On 3rd December, I was invited to the celebration event organized by PRC (Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre – Pune) to mark the occasion of the “World Disability Day.”
I was apprehensive as I thought that it would be an all Army affair. The cleanliness and the order of the PRC was stunning. I was told that the soldiers and officers of Indian armed forces who are wheel chair bound due to severe spinal injury are housed there and they are treated there as well as spend their rest of the days in the center. I was eager to see more and know more.
Long time back, I was confined to bed for few days due to a small accident. Those days were so depressing because I had been very active all the time and suddenly I had been confined to the bed. I was always attempting to start my normal life just to convince the doctor that I can walk and I am normal. I still recall those seven days with horror and pray that I should never see such days back again.
It was only later I realized that the soldiers who met with severe accidents had a similar past. They were healthy and active young men when accidents happen. For some it was accident while riding or driving a vehicle, for some it was on war duties and for unlucky few it was as simple as injury while playing games like football. Such active people getting confined to wheel chair, not for few days or weeks, but for rest of their life was too much for me to think off.
Col. P.K. Mukherjee (Retd.) who manages the PRC had several stories to narrate. It came out clearly that these young men who have been robbed of their active life initially find it difficult to accept this status of their physical condition. They get into depression and need a lot of care and counseling. When they see several more like them in PRC, they start coming back and start accepting their condition. The personal care of the Army officers and soldiers who are deputed to take care of them do wonders in bringing them back to normal mental state. Eventually, one could see them smiling and doing things like any other normal person. They play, they pray, they work with whatever skills they could learn in their training and enjoy their life with their colleagues in the PRC.
The event organized had another touching side. Special children from a local school performed songs and dance inspite of immense challenge they had. It was very touching to see them perform so well and knowing that it took them several times more to practice than a normal child. Those children stole our hearts. I am sure, even the wheel chair bound soldiers too would have forgotten their own pains for a while looking at these special children and their lovely performances.
Few of the soldiers performed group and solo songs to a standing ovation of all the spectators.
Finally, the Chief Guest Maj. General L.S Vohra and the GOC Pune Sub -Area Maj. Gen. Neeraj Bali, SM had only one thing to say “Today is not a world disability day, but Inspiration Day for us”.
True, I was completely inspired and look forward to give back to the society in whatever way we could to help reduce pains and tears so that so many more like these soldiers and children can also smile with us.