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CTH Story of Sai Padma

Copyright © 2010 Cross the Hurdles. All rights reserved.

Cross the Hurdles brings you the inspiring story of Ms. Sai Padma who has achieved success despite of all the odds that came in the way. Here are the excerpts from our talk with Sai.

Sai Padma in her own words

One wonders what to write when asked to write about one self. (At least I believe so!) I thought my life is so simple, so normal and so naïve like any other girl. Until I came to know suddenly that I am physically challenged.

I am first-born child of my parents, both doctors; born very healthy, like any child they had innumerable expectations before my birth. Was a very healthy child until I was viciously and completely affected by polio at the age of one and half months! my parents were devastated (normally doctors as a parent can never digest something so problematic can happen to their own child, they kept the vaccine preserved for the use at the age of 3 months) the attack was so fatal and final that there were days when my mom prayed to god to take me away instead of suffering like this, if god has listened to her, I would not be typing this of course! According to WHO guidelines, the minimum age at which the polio vaccine is administered is after 3 months of birth. Later it revised it’s decision and given the guidelines that the attack on me was full including my voice, several shock treatments (the only treatments available then to move limbs and make them vital and alive again) my voice and upper limbs had become active and normal, but like many things in life which lost value and sheen with time, maybe the magic wand of shock treatment lost its magic when it came to both my legs, so it couldn't revive them to normalcy. But, that magic worked on my voice. I still cannot believe that I did a diploma course in Classical Music and people around me say I sing very well.

I finished my graduation in commerce along with diploma in computers and carnatic classical music (weird combination?) I joined CA, there was skepticism itself on taking me in that tough course, being first objection as woman and, second as physically challenged.

After I finished my CA inter, I got operated for a condition called gross scoliosis (twist of the spinal cord, crushing lung space, which can be life threatening) so a surgery was necessary again, they did it in 1996, major spinal cord surgery for a total of 18 hours. I recovered well, by just sheer grit that I might have a purpose in living after all the physical pain and trauma of physical and emotional imbalance. While thinking all these I finished post graduation in commerce and a degree in law.

Presently I am doing my MBA (finance) and I wish to study the finance factors in various disability issues and make woman more economically independent, the first step towards relative freedom. Wish to study the efficiency of various programs and their help really coming out of such programs with regard to Indian disabled.

Today I walk, do all my works. I have great respect for my physical condition which made me realize life in real terms. A peaceful and happy person I am. The problems of humanity really move me. The love I feel for nature and humanity and some special people makes my heart mellow and relaxing.

I started working for the trust established my father, I felt that I have found my self in helping others in the small way I could. Presently I am working as a chief executive/trustee for the trust, handling finance, legal and communication matters, which involves primary education, healthcare; healthcare to physically challenge and elimination of child labor. Catering to the challenged whether they are socially, mentally and physically challenged has become my dream. I have put maiden steps towards it, as I felt the need that they need to understand and enjoy life as it comes.

Educational Accomplishments

  • Graduate in Commerce- B.com from Andhra University, India.
  • Post graduate in commerce- M.com from Andhra University, India.
  • Graduate in Law – B.L (Bachelor of Laws) from Andhra University, India.
  • MBA (finance) from Andhra University.
  • Chartered Accountancy (final) equivalent to CPA (certified public accountant).
  • Post Graduate Diploma in Computer Applications.
  • Diploma holder in Indian Classical music


  • Melvin Jones Fellow by Lions Clubs International
  • Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International.
  • Special recognition award from “Jayanthi Foundation, USA” for Services in empowering disabled in State of Andhra Pradesh, India.

My Website: http://www.globalaid.in

My Blogs:

Quick Fire!

1. Favorite movie(s)
I am a movie freak, many favorites- Hindi- khub surat, black, tare jameen par, anaamika (old), 3idiots, Aandhi, Any movie with positive theme English- A beautiful mind, Sound of Music, A roman Holiday, Titanic, Shlinders List, Forest Gump, list is endless here too!

2.Favorite books
Toughest question for me on earth, I would rather say my favorite writers/authors- Ayn rand,Ken Follet, Paulo Coelho, OSHO, Jhumpa Lahiri, Stephen Hawking, Khaled Hosseini, John Grisham.

3. Favorite color
White, baby pink, black.

4. Craziest thing that you have ever done in your life
Every important decision in my life looked really crazyyy at that time. Later it proved, when I accepted the reality and mistakes, people started seeing that I work hard!

5.Most Valuable thing that you have purchased till now
My cell phone Nokia N95- I am greedy still as I am a technology addict. Still looking for some more goodys like apple iPhone etc..

6. If you are marooned on an island what 5 things you would like to keep with you
My wheelchair, Leg braces, endless supply of books & food, writing paraphernalia, Oh forgot my spectacles!

7. Favorite food
Not a foodie.. enjoy both south and north Indian dishes. Any thing Spicy/masala chalega!

8. Your biggest strength
My Courage. My husband Anand, My parents, My aunty and uncle (not necessarily in the same order!)

9. If you take birth again, who would you like to be born as? Sai Padma Only, but With more wisdom to start the same work, earlier and for disabled in focus. I am a happy person. Every adversity is an opportunity.

