Make It Count

I fought it and Make It Count!!

“Progressive Muscle Disorder”. That’s how the doctors at Vellore Medical College described
Muscular Dystrophy. I was diagnosed with it when I was 2 years old. After 12 years the real
meaning of the phrase hit me in the face. For a kid in Class 6, “rogressive muscle damage”
means I couldn’t ride my new Hero cycle or challenge my friends to a race anymore or had
to do away with my love for cricket, badminton or our world famous “catch-catch” during
lunch breaks; basically I had to give up anything related to walking. My father bought me
crutches, then a walker and lastly a wheelchair which needless to say is as important to me
now as limbs to a normal person. It was this period of transition in my life followed by many
moments during lunch breaks, P.Ed class, computer labs and after exams when I used to sit
alone in an empty class for hours, that I had realized and had made peace with the fact that
my life would be as drab and boring as the first half of this article, but fate had other plans.<br/><br/>
I have made some really good friends in my 15 years of the school. By the time I finished
school I had done it all. I used to attend every class and lab in my weekly schedule
irrespective of which floor they were in including P.Ed class, lunch breaks, extra curricular
activities which used to happen in the top most floor of a different building, class bunks and
whole other stuffs I cant mention here; everything without a wheelchair. My friends used to
carry me in their arms and made sure I experienced life the same way they did – I never
asked them to but they did it anyway. There is something about being a grown up and still
being carried by somebody. It teaches you humility. The ogling eyes discomfort you a little
initially but then you start understanding them and their thought processes, a skill that has
come very handy for me.<br/><br/>
Bike riding, going to movies, pandal hopping during pujas or even just sitting on the sea
shore at night with friends act like windows for me, windows to see a world like everybody
does, a window through which I can momentarily step out of my family’s caring umbrella
and face life. It’s a different experience all together, intimidating sometimes but always
wonderful.<br/><br/>
All the glittery things we were told about life in IITs were not true. The campus is all big,
large and beautiful wherever the eyes went except for places where they didn’t. There, one
would find unkempt places, neglected facilities, struggling students and frustrated lives – I
had my share of all of the above. For starters we were allotted a room in the handicapped
quarters – if you can call that one. I and my mother stayed in a one room flat with no
kitchen space and two necessary beds and a bunch of Institute provided furniture which
barely left a small space for a person to wriggle across the room let alone an entire
wheelchair to go through. For the two years that I stayed there I frequently found myself in
Dean’s office complaining about the absence of drinking water in the quarters for which we
had to go to the nearby guest house and get insulted by the in-charge or the sewage
wouldn’t get cleared and filled the entire place with smell or even the fact that weeds and
wild plants filled the space around the building acting as a breeding ground for thousands of
different insects and snakes. Seriously, in my two year stay I came to know how many
different species of insects actually exist. We had to sleep with our faces covered even
during the super-hot months of May-July In case if any one of them decides to take a safer
refuge.<br/><br/>
To be fair the Institute has grown a lot responsive to student issues. From RUOK initiative to
improvements in the CDC I have seen some bold moves for the betterment of the student
community. Personally speaking, it was because of Institute’s support that I could afford the
expensive trip to IIT Kanpur for my Flight Testing Laboratory course. Given I had some initial
trouble getting permission to enrol myself in swimming but the Director stepped in and now
a year later, I complete 160-200m everyday by myself. Due to the issues I faced in my earlier
apartment I was given a new one, a much better one. There are still some aspects of
campus life that are not handicap friendly like the absence of lift or ramp in my department
because of which my friends and my helper had to carry me and my wheelchair up and
down the stairs multiple times a day for last 5 years. Same is the situation in Vikramshila
classrooms, the big auditoriums, older halls of residence which limit the access of people
with limited locomotion. But of late the Institute has started addressing the needs of
specially-abled people as we can see with the newer classroom complexes like Nalanda with
its ramps and fully equipped separate toilets for disable people and in newer halls of
residences like LBS; even B.C.Roy hospital is getting its own lift.<br/><br/>
In my initial days when I had no helper my mother pushed me all through campus and made
sure I can attend my classes. She had been limping for quite sometime now, boneloss I had
presumed. All that limping and pushing deteriorated her condition, still I never heard her
complain. Sometimes out of the blue a student or a security guard would ask my mother to
hand me over to him, go home and rest. I remember Piyush da from the Agricultural
Department suddenly took hold of my wheelchair and casually asked my mother to leave
me to him, that he would get me to Vikramshila for my classes and back again which he did
– now I had never met Piyush Da before that moment but that moment was all it took to
restore my faith in the place I had come to stay. Over the years a number of people helped
me to get through my struggle, some unexpectedly while some after a lot of effort.<br/><br/>
My years in KGP have been filled with extra ordinary moments with friends, unplanned
vacations, late night partying, organizing and conducting events, kurta-phar Holi, last minute
efforts to win competitions, late night horror movies and the list will keep going as I keep
digging up memories. Every win in a competition or a successful event developed my skills
and confidence while every failure developed my character. What remained constant
through all of them is a small circle of good friends that I made on the way, people who I
know and can trust and vice versa.<br/><br/>
“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find
out why” – Mark Twain<br/><br/>
Not everyday in IIT was sunny and beautiful for me. Some days were full of failure when
nothing seemed to go right while on others I would drown myself in TV series and movies to
escape the reality. In those times I would be reminded of the empty classrooms from school
again. But I guess this was a necessary part of the transformation. I have learnt more about
my-self and life than engineering in these years. And through all of these I found what I
really want to do in life, what I want my career graph to look like.<br/><br/>
Back in my first year I worked on a startup idea GetItEasy which is similar to Olx and Quickr.
It failed. It failed like an ill prepared student sitting for the IAS. After 3 years I have started
up again; this time with a better idea, better plan and most importantly a better team. This
startup is named Gunpoint Technologies LLP and is India’s first developer of Battlefield
Simulation Gaming which is an evolved counterpart of LaserTag gaming. After winning
competitions, overcoming the herculean task of convincing my family who is dead against
business, hiring people from the campus and completing product development, we are all
set to take the simulation gaming industry of India by storm.<br/><br/>
Looking back I finally understand that everything that happened to me and to people
around me, every tiny little thing was absolutely necessary for me to be where I am today.
The life after college might be dauntingly tough for me but atleast it will be worth knowing
that I am doing what I love. The rest we will see and figure out.<br/><br/>
<b>- Arpan Bose<br/>
Dept. of Aerospace Engg.<br/>
IIT Kharagpur</b><br/>


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