Riitesh Sinha is a cerebral palsy patient but has achieved more than most healthy people. Jamuna Rangachari speaks to him about his challenges, accomplishments and never say die-attitude.
There are some people who show us nothing is impossible if we put our mind and soul into it. Riitesh Sinha from Karnal, a case in point, views everything as a challenge and not a dead end. “People refer to cerebral palsy as CP but I believe CP stands for capable person,” he says. Riitesh had just passed his board exams with flying colours, securing 75 percent, when his quest for independence led to him invent his own trike (tricycle). “I was entirely dependent on my parents to take me to school and other places, and did not like this. Then, one day, I was watching a science video when I got the idea for a trike.”
After two years of research and barely any technical expertise in a humble city like Karnal, Riitesh successfully modified a regular cycle into a trike. “I added a foot pedal that helped me steer the cycle and balance myself,” he says, adding that he was soon using the trike to get around town, often going as far as 10 kilometres all on his own. It was a noteworthy achievement and freeing experience for someone who was earlier forced to depend on others to get around. Teaching in nearby villages as part of literacy campaigns became easier with the trike, as did attending B.Sc. classes at Kurukshetra University. Riitesh had many supportive teachers and friends who arranged for him to attend classes on the ground floor. After completing his B.Sc., he went on to get a Post-Graduate Diploma in Computer Application, Certificate in Computing from IGNOU, Masters in Technology from Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Honorary Doctorate in Computer Science from Indian Virtual University for Peace in Bangalore and Diploma in Naturopathy from Nature Care Institute in Nashik.
Riitesh then opened a computer centre affiliated with the National Institute of Open Schooling. Here, he taught children computer basics, introducing over 1,000 students to the world of computers. He also taught a few adults.
Riitesh landed a job at the Districts & Sessions Court in Karnal in 2011. However, he was soon ousted but didn’t give up. “I approached the High Court with my case and the Court asked me to take an ability test, which I did, successfully. I won the case and the Court quashed my termination order.” It was for the first time in the history of the High Court that a physically challenged person had been asked to undergo an ability test, putting Riitesh’s name in the Limca Book of Records. Today, he works with the Karnal District and Sessions court, and is responsible for maintaining digitised records.
Says Riitesh, “I was once reading a story about a yogi and how he benefitted from yoga. I started practicing it myself and found great relief. Also, my body became more flexible. I decided to help others discover the benefits of yoga.” He created a blog that lists mudraas and practices that can provide relief to people suffering from cerebral palsy and Parkinsons.
When asked what the greatest struggle that physically challenged people in India face is, Riitesh immediately says, “Social stigma.” He has observed how most people think physically challenged people are useless. “There are easily 25 lakh Indians who suffer from cerebral palsy but how many are hired despite having the necessary qualifications? I believe if we remove this social stigma, more than 80 percent of physically challenged people can lead more fulfilling lives.”
Riitesh looks up to his parents; sister, Anila; Sr. Grace Maria, principal of St. Theresa's Convent School in Karnal, and his teachers and friends. He doesn’t feel he is doing anything extraordinary. “I am just doing my work on alternative therapies to make the lives of people especially those affected with cerebral palsy, easier,” he says. Whenever he hears of anyone who has benefited from his experience or work, he feels fulfilled. He keeps thinking about what more he can do to make everyone’s life better. He loves to innovate and wishes to do so till the end of his life.
Many people lead their lives worrying about all the things they can’t achieve. It’s people like Riitesh who show us that nothing is impossible. Riitesh’s sister, Anila, often says, “For someone who finds mundane tasks like holding a pen, brushing his teeth and wearing clothes, difficult, Riitesh has achieved a lot and that’s inspirational.”After speaking to Riitesh, I realise that truly, nothing is impossible as long as we do not give up in life.
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