When we spoke to Savita Nishad (27) from Mahasamund, Chhattisgarh she had just finished celebrating Diwali with her 35-member joint family, with diyas and fireworks and the whole shebang. “I get scared of firecrackers but I still burst them to conquer my fear,” she told us. It’s a statement that captures Savita’s tenacious spirit. As a person with 80 per cent locomotive disability, she says, “My whole life has been a struggle. I have fought for everything I have today.”
Savita is the youngest of three siblings. Their father works at the railway station, loading and unloading goods on trains. Predictably, the village school had no special facilities for pupils like her. “It was tough for me to climb the stairs,” she recalls. Her sister Kavita stood by her side all through, but discrimination is something that she had to battle on her own. She tells us pointblank: “I had absolutely no friends. None in school, none in college.” She has experienced society’s prejudices against persons with disabilities, but has also seen positive changes. “Earlier, people would pretend like we never existed. When we came to their attention, they would disrespect us and that used to hurt. But I feel things are getting better now with education and awareness.”
Savita became a wheelchair user only when she started college. She graduated from Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharya College and went on to complete her M.A. in Hindi in 2020. “At home I don’t use my wheelchair,” she explains, “because the body needs constant exercise. It is like a machine that needs to be maintained!” She does use her wheelchair at work, though; over a month ago, she got a data entry job in the local RLC Multispeciality Hospital.
Alongside a determination to be self-reliant, a spirit of altruism has taken root in Savita. She plunged into social work, joining Unnati Divyang Sangh, an organisation that helps primarily the disability community but also other needy persons to get their government IDs and documents, informs them about various government schemes etc. She watches a lot of motivational videos. “They inspire me, especially those by Sonu Sharma [a motivational speaker with his own YouTube channel].” She ‘pays it forward’ by putting out her own “funny and motivational” reels in her spare time, in an attempt to inspire others.
In 2022 Savita was one among the 100 ‘empowered women’ who received an award at the Nari Shakti Summit in Raipur at the hands of Chhattisgarh minister Amarjeet Bhagat. When Chhattisgarh's first fashion show for persons with disabilities was organised in March 2023 by Shruti Foundation and Shri Shankaracharya Mahavidyalaya, she enthusiastically participated and was the runner up too! “I have always wanted to do something in fashion, but never had the opportunity,” she says. Another honour came her way in 2023 when she received the Nayika Sammaan from the Hindi newspaper Nai Dunia. This is an annual award that the paper gives to women who have contributed to society. She was awarded for her work towards helping others and being an inspiration.
“I love music and can sing well,” Savita tells us. She has sung at district level programmes, patriotic songs being her preferred category and “Uto Jawan Desh ki Vasundhara Pukarti” being her favourite number. Despite all her achievements, there is a natural and deep-seated desire within her that is yet to be fulfilled. “I wish for a life partner who is always there for me, cares for me, and will give me all the love I want.”
Savita says her motto in life is “One should be so successful that one can bring a smile to the face of someone who is needy.” We hope she also succeeds in finding a loving partner who will bring smiles to her face as well!