Disability Has No Barriers
- Poonam Rose Abraham
Shaji visited Choodattu beach, Payyannur. The dry sand is not so friendly to the wheelchair but his mind is determined enough to tune it.
The life of Shaji P P, who hails from the village Thalora in Thalliparambu, Kannur, has become a revelation to many who feel dejected about life. He is a writer, a poet, and a backpacker. He was not always the same,- life gave him a second chance to relive his dreams and to be an inspiration to others.
As a child, Shaji was playful and full of life. Except for a mere limp, he was just like any other kid and his parents never thought their son's life would change drastically when he reached his teens. At the age of14, he started to have difficulty in walking. It was from Wenlock Hospital, Mangalore that he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a variety of genetic diseases that causes progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass and has no medication or treatment available.
His house belonged to a village and lacked good roads and accessibility which led him to discontinue his studies after matriculation. This also made him stay home and become completely isolated from society. Radio, newspapers, and magazines became his companions in these difficult times. He engaged himself in writing poems, stories, and articles on current affairs. His writings were published in newspapers and magazines like Deshabhimani, Mathrubhumi, and Malayala Manorama.
After 17 years of seclusion, Shaji's life changed when volunteers from 'Pain and Palliative' visited him in 2009. They reassured and encouraged him to step out of his house. It was from then Shaji started the second innings of his life which he came to cherish. He met many people who go through other or the same kinds of disabilities, and yet relish their lives. With his friends, he became one of the founding members and an executive member of the FLY ( Freedom for Limited Youth) foundation, which aims to constitute a haven to abode those physically challenged or otherwise neglected people, who lost their lives in crippling darkness due to their physical and other limitations.
The foundation makes sure its members are confident and relentless and it conducts a camp every year for three days, where all members and volunteers join together and take part in sports, music, dance, and other competitions. The winners are awarded prizes and shields. Later he also became an executive member of the MIND (Mobility in Dystrophy) foundation where people with muscular dystrophy come together.
With new willpower and confidence, Shaji decided to act upon his dream of travelling. Though his family and friends were concerned about this he was all in the saddle with the plan. He along with few other wheelchair users decided to start his travelling feat by visiting Mookambika Temple, in Kollur Karnataka which is about200 km away from his house. Though he faced initial trouble in travelling, he enjoyed the trip to the core. Since then Shaji has travelled across 11 states in both North and South India. Even though boarding a train in a wheelchair is a quest in itself; he prefers trains for his long journeys as it is economical and convenient. He is usually accompanied by
a volunteer from the FLY Foundation, with whom he has gradually developed a good rapport.
Travel has not only ameliorated his life but also led him on the path of travel writing in magazines and papers so that people find their inspiration to chase their dreams. Shaji has taken up his love for writing to the next level and now administrates the editorial of his own digital monthly magazine ' Ithal'. He also is the editor of 'Idom' a bi-monthly magazine of the MIND foundation, and 'Chiraku' a yearly magazine of the FLY foundation. Apart from these Shaji Thalora (pen and) has also published his collection of poems titled 'Kattu Kelkathadum Theerangal Mayichathum'.
" Being disabled doesn't mean we are different from others in society. Some are less able than others but that doesn't make them insignificant. More than sympathy, a person with disabilities deserves and seeks empathy",
says Shaji Thalora. He is a person who lives in the moment and if it was not for his friends and volunteers of FLY foundation's empathetic approach to him he would have not been able to travel and achieve what he has now. It was will power and determination that helped Shaji to make his dreams come true and to transcend his physical disabilities. His message to the person with a disability is "Being in a wheelchair doesn't mean your journey has come to an end, it is just a halt before leaping forward". Shaji also believes in the power of the mind over the body. He says a powerful mind can defeat a disabled body. His wishes to his fellow beings are to be the owner of a strong mind and never give up on your dreams. He also looks upon the inclusion of a person with a disability
It was will power and determination that helped Shaji to make his dreams come true and to transcend his physical disabilities. His message to the person with a disability is "Being in a wheelchair doesn't mean your journey has come to an end, it is just a halt before leaping forward". Shaji also believes in the power of the mind over the body. He says a powerful mind can defeat a disabled body. His wishes to his fellow beings are to be the owner of a strong mind
and never give up on your dreams. He also looks upon the inclusion of a person with a disability into society