The story of a girl who never looked back

NoLookingBackThis post is dedicated to sharing the true story of a young woman, who through her continued efforts, and her “never give up” attitude, is an absolute inspiration and testimony of the insurmountable power of human will. Part of what makes this story so special is because it hits so close to home and the other part because it proves how life teaches us to do extraordinary things even in the face of the worst of adversities and mishaps.

We have all heard of the inspiring stories of great personalities like Hellen Keller, Marlee Matlin, Christopher Reeve, Franklin Roosevelt and other such famous personalities, this however is a story of an ordinary person who continues to achieve extraordinary achievements in face of some trying difficulties.

I can never forget the night I first met Shivani Gupta. Shivani was my sister’s classmate and they had just turned twenty two and recently completed their Bachelor degree in Hotel Management. Shivani had thrown a party at her house, and was over at ours, to pick my sister for the party. It was the first time I was meeting Shivani, and I was instantly enamored by her, not just because she is an absolutely lovely girl, but because she has such a larger than life personality. She was the cheeriest person I met, and the moment she walked in, she met us all as if we were old friends. I believe such is her charm, because Shivani meets everyone with so much vigor and joy, it’s as though she is telling the world, and “Here I am!”

That night the car that my sister and Shivani were traveling in (on way to the party) met with an accident and Shivani was dislodged out of the car and thrown onto the road outside. She was immediately taken to a hospital and received emergency care. The next morning the doctors declared the accident had rendered Shivani a paraplegic from the neck downward.

It is unfathomable how a single night can change life forever. From a young girl, ready to take the world in her stride, she had to learn to gain her mobility and freedom back. Through all the physical pain and mental anguish, somehow Shivani pulled the strength to not only follow her dreams but she continues to amaze her friends and family by taking her dreams further every day. Life again threw her a curve ball when years later she met with another motor accident and lost the love of her life – her husband. However it is through her strong spirit and iron-will that she persevered and decided to write the story of her life in a very positive and inspirational book called “No Looking back”.

Since the accident Shivani has been a strong proponent for improving accessibility for handicaps in India she is the recipient of several awards such as Helen Keller Award (2008), CavinKare Ability Master Award (2008), National Role Model Award (2004), Neerja Bhanot Award (2004), Red and White Bravery Award (1999) and Sulabh International Woman of the Year Award (1996). She has also co-authored several books published by the Government on the issue of accessibility for the differently abled, which is a book used by architects and designers.

Shivani is also the founder for AccessAbility; a consultancy firm for promoting physical accessibility in India. While Shivani continues to work at spreading awareness for promoting equal opportunities for the disabled in India, she continues to be open to writing, and would like to write a PhD thesis in the near future. In a recent interview, when asked what the driving force was for her towards becoming the leading accessibility consultants in India, Shivani responded,

“Life is not easy for anybody but it has been more challenging for me. The most important thing that drove me to not give up was my desire to be independent and self-reliant. It is only after becoming disabled that I realized the value and importance of independence in my life. It may seem just like a regular aspect of life to most people but as a disabled person, I have struggled each day to maintain it. Being self-reliant became a second nature to me. After my second accident, I had no other option except to continue being so. Sitting back broken in spirit was just not an option.”

There is a lot more to Shivani’s story that cannot be shared in this small post, my hope is simply that we may all learn and be inspired by the truly great people amongst us. Life deals us all with a hand of cards, to which we have no control, but in the end the winners are people who don’t waste time regretting the cards they were dealt with, but go out and make the best of everything they got. If you are interested in learning more about Shivani, feel free to check her book, “No Turning Back” now on amazon.