Physical disability is a mere state of mind. Somehow, stories starring ‘differently-abled’ individuals never fail to strike a chord. Their lives and times are lessons for one and all – i.e. to never let physical shortcomings dictate to your destiny. If you wished that this sentiment was in life-form, then yes it is. His name is Shakthi Vadakkepat. He means the world to his mother, his wife, and his children. People connected with him professionally take his advice, suggestion, and opinion very seriously. He has a large-and-growing followership on Twitter is testimony that he has loyalists far and wide.
To our society, however, Shakthi Vadakkepat is just another disabled man.
But that’s the opinion the society has of him. If you read about his life and achievements he has earned, you’d easily oversee the fact that he is a ‘differently-abled’ human being.
Struck by a feverish-spell in his infancy, doctors poked in him a substance his body was apparently allergic to. This caused the fever to accelerate, instead of going down. As this happened, his right limbs took a beating and began to swell up, as an after-effect. Says Shakthi “I was pronounced clinically dead. Another doctor said it was better for my parents to leave me at an ashram and have another healthy kid. They were asked to complete the paperwork to ‘claim’ me, but they noticed that I was pretty much alive. My mother insisted that she would treat me just like any other child. By then, my limbs on the right side had become paralyzed.”
Thereon his physical-self became confined on fours. But that imposition never deterred him from completing his education, realizing his dreams, or falling in love with a classmate, who now is his wife of 18 years.
Shakthi’s professional sojourn began when a datacenter where he was recruited as a system-admin making a monthly-salary of Rs. 1000! But he stayed put in it because as he says, “I was so obsessed with learning tech, there have been instances when I went to work on Monday and returned on Thursday.”
Eventually Shakthi ended spending 20 years in the IT-industry before he bid goodbye to ‘just doing a job’ and decided to become his own boss.
Shakthi migrated to the US and got associated with a networking giant. It was here he was introduced to things such as Twitter, and he hasn’t looked back since!
Twitter became his kingdom. ““I got on to Twitter and loved the medium. My background as a techie helped me help others; one thing led to another and people started following me.” But Twitter was also the place where Shakthi got trolled. Incensed by the experience, Shakthi decided to buy a platform. He elaborates, “At that point, I thought that it would be a great idea to have a platform that was mine and where I could regularly express myself. Hence, The Quill. I had no great ambitions to make it to the top on Alexa or get the perfect domain authority rating or make USD 2,000 a post. I still don’t. I write to communicate and that rings well. The Quill has actually helped as a platform for me to connect with the startups that I mentor now.”
Today, Shakthi is 31 years old, successful, earning good money, yet staying humble. The man has accomplished things in life despite his impairments. He says it’s all in the mind. “Anything that is perceived as disadvantage is just that: a perception. When you keep thinking, talking and worrying about something, it takes on huge space in your mind that could otherwise solve many complicated problems and make life better. When I fall somewhere, I don’t feel bad, I feel motivated to not let it happen again.”
And as the final- word, he has something for the society: “Our society has this ready-made sympathy to offer to people with disabilities. They do not realise that we don’t want it; we actually hate it. What we want is a shot at a life just like everyone else.”
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