The physical disability has never stalled him from walking too far to fulfil his dreams. And the wheelchair has never obstacled his plans to stand tall in life.
At 34, Akshay Kumar of Himachal Pradesh, who lost his mobility permanently after a surgery when he was few days old, has made it big for self, only with strong determination to brave the odds.
Posted as Assistant Professor in English at Government College, Dhaliara in Kangra district, he was recently awarded PhD degree at the convocation of Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla by the President of India.
But it has not been an easy task.
Life has tested Akshay at every step, especially as official systems are not attuned to see a disabled grow with capability.
“It certainly takes more time for a disabled person to prove is worth. You don’t find disabled-friendly infrastructure, environment and even desired reservation,” Akshay shared with The Statesman.
“I am lucky that my parents never took my disability as a hamper in my growth. My father told me in childhood that the only difference between me and others is that others use their feet to walk, and I will use wheel chair. This made me think normally,” Akshay hastened to add.
Akshay belongs to Seul village in Dadasibba area in Kangra. He is the only child of his parents.
Society, he said, had been supportive for him on the whole. So much that students from village would take him to school on their back and leave him at his home, walking on narrow village paths. Everything was so positive, however.
“I still remember, sometimes, the teachers in school would tell the class to come out and study under the sun. They would just forget me and I would sit haplessly, shivering in the cold inside for long hours.”
Till MA (Master of Arts), Akshay found it cool going, with things favouring him locally. The real struggle began, when his father, who was a government employee, died in 2006.
He faced financial stress and he saw his plan to go for MPhil riddled with problems.
“The varsity campus in Shimla was not disabled friendly. There was reservation for the category. They rejected my candidature for MPhil in 2007. Then I came in contact with varsity teacher and activist Ajai Srivastava from Umang Foundation. He helped me take up the issue at different levels, from representations to University to fight in the court for admission in MPhil and then PhD,” Akshay narrated.
Srivastava’s Umang Foundation paved the way for Akshay’s higher education and lent full support to him even for stay in the hostel on HPU campus.
This was again not the end of problems for Akshay. He had virtually been on roads, after completing his doctorate in 2015. He got the job of Assistant Professor three months ago, with false interpretation of reservation law one of the major reasons for delay.
“The private institutes reject disabled candidates out rightly. In the government sector too, inclusive approach is missing for disabled. The system needs to have better understanding of the disability and the laws for reservation of disabled in different kinds of jobs,” he said.