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'Hope has the power to change the most adverse of circumstances' (IANS Interview)

 Balancing a job as the branch manager of a PSU bank with family responsibilities and writing a book about the journey of a child born with cerebral palsy is quite a tall order but Shikhi Sharma decided to soldier on nonetheless as success "is one step away from the moment you decide to quit".

'Hope has the power to change the most adverse of circumstances' (IANS Interview)

She was halfway through a love story that she was working on when one day she had a chat with a relative, Ajay Sharma, whose son Tapasvi was born with cerebral palsy.

"While listening to this story I realised that this topic of accepting differently-abled kids is something that really needs to be highlighted. The impact of certain instances shared by Tapasvi's father was so strong on my mind that I left my other book midway and started working on this book," Shikhi Sharma told IANS in an interview of her book, 'Unbeatable' (Srishti).

"The journey has not been easy," she admitted.

Due to her bank job, "it was not easy to write while handling job duties and family responsibilities at the same time".

She would start writing at about 10.30 at night after completing the household work and used to write till 2.30 a.m. and then used to get up again at 6.15 a.m. to finish the work and rush off to the bank.

"But today, when I see this book in front of me, I feel as if all the efforts have been worthwhile. The book had a very strong impact on my mind as it is a very sensitive topic. Being a mother myself, I can realise how tough journey it must have been for Tapasvi's parents.

"This book taught me two very important lessons, firstly that hope has the power to change the most adverse of circumstances. The second is that one should never give up. Success is one step away from the moment you decide to quit," Sharma explained.

'Unbeatable' is a rollercoaster ride through setbacks, determination, accomplishments and the power of love. It's an attempt to create hope that it is possible to achieve anything and everything. Along with a compelling story of a young boy, the book also carries information from experts on what cerebral palsy is, its causes, risk factors, forms and early signs.

As readers step in the book, it reveals that when Tapasvi, one of Ajay's twin sons, is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, he is perplexed but determined to go to the ends of the world to make Tapasvi's dreams come true, even though his path is littered with obstacles. Thus begins a journey where Ajay and his family go through a series of experiences which equip them to understand the intricacies of cerebral palsy and support Tapasvi through thick and thin. Readers can also get inspired by Ajay's resolve to make his son feel like second to none.

The book is Sharma's attempt to create hope that it is possible to achieve anything and everything despite a disability.

"I am really passionate about writing and ardently believe in channelising my literary talents to tell meaningful stories which have the power to touch lives and make an impact on the world. I have always been confident about achieving things in whatever I put my hand in. This book has changed me as a person and taught me the true meaning of life, of holding on and never giving up," Sharma said.

The end result is quite heart-warming in Tapasvi's own words.

"There are so many people who are putting in so much efforts so that I can have a better life. My life is a product of series of sacrifices made by my family and friends to ensure my happiness. Instead of letting this thought bring me down, I use it to strengthen my self-confidence.

"I don't have any other option but to succeed. I have always strived to focus and do well in my studies. Reading books is like meditation to me.

"Once, during one of my exams, a writer cancelled at the last moment due to some unexpected circumstances. My father had to beg a 12 standard girl to become my writer. My father was folding his hands to convince the girl to help me so that I don't lose out on my studies. And, I couldn't do anything other than watching from behind the curtain.

"I know I should be grateful to every single person who has supported me in my journey, but is it fair for them to help me by keeping their own comfort and happiness at stake? How can I ever evaluate myself if I am using the help of writers?

"From day one, I had a choice. Either I could let myself drown in self-pity or I could take my father's hand and carve my path towards a bright future. I never thought that I wouldn't have a good life because my father was always there for me. It is his faith and conviction that has made me into the person that I am today.

"Once, I was sitting in my room when my father entered. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'Tapasvi! I want you to be independent'.

"I felt extremely happy to know that my family considered me worthy enough to give me responsibilities. It was a very gratifying moment, but my war isn't over yet.

"I want my father to not to worry about me so much. I want my brother to live a happy life, without sacrificing his dream. I want to become an inspiration to others. My physical condition is not a disability, it is my ability to do different and extraordinary things.

"This sun that you see every day, it shines with its own light. Apart from rising magnificently, it spreads its light benevolently and illuminates the rest of the world. The moon graciously borrows its light from the sun and glows with its own might.

"My father has always been the sun of my life. And I am the moon. I always hope to learn, evolve and grow under his nurturing care."

Tapasvi, who is now 25, has cleared the written exam of the Rajasthan Public Service Commission for a lecturer's job and is awaiting an interview call.

Tapasvi is lucky to have loving and caring family that has helped him grow. But, are the systems in India adequate for dealing with countless other children/adults with cerebral palsy? What are the lacunae and what needs to be done to remove these?

"No, I will not hesitate in saying that the system is not adequate at all in dealing with differently-abled children and adults both," Sharma said.

"Private schools don't give admission easily to these kids. Also, there is a lot of differentiation in accepting differently-able girl and boy child. The society is very rigid when it comes to accepting a differently-abled kid. One more thing that I observed is that in most cases, the blame for giving birth to a differently-abled kid is put on the Mother which is very wrong," she added.

"This book has really taught me a lot, it has moulded me as a person. This book taught me the power of hope and acceptance. The differently abled kids can do wonders - all that they need is a chance," Sharma concluded.

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