Of the Women, By the Women, and For the Women

Disability is Strength : Madhumitha

Madhumita Smart Indian Women

Thanks for taking the time to chat with SIW. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Madhumitha : I am a woman with a disability by birth (the disability is called left hemiparesis). Having a disability by birth can mean several things to several people – to me it has always stood for strength – the strength to accept my limitations, the strength to ask for help when needed, the strength to be more empathetic towards other people’s pain and the strength to discover what makes you unique/exceptional and to focus on that. It has also taught me resilience, to try till you succeed and to take pride in whoever one is.

At work, I am an HR professional with 9 years of experience, currently working with Snapdeal. I conceptualized, started and lead the diversity and inclusion charter for Snapdeal called Advitya, which stands for celebrating uniqueness – the uniqueness which every individual brings to the workplace. Prior to Snapdeal, I have worked with organizations like GE, Mercer and Edelweiss. I have an MBA degree in human resources from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies and a bachelor’s degree in management (Finance) from Narsee Monjee College.

The disability is one aspect of who I am. There are several other aspects – I love watching movies, travelling, reading and working with social groups in my personal time. I am not associated with one, but work with different organizations that are closely associated with building an inclusive world and work with different minority groups – I try to make a difference in whichever way I best can. One needs to understand that all minority groups coming together would prove to be majority, and ultimately, it is about respect and value for human life.

What was it like growing up with left hemiparesis?

Madhumitha: It was definitely not very easy. I had to go for a lot of treatments and also try and combine that with education. So it was a busy childhood juggling too many things at the same time. Also, no child enjoys treatments or wearing calipers and I was no different.  Coming to terms with the fact that you cannot dance or play like other kids do can be very hard to deal with as well. However, I was blessed with wonderful set of parents and friends who encouraged me to try everything.  I was treated as normal, scolded as much, given an opportunity to play and that has continued throughout my life.

My toughest period was when I was around 12 and we moved to Mumbai from Delhi. Teenage years coupled with the fact it was a completely new city made me feel and realize that I was different and probably not as competent. I felt alone and isolated and would spend my time just studying. I wanted to pursue engineering but could not because of my disability. I took up commerce and joined Narsee Monjee and then there was no looking back. I developed a new attitude and there was no stopping me.

What have you seen persons with disability experience typically experience in the society?

Madhumitha : Well, based on my personal experience and my work in the space of diversity and inclusion, I feel there is limited understanding of disability.  A lot of people are either oversensitive – they want to take decisions for you (right from whether you need to use a wheel chair or walk) and sympathize with you or there is complete ignorance towards the disability, like it does not exist.  There needs to be greater understanding that people with disabilities or for that matter people from any diversity group are people first– capable of making decisions, with their desires, strengths, weaknesses, emotions in life. Respect them, give them opportunities like you would with anyone else.  Also, there needs to be greater appreciation that a person with disability is the only one who can identify and understand their disability – identification is specifically a challenge in case of people with less visible/invisible disabilities . I have faced this several times, where just because I am not using any visible assistance device, I am not considered disabled.

There are a lot of stereotypes as well – people with disability are viewed very often as being very serious, go getters, philosophical, inspirational and asexual. I have had my crushes and have my quirks too.

What motivates you to overcome challenges that you face?

Madhumitha: Overall, I love working with people and with ideas and that is where I find my true happiness. There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing someone wade through a tough period and emerge successful. That keeps me happy and going.

Can you share something about your blog.

Madhumitha: ‘Disability diaries – the less understood view’ is the name of the blog, though in principle it is more diversity diaries. I started this to break some myths around diversity and people who belong to different diversity groups. It has a few blogs by me but I also do have a lot of guest bloggers who share their perspective on diversity.  It has varied perspectives – both of persons of the diversity group and family members and their feelings and perspectives.  It is special when people who don’t know you reach out to you with a story saying please share it. The blog is as follows: https://wordpress.com/post/disabilitydiariesblog.wordpress.com/213

What are your plans for the future?

Madhumitha : My mission and dream is to see an open and inclusive world – and by inclusion, I don’t only mean inclusion towards persons with disability but towards all forms of diversity. A world where every individual is respected and given an opportunity to discover their potential, live the life they want to, where beauty in every form is celebrated. A world where there is no judgment. A world where no one is big and no one is small. There is too much pain and discrimination I have seen people experience on account of prejudices and judgements – it is time to do away with it. That is my dream!

What are your favorite books that you would recommend SIW family?

Madhumitha : ‘The road less travelled’ by M Scott Peck is a book I absolutely adore. The other book I really like is “In search of meaning” by Vicktor Frankl. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is my all-time favorite.

What advice can you give to other women who are living with disabilities?

Madhumitha : Celebrate who you are – there is no one type of woman – there are woman with disability, woman who are mothers and those who are not, woman are married and those who are not, woman who are from different age groups, different socio economic background. I would say be proud of who you are. Have the courage to stand up for yourself, your beliefs and your passion.

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