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The journey of my life till now
by Prasanth M Kumar

Prashanth 100x100.jpg

Born on the 27th July, 1980, I am the only son to my parents. Basically from a lower middle class family, my dad is a retired government official and mom works for a private newspaper firm. I guess knowing that their son is disabled would have been the biggest shock in their lives. But credit to them, they brought the resolve in their minds that they will not for a moment feel under-privileged. I got the best care, best attention, best gifts in spite of our limited income and most of all abundance of love.

I suffer from a condition called Meningocele, in simple terms means an under-developed spinal cord. This leads to complications in the lower part of the body, lack of control of your legs, uneven growth between the upper and lower body and bladder control problems.

I studied in school till the 7th standard and was forced to discontinue to due to ulcer in my leg (a side effect of meningocele which causes wounds to take a long time to heal). This forced me to take education through private tutors. I appeared for the SSLC in 1995 and surprising exceeded everyone’s expectations. Similar trend followed in my +2, but all my studies were still home bound. I took B.Com through correspondence and completed that in 2000. That year proved to be the turning point of my life. That’s when I decided to take control of my own life. All this love and protection is making me weak. I decided to live life in my own terms, the way I want it. For that I decided, I needed a strong education. I was a introvert personality full of inferiority complex. Some wise guy advised that I should do my MBA and it would help my personality. I took up that advise and finally “spread my wings”. I pursued my MBA from Maharishi Institute of Management, though not a renowned institute - it still provided enough scope to fine tune my personality. I met my first role model in life (my professor), who gave me opportunities to show my talent in the class, which led to acceptance.

Post doing my MBA, I decided to take the ultimate risk in my life. I traveled to Singapore (under the guidance of my uncle) in search of a job. Though I found a job as a Insurance Salesman, living there was tough. My job involved lot of travel and I didn’t make enough money to take cabs. I had to use public transport which after 5-6 months took a toll in my body. I was physically exhausted and not nearly making as much money as I was expecting. In addition to that the economy was going through a rough phase. I decided to come back to India.

After coming to India, I couldn’t find a job for 3-4 months. Finally I landed the role of a Marketing Manager in a small IT firm. I was fired in the 3rd day..reasons quoted pertain to the role involving a lot of travel and I wasn’t able to. That really shattered me. Not knowing what to do, I took an auto and went to a famous park in Chennai . I sat there for nearly 5-6 hours, thinking, contemplating what went wrong in my life. I decided to start my life again, from scratch. This time without the help of my parents.

I took the job as a call center executive (didn’t inform my parents that I was fired from my previous job). Those days if you an MBA and if you took the a job in a Call Center, you are a social outcast. You are branded incompetent. I spent a year in that company, still breeding that one desire to work for a world class company. That’s when I got a call from IBM where I was offered the same role in Bangalore with a small hike in my salary. I gave up a trip to the US in my current company and left Chennai…to join IBM in Bangalore.

This was a huge step. I had to live alone, feed myself, take care of myself which means washing, cleaning etc. Here’s when I met my second role model in my life. My first manager in IBM. He, for some reason, was very fond of me and provided me with enough opportunities. Having faced unemployment and the disgrace of getting fired, I realized this is a golden opportunity. I work relentlessly without paying attention to working hours. I used to reach office at 1 PM and left for home at 7 AM the next day. Almost one year went off like this. I was noticed by the leadership as a potential top talent. I was moved to the Quality Team, where I met my third role model. The Quality Manager kind of identified my talent and he gave something which I lacked all these years…an attitude of arrogance. He taught me how to be cutting edge in your work and also changed me from a timid guy to a flamboyant individual. He put me as the center of attention and with gods grace – I started moving up the organization fast. When he moved from Quality to HR, He took me along with him and promoted me to Senior Manager.

When I write this – I am reminded of one statement which a Swamiji made when I went to him during to my college days. He said “when one door closes – another door opens”. That’s a profound statement which has been true in my life.

As I started moving out, I realized the whole world sees the disabled with lot of sympathy. Unfortunately, the world also has a pre-conceived notion that the disabled are mostly incompetent for corporate roles. I had to over achieve just to be considered as normal. I am always motivated to do better than normal ones.

I stand at the cross roads of my life, current uncertainties include whether to get married or not. But I have decided to start working towards the cause of the differently abled. If I can at least touch one soul, and motivate him/her to achieve more – I think I would have lived a happy life…..

(Spina bifida is a condition that is characterized by the incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord, and/or meninges (the protective covering around the brain and spinal cord). Meningocele is one type of spina bifida in which the spinal cord develops normally but the meninges protrude from a spinal opening.)

The author writes regularly for CTH and may be contacted at contact@crossthehurdles.com