performance and speed with which he wrote a piece in braille using his elbows. At the end of the interview, the board told him – “If you clear this interview, it will not be because of consideration for your physical disability but your merit”. Needless to say he got the job.

Before his marriage, Shreenarayan’s mother would often lament as to who would marry his physically disable son. Although he was lucky to find a life partner (his is a love marriage), he knew that parents of children with special needs found it extremely difficult to get their children married. “I felt more than the financial independence, physical disability was the biggest hurdle when it came to looking for a life partner, especially among the weaker or lower middle class people. The situation was worse for girls,” he explained.

As a first step Shreenarayan started arranging marriages within the group of physically disabled, he had formed. He said, “Approaching a girl or a boy for matrimony by the physically disabled was not easy. We started arranging meetings and then if the two parties agreed, the group would get them married.”

In a short span of time, Shreenarayan was able to create a huge network of the philanthropists and resourceful people willing to chip in their time, energy and resources to mainstream the physically disabled , ensure a dignified life for them and even arrange their marriages. The expenditure on the wedding and gift items for the couple to start their life together are arranged by the Samaritans who are a part of the network. In over a decade or so, 350 such marriages have been arranged.

Shreenarayan undertakes all these social activities during his spare time after the school hours. A dedicated teacher, Shreenarayan has also won state award for his contribution in the field of education.

Time was when his own father wanted him to die, today not just his family but hundreds of physically disabled men and women owe their financial and emotional independence to Shreenarayan, who is never tired of working with a missionary zeal and he still retains the undying spirit to fight for the cause of justice for all.

Sarita Brara is an independent development journalist, who has previously worked as an editor and All India Radio (AIR) correspondent.

Charkha Features



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