Here is a story of love, dedication and friendship that transcends the borders of physical ability and disabilty. What’s even more inspiring is that it has resulted in two role models — one for the differently-abled and another for selfless friendship.
You might imagine that stories of love and sacrifice that we have heard in the ‘Ramayana’ are non-existent in real life. Apparently, that’s not so. While Ram renounced the throne for his brother, and Laxman dedicated his life to Ram, Bharath Sharma has done almost as much for his friend Ashwin Karthik. Ashwin is the first successful engineer from India with cerebral palsy. His friend, Bharath, had a big role to play in shaping Ashwin’s career while putting his own on the backburner.
Invited as speakers at the Indian Inclusion Submit 2014, the duo shared their story with YourStory.
Ashwin, who comes from Chikkamaguluru in Karnataka, is quadriplegic since birth. He has cerebral palsy, a life-long condition which causes disability — mainly in the limbs and torso. The loss is usually sensory and motor and can cause difficulty in speaking. Despite his condition, nothing stopped Ashwin from living his dreams. His family always stood by him which made him feel like any other kid. In order to get him into a regular school, his mother had to fight with the school management. “My mother would wait outside the classroom to attend to all my needs in school,” says Ashwin.
For young Bharath, cricket was more interesting than academics. His carelessness towards studies worried his parents. Bharath’s father would always compare him with Ashwin. This irritated Bharath and he wanted to know how Ashwin always managed to secure the top position. After meeting Ashwin, Bharath’s jealousy turned into love and concern. He saw Ashwin struggle with his assignments and studies. This is when Bharath decided to help Ashwin with academics, especially mathematics.
Soon the best friends became tuition mates. Unfortunately, Ashwin’s father passed away and his mother had to handle the family’s finances. Bharath started devoting more and more time to attending Ashwin. The result was that Bharath was unable to secure sufficient marks in the 12 boards while Ashwin did amazingly well.
Bharath decided to re-sit for the examination as well as continue helping Ashwin. Ashwin joined an engineering college in Chikkamaguluru. As per the Indian education system, a candidate can become a scribe for another if he/she has a disability or is unwell. Also the academic qualification of the scribe should be one grade lower to the stipulated eligibility criteria. “I became his scribe initially but continued for another four years,” says Bharath. Though Bharath did face a lot of discouragement from society, Ashwin’s companionship and support helped him overcome it.
After four years, Ashwin became the first differently-abled engineer. Initially he faced difficulties in finding a job. The duo decided to approach Enable India — an initiative to empower people with disability, especially helping them in getting employment. The organisation helped him procure a job in Mphasis. Ashwin is a very successful engineer at Mphasis today. He has won many excellence awards, including the best employee award.
Bharath, lagged behind by four years, but Ashwin encouraged him to study afresh as he also aspired to be an engineer. Bharath is working at Hewlett Packard and is married.
The duo faced many challenges in their journey, but their courage and immense belief in each other helped them cross all hurdles. They wish to do something for the differently-abled. Apart from academics and work, Ashwin also loves to write poetry. Here is a gem from his collection: “I walk with my head held high, challenges don’t make me shy; I have failed I don’t deny, from failure I learnt to fly.”