10. The thing(s) that you hate
Hypocrisy, Double standards, Autocracy, Making human relations a business.

11. The first thing you do right after awaking up in the morning
I will sit and meditate. It can be 5 minutes or 50 minutes depending on my physical condition. Then try to shift into wheelchair with stiff hands and legs…hahhaha

12. The last thing you before falling asleep in the night
Talk to my husband about the day. Read for 10 minutes.

13. You prefer sons or daughters?
Daughters of course; I feel I can raise them better than boys

14. Oft-repeated word/sentence by you
There is ABILITY in the word DISABILITY itself- focus on that.

15. If world is going to be destroyed in next 5 minutes. What would you do during this time?
I would call my parents and aunt and uncle and my mother-in-law, friends and would tell them “You have not only taught me the value of life but enabled me to enjoy it fully- I love you so much!” And simply hold the hand of my husband and enjoy the death coming near us!

16. What was your resolution on the new year?
Not to react to set-backs. There is so much to do. Focus more on disability centric programs and projects.

17. The best gift that somebody can offer to you?
Nokia 9900 touch or Coolest Laptop. ( I am shameless and got to be modest also when someone gifts!)

18. Your bedroom take fire what would you rescue at first?
My Wheel Chair/braces

19. The town/country that you want to visit?
An accessible trip to all wonders of the world

20. If you can meet one person of your choice, dead or alive, known or not, who would this be?
Mother Theresa, Jiddu Krishnamurthy, OSHO, Hellen Keller, Ernest Hemingway,

21. If you could change one thing your past, what would it be?
I would change the delay in my perceptions on GROWTH AND ACCEPTANCE OF DISABILITY PHYSICALLY, EMOTIONALLY, PSYCHOLOGICALLY! If such delay is changed, I can help many like me in this journey!

Interview of Sai Padma by CTH

1. Did you find any problems while you were doing your studies..I mean did lack of infrastructure in the Indian scenario pose any kind of problems for you?

Yes, like many disabled I faced many difficulties in studies especially in accessibility. On top of it, most of my education was in rural areas especially schooling and junior level which caused much discomfort in attending schools run in thatched sheds where every day sand struck in my calipers, trouble walking and taking steps, rains and poor infrastructure in schools, open-air classes where I had to sit on grass etc.. Coming home with wet leg braces and mud was a common phenomenon. I went to school by a rikshaw, could only walk small distance with crutches and friends support. You can imagine the plight of a poor disabled person! They had no option. I used to fight with teachers to put classes inside, but they were helpless with limited space.I owe everything I am today to my friends, who supported me like anything!

2. How do you manage your day to day activities...a brief description...i.e. with somebody's help or you are able to cope up with routine activities yourself?

I can attend to my daily activities from the beginning. My grandmother trained to me to do so. In new places I need someone’s help. I use locked wheelchair or any solid chair for get around in bathroom like transferring from commode to wheelchair etc.. with leg braces also, I wear them in wash room. Best accessible I felt so far is in US and some places in India (Hotels where accessibility is given importance)

3. How did you can your wife/husband came you got together...was it a love marriage or an arranged one?

Well, strangely we met online. I was looking for consultant for our educational projects and came across Anand ( my husband) profile. I mailed him and interviewed and he worked in our organization as program head for a year. He visited our organization on and off. Our friendship really grew and we became good friends. Then I got an opportunity to volunteer for political fundraiser of Mrs. Hillary Clinton by a south Asian American group. Parents were hesitant to send me alone. I asked Anand to accompany me and he also applied for volunteer ship. That time in USA for 6 months, made us understand each other. But marriage never crossed my mind, as I felt I am not cut out for that. But when my sister and aunt wished to ask about our alliance, I proposed him saying that, if wishes to say NO I can understand that, and will convince my people not to ask him again. But he said, he likes the idea of spending the rest of his life with like minded person, but wants assent of his mother, as he wants his family should accept a person on wheelchair. There were some initial ruffling, but again my mother-in-law sensed how much anand wants to be with me. Said wisely- “ what is disability, if tomorrow something happens to me, I may end up in wheelchair, that’s not an issue as he feels happy doing it!” this is a great gift from a relatively less-educated ( she is only HSC pass) person. Today she is one of my best friends. We got married 30 months back and we both are very very happy!

4. How does your spouse take your disability?

Anand has no problem with my physical status. He loves helping in small chores which I can’t do due to my disability.

5. What would you like to change in your life if you got one chance to change?

The way people treat you with pity. I feel that I am changing that in people’s minds on a daily basis. But still lot needs to be done.

6. Do you feel India is a disabled friendly country? What all needs to be done?


7. Have you ever felt any kind of emotional outbursts or complexes due to your physical status? If yes then how could you manage it??

As a child I was “yes”- mainly because I could drive, dance, do this and that etc... But it did not turn into a complex because of my Grand Mother again. She was the one who counseled me tirelessly and instilled one quality which is not taught in best colleges/universities- ACCEPTANCE AND COURAGE

8. What are your hobbies or leisure time activities?

I write poetry. Published a poetry book. Music is my passion. I love to practice yoga but not too disciplined, a very bad quality.

9. How do you react when somebody pities you?

I WILL PITY AT THEM! In our village, when people used to stare me walking with braces, and a big limp.. I used to stare with the same feeling into their eyes. THEY HAVE TO AVERT THEIR GAZE …ISN’T IT ????

10. What message you would like to give to the persons suffering from some kind disabilities?

Accept what you are and love yourself. Growth follows your life Live life with courage. Courage is such an essential quality we inherently possess it, which is lacking in many so called normal people. WHO IS NORMAL ANYWAY?

11. Have you ever been discriminated because of your disability?

Yes, by some close people as a child, I was unaware of the fact that they are ashamed of my disability, But not as an adult. Most discriminated I felt at temples where I was not allowed to enter with the leg braces. I stopped going to temples.