They say “If you want to see a change around you, be brave enough to be the change.” I had not met many who actually practised this till I met my dear friend and mentor V.R.Ferose, the global vice-president of SAP Labs and the founder of India Inclusion Summit.
I vividly remember the last week of November 2013 when I and my friend Bharath saw the promos of IIS in the daily newspaper. We couldn’t participate that year as we had to travel to Delhi as I was being honoured with a national award for the best employee with disability by the respected president of India for that year.
To my surprise and good fortune, Ferose himself contacted us through a common friend, Vilas Naik, a speed painter famous across the globe. Ferose wanted to write a book in which he wished to include 15 stories of unsung real heroes. The book went on to become a national bestseller ‘GIFTED’. I must say that Bharath and I were fortunate enough to be chosen among the 15. We were not only chosen but also invited to be the speakers at IIS 2014.
Both Bharath and I were thrilled and our happiness knew no bounds as we were going to be speakers at an event in which we just wanted to be among audience. Though I had delivered a couple of motivational speeches in the past, it was for a small audience. IIS was our public speech in front of almost 2000 people, various nationalities and walks of life. I was a bit apprehensive about audibility and clarity of my voice to my audience. It was the very stage the legends had set their foot on and I did not want to be an embarrassment to it.
When I shared my fear with Ferose and the rest of the IIS team, they said that there was nothing to worry about and that the people who cannot speak or listen to a word have been speakers here. It is not about the words you speak but the courage you have exhibited to live a normal life. This is a forum to exemplify and demonstrate courage to the world out there. They need to know quitting is not an option in life. Since then I have been a speaker at various national forums including the ‘Amazing Indians’ in ‘TIMES NOW’ news channel of international repute.
I realized that IIS is one forum where specially abled people for a change are not in the minority but in the majority. And each one of us is good at something and the same inspiring line happens to be the tagline of IIS. I can say this on behalf of many that IIS is my second home. IIS is just not an event, but an experience. The very mention of this name, IIS dispels all possible negative that can come in the way of one’s road to success.
Hence this poem called home:
I have been alone for so long,
Some even said my birth was wrong.
I wasn’t a life many wanted to keep,
Sorrow in me did seep.
I found no ground for my feet,
I was a doll with blood and meat.
My heart was filled with wrath,
Only thorns grew in my path.
Then there was a ray of hope,
I realised it wasn’t the end of the rope.
I finally have found a shady tree,
With many lives, under it like me.
IIS is a home like place,
Hope forever it stays.