Each of us has, at some point in time in our lives, received life advice from our personal life coaches – parents, siblings, teachers, mentors, kids, the vegetable vendor or the stranger sitting on the adjacent seat on the flight. Something that moved you, changed you or made a difference in your perspective forever. India Pages brings you these slices of life, shared by people from all walks of life; Writers, Photographers, Artists, Television Producers, Hands-on mommies, Entrepreneurs, and Engineers… Meet Nishant Khade.
“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get” – Forrest Gump
For Nishant Khade, life was a series of unexpected circumstances which left him with a lifelong challenge. But instead of becoming despondent, blaming God and destiny, and living with a sense of helplessness, he chose to transform his own life and that of others. Here in conversation with India Pages he talks about restarting his life from scratch, after an accident led to him being paralyzed neck downwards when he was in his early 20’s.
An accident changed everything. Did you lose faith in God during that tough phase?
When calamity strikes, it is human nature to question the almighty and doubt his existence. The accident had transformed me from a free-spirited, energetic 23-year old into a quadriplegic. However, when a situation poses a challenge, the Almighty sends a solution unknown to us. In my case, I believe God sent my mentor, best friend, and brother, Mr Arvind Prabhoo, who taught me that the show has to go on, and motivated me to rebuild my life from the scratch.
What inspired you to continue working despite the million physical challenges?
I am in awe of people who participate in Paralympics and win medals for their country! I admired late Stephen Hawking who carried out his scientific studies despite suffering from ALS. There are so many stories around us about people who have rebuilt their lives after major accidents. These stories inspire me to continue working despite all the challenges. I am of the belief that you must continue doing what you love until your brain and heart give up.
How did you get started with your organization that has brought together other paraplegics?
My friend Prabhoo and I realized that there was a lack of barrier-free infrastructure for people with disabilities due to which they weren’t able to travel anywhere. This gave us the idea of starting ‘Access 4 All Social foundation’.
Access 4 All provides wheelchair accessible vans in all parts of Mumbai, Pune, Nashik with knowledgeable staff and adaptable features in the van, that enables the people with disability to travel comfortably. We also provide ideas and consultancy to help the government authorities to create barrier-free infrastructure.
You have arranged for trips. What are the things you have had to keep in mind while travelling?
Travelling can be a major concern if not planned well. Considering that our body system is weak (being a paraplegic / quadriplegic) , we need to take a lot of precautions to ensure that we do not get bed sores, skin diseases, food poisoning, or any sort of health issues due to the change in weather.
We have to exercise daily and move frequently during long journeys to keep ourselves agile and to avoid bedsores. We cannot even afford to wake up late to explore the place because it takes us over two hours to get ready. So, it’s very important to plan a holiday systematically to avoid last minute hassles. Daunting as it might seem, I would recommend everyone to travel because it’s a liberating experience in many ways.
I want to build a barrier-free infrastructure and transportation for people with disability. I dream of a country where people with a disability can move freely without any barriers. To understand the accessibility in our country, me and my three wheelchair-bound friends participated in the “Beyond Barrier a road trip conducted by the Fearless Four , it was supported by Incredible India wherein we travelled across 28 states and more than 44 cities in India via road. We audited the Courts, Government offices, famous tourist spots, and universities for accessibility. We coordinated with local NGOs, government offices, disabled-department commissioners, dean of universities, state ministers including CM, Governors who helped us in this endeavour.
People often look at us with pity and say “ kya zaroorat hai itna karne ki, aaram se betho ghar pe, kyun takleef le rahe ho”. I want to break that notion and tell each one out there “Do not look at us with Pity”. People have to understand that if we are alive, it is because god wants us to live and we too have aspirations and wishes to see the world outside, enjoy, and explore the beauty of nature. We have the right to explore the world as much as they do. I implore everyone – disabled or not to travel and follow their dreams irrespective of the challenges.