When Ramswaroop was around four years old, he fell ill and wasn’t expected to survive. But survive he did, though his legs became progressively weak. His parents did the usual round of hospitals and temples and today, he is left with 70 per cent strength in one leg and 30 per cent in the other.
All this hasn’t stopped him living a full life. The 39-year-old from Bhopal is married; he and his wife Rajni have two children: one-year-old Kunal and seven-year-old Suhani. His parents and a younger brother and sister live close by in Shahpura. After he finished Class 12 he trained to be a physiotherapist. He uses callipers and crutches and thanks to the government’s policy for persons with disabilities, he gets them at a nominal price once in three years. He fully utilises the rail concession he is entitled to. He can climb stairs, travel on buses, and drives a modified car and two-wheeler. As part of his physiotherapy training at the Composite Regional Centre for Persons with Disabilities, Bhopal, he needed to go to Delhi by himself for a couple of weeks, which he did.
Determined not to let his disability come in the way of his ambition, Ramswaroop focussed on bodybuilding, particularly as his father struggled to get him educated. Today, he does his taxing physiotherapy work as well as any other able-bodied person, standing for long hours his job entails. He works with a private organisation where children with various kinds of disabilities come for physiotherapy. He also does house-calls for those unable to get out, or where families are unable to bring them out – either due to social stigma, or embarrassment, or inability.
At one point in his life, he worked in a factory that helped to make chairs for people who needed support to sit – mainly those with cerebral palsy. As he learned more, he opened his own setup – studying the patient, figuring out their needs, designing the chair, and then getting it made by a carpenter. Later, the market for such chairs dwindled because readymade chairs became available and at a much lower price than custom-made ones. Moreover, the carpenters he was working with also moved away from Bhopal. However, if anyone approaches him today, he willingly designs the chair and asks them to get it made for themselves elsewhere.
Ramswaroop believes one should never accept defeat. He says has never considered himself less able than others. His scooter has three wheels and the car has automatic gears, with a hand-operated brake. Such modifications were quite expensive and difficult earlier, because everything had to be imported. Now these modifications are done locally by the manufacturer at a far cheaper price.
His marriage was a “love-arranged” one. His wife was a friend of his sister. They liked each other, the families met and agreed to the match. His disability has never been an issue with them. During his years as a teenager and young adult, there were sceptics who would discourage his father saying that he would amount to nothing – that he would not be able to survive or take care of himself. Now, he says, he is as well-off as any of those people's children. He has never faced any discouragement from anyone in his family. They have never been embarrassed about him, and have only encouraged him to pursue his interests.
As for his dreams, he has achieved them all, including flying on a plane as well as a helicopter! He is confident that whatever he sets his mind to, he will achieve because he has never thought less of himself in any way – never thought that his disability was lack of ability. He cooks, plays with his children and does everything the average person does. He knows of many people with disabilities whose families never took them out, never prodded them to independence. His parents, however, did the opposite. And look how he turned out!