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Perseverance Equals Success: A first person account by Sharmila Divatia

Sharmila speaking about inclusivity concerns and ways to make a difference
Sharmila speaking about inclusivity concerns and ways to make a difference

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” One realizes the truth of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ words only later in life. This I can say today, when I am 58+ and have been living life on my own terms for quite some time now. I am Sharmila Divatia, a survivor of encephalitis, a viral brain fever that I contracted in June 1970.

I was born in New Delhi in September 1964, and raised in a joint family, had a lovely childhood, a great school, a lot of friends. We moved to Baroda in April 1970 since my father had started work there. New school admissions for my brother and me were sought and gained and we joined school on 15 June 1970. The next day I came back from school and went to sleep, and went into convulsions and coma. I was rushed to hospital and was diagnosed as suffering from encephalitis. It was a full four weeks later that I regained consciousness. I am not aware of the trauma, though I can only guess at it, that my parents underwent during the period.

Though my life was saved, the virus took its toll. I lost motor control of muscles on the left side of my body; I could not talk, see, hold or walk. I remember trying to get off the hospital bed and falling. It was a terrible shock to know that one could not walk. But I was determined to not let nature take its course. It took years of extensive therapy before my speech was coherent and months before I could walk straight. I still have spasticity in my left hand and my speech is affected and these shall remain. I have cerebral palsy as a residual effect of the virus.

Cover of the December 2022 issue of The Teenager Today featuring Indian women's cricket team captain Harmanpreet Kaur

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Sharmila Divatia is the MD of Vardaan4u, Co-founder of Bringle, Co-founder of Ablekart.org and President of the Special Needs Council for the State of Gujarat.

Sharmila Divatia

Sharmila Divatia is the MD of Vardaan4u, Co-founder of Bringle, Co-founder of Ablekart.org and President of the Special Needs Council for the State of Gujarat.