We all undergo experiences which change the course of our life. Gopika’s life took a 180 degree twist with an life altering experience.
“When I was 21 years old, I fell from the 4th floor of a balcony, and this fall left me paralyzed waist down. It was a D3-D4 level spinal cord injury, and I lost complete control of my bladder and bowel system. I couldn’t experience any sensation in the areas below my waist, and my lack of hold over my own body left me frightened. I was operated at Apollo Hospital, and I was informed that I had lost mobility in my feet. I would never walk again.”
Gopika recalls how it took her several months to make peace with the situation. A second year B.Tech student from Nagpur, Gopika was after-all a young woman, full of dreams and desires!
“After this incident, all of my routines collapsed. All of my interests didn’t matter any longer. I cried for the first time in two months, after finally grasping the severity of my situation. My family held me during this personal crisis and persistently encouraged me. Until this date, they remain to be strong foundational aspects of my life.”
The accident had sucked every spark of Gopika and she decided to quit her studies for a year. She spent 5 months at the Indian Spinal injuries Centre(ISIC) Rehab Institute in Delhi where she encountered tons of people who underwent similar experiences she did, and yet continued to pick up the frayed threads of their life and move forward.
“Their zest and joie de vivre inspired me, and I decided to go back home to Nagpur and resume my academic life. I underwent some challenges to commute to my classrooms, but with my mother’s firm support, I accomplished all of it. I completed my MTech in Cosmetics Technology and moved to Mumbai. I got a well-paid job at Godrej Consumer Products and spent 6 years working as a senior scientist in their Research and Development Department. I won numerous awards, and was highly revered for formulating various products including Cinthol, an entirely new range of soaps, deodorants and body wash.”
While Gopika was full-fledged focusing on her career, life introduced him to Abhinav.
“He proposed to me during our school re-union party”, she says.
Abhinav is working as a Chartered Accountant in one of the leading consulting firms in Mumbai. He tells us that Gopika’s drive and passion towards life impressed him.
“He respected my adaptive nature to make the most of my circumstances post injury, and made a conscious effort to understand the medical complications it entailed. I never played it down for him, and he understood the repercussions of my conditions; the loss of sensation, bladder and bowel control, the sores on my body. We dealt with it together. He accepted me for who I was, with all the ups and downs that came along with marrying me, but yet, he always made me believe that I was worth the effort”
The couple eventually got married and moved to Ranchi. Abhinav modified the apartment to make movement easier for Gopika, for she used a wheelchair. Soon after, Abhinav quit his job to establish his own milk product processing plant, and launched his own brand: OSAM.
Gopika tells us about the initial concern about the mountain of responsibilities that come along with a marriage; being a wife, a daughter-in law and a home-maker.
“Abhinav and I built a nest together out of mutual understanding, respect and acceptance of one another.”
With Abhinav’s support, Gopika began working for advocacy in an NGO, Deepshikha which is an institute for Child Development and Mental Health care, along with the Jharjhand Vikland Jan Forum in Ranchi. Gopika is also working as a Coordinator for the Accessible Ranchi Campaign.
“My disability does not prevent me from balancing my personal and professional life efficiently.”
A natural next progression of our marriage was to have a child of their own. Inspite of the hurdles that come along with being differently abled, the couple managed to find a team of wonderful doctors who supported their decision of having a child.
“Motherhood was a new transition in my life. It changed me as person. She changed me as woman; my bundle of joy, Aishvi. Having her was a liberating and life-altering experience for me. Her beautiful presence added a dynamic meaning to my very own existence.”
“My relationship with Abhinav has taught me that it is essential to remain optimistic, and give life a chance when it puts you down. If you stumble upon a partner who loves you, and accepts your limitations, you should jump on the chance and not let go. With mutual trust and understanding, a couple can overcome every hurdle.”
“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”
Gopika is a case in point.
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