By Jamuna Rangachari
When a freak shooting accident made Rajendar Johar a quadriplegic, this one-time occupation therapist rose like a phoenix from the flames of his former life to become a great humanist and social worker, says Jamuna Rangachari
There are some people whose purpose in life appears to be to redefine the word impossible for themselves and others. One such is Rajendra Johar. His life is hinged on a supreme irony. “I, an occupational therapist who helped the sick get back on their feet, became reduced to a quadriplegic state through a freak shooting accident,” he observes, wryly.
The freak shooting accident that he refers to was in March 1986. Intruders fired at him in his house, which they had come to loot. For challenging them, Rajinder Johar got a bullet in his chest, but the real damage was caused by another one on his spine leaving him paralysed from the neck downwards. The doctors had told him he was 100 per cent disabled and would not be able to do much with his life. As it happens, that prediction could be considered to be famous last words.
For six years after his accident, he remained deeply depressed. After that, something within woke up and took charge. “On my own, I evaluated my condition and decided to do something, instead of resigning myself to the end of the world,” he says with a palpable passion. Once he began, he was hard to stop. For one thing, there was born in him a deep urge to reach out to others like him, condemned to live outside the mainstream. He longed to empower them, and give them the strength they needed to take back the reins of their lives.
First, he needed a suitable pen. He went to several places, hospitals, NGOS, therapists and asked all of them what device he could use. There was nothing available. Ultimately, it was his brother, Surinder, who invented a device that could be attached on his shoulder and enabled him to write.
With this and the minimal support of volunteers and well-wishers, he founded The Voice, which in 1992 was one of India’s few magazines on disability. The Voice shut down after 20 years of publication and has been replaced by a quarterly called The Fodder that contains news, snippets, cartoons, jokes and inhouse developments of his ‘new family’.
The new family