Madhumitha Venkataraman born with left Hemiparesis today is Associate Director and head of the Diversity & Inclusion Charter of Snapdeal
One evening at Delhi airport, I encountered a person who reminded me of how there are many people in the world who are brave enough to get past their hurdles to live a fulfilling life. I noticed a woman in her thirties asking people for help. She boarded my flight and took the seat next to me. When she went past me to take her seat I noticed that she had a slight limp.
She then got on the phone and started talking about disabilities and inclusion. My curiosity had piqued by then and I initiated a conversation. It turns out, this well-dressed woman who had some kind of physical disability was the HR Associate Director of Snapdeal. She was travelling to Chennai to meet her parents who live there. We struck up a conversation and I learnt her story.
Born with a disability
Thirty-year-old Madhumitha Venkataraman, born into a Tamilian family, lived her initial years in Delhi and then in Mumbai. She was born with an orthopaedic disability called 'Left Hemiparesis' (minor paralysis on the left limbs). Madhumitha said her parents ensured she did not feel out of place because of her condition. They enlisted help from all health professionals, including acupuncture treatments, surgery, reiki, physiotherapy etc.
The condition, understandably, made life difficult for Madhumitha, who never knew a normal childhood.
“I was busier than other kids juggling all this and had no time to play,” she remembered.
She added that children asked strange questions and teased her about her calipers. “But I learnt Bharathnatyam and though my hand movements would be funny, I never stopped trying,” Madhumitha said. She then decided academics would be where she would make sure she excelled.
Challenges during the formative years
Madhumitha moved to Mumbai from Delhi when she was in Class V, and tackling her teens with the disability was the toughest period of her life.
“It was then that I really understood the meaning of being disabled. Losing weight was harder, most people sympathised with me more than they liked me and I could not participate in many things, be it sports or dancing. Due to my disability, I could not pursue a career in engineering, but that took me to management and I excelled there,” she explained.
Travelling by the local trains was no easy feat for her. “It was very tough to board those crowded local trains of Mumbai. I have fallen down many times, but after all it was just a fall… I decided to continue my journey as I knew that was the only way to go further in my life and my education,” Madhumitha added.
That was the time she developed a new attitude. With every challenge she encountered, she learnt to be stronger and tried harder and started seeing herself as someone who had a disability but who also had a lot of strengths.
“I worked hard at every opportunity that came my way and never said ‘no’ without trying, whether at work or with other interests I had, like dancing, scuba diving or para-gliding,” Madhumitha said.
Career and social responsibility
After completing her graduation, Madhumitha was placed at GE as an HR manager, and started to enjoy the corporate world. She completed her MBA in Jamnalal Bajaj Institute. As she progressed in her career, things changed, her accomplishments spoke louder than her disability and she found herself more confident and enterprising. She travelled across the world alone on official trips, with no fears in life.
Madhumitha then moved to Bengaluru taking up her position as Associate Director Human Resources, at Snapdeal, and also led the company's diversity and inclusion charter, called Advitya. Through Advitya, Madhumitha hopes to connect with corporate heads of other companies to encourage employment for disabled persons.
“I feel happier and more fulfilled now. In the past year, heading Advitya has been personally meaningful and we also focus on all forms of diversity – gender, disability, LGBT, culture, because within inclusion there can be no exclusion,” she said. She is also a part of and founded a support group for persons with disability called ‘one step at a time.’
“I would be lying if I say there is no struggle today; simple things like crossing the road, walking and wading through the infrastructure, typing on the laptop with one hand and cutting vegetables and cooking are all tough. This journey is going to be a constant struggle. I believe it is best to deal with it one day at a time and I have learnt potential ways of ‘juggad’ to deal with every challenge I encounter,” a positive Madhumitha said.
She blogs on disability, speaks in conferences, and recently ran a 5K marathon. She was also recently awarded for her achievements to deal with disability.
As the flight journey wrapped up, Madhumitha contemplated on her life currently. She said, “As I go through the journey, I see a lot of goodness around me every day; strangers who come to help without showing it, who support in so many ways. Of course, I meet a lot of people who excessively sympathise or hurt me with their remarks, but I have also been privileged to have wonderful colleagues at work and amazing friends who have treated me as an equal and in fact pushed me to stretch my own limits.”
Madhumitha Venkataraman’s Facebook Page.