Paralysed at 10, this wheelchair-bound woman shot to fame thanks to TikTok
“Actions speak louder than words. Don’t pay attention to what the person is saying but focus on their actions.”
“Time heals wounds but I feel that sometimes we learn to bear pain with the passage of time.”
These are just a few samples of what Geet offers 2.6 million of her followers on TikTok – 15-second videos on relationships, love, and life.
Geet always wanted to be an actress but a car accident left her paralysed and confined her to a wheelchair.
While destiny may have changed her life forever, it did not deter her from dreaming big. She has two TikTok accounts - one on which she teaches American English on popular demand and the other where she gives relationship advice.
In a freewheeling chat with HerStory, Geet tells us her story, how social media channels like Facebook and TikTok have helped her impact the lives of slum children in Delhi-NCR, giving new meaning to her own life.
“I grew up with the dream of being an actress, but many people discouraged me because I was in a wheelchair. So, I started my Facebook page in August 2015, just to gauge interest from the audience. I initially posted motivation stories, quotes and thoughts on the platform, along with sharing my dreams,” says Geet.
Within six months she garnered over 1.5 million followers and by mid-2016 along with short comedy videos, she started posting videos on motivational and socially relevant topics such as domestic violence, child labour, and saas/bahu relationships.
Happy with the response, she joined other social media platforms and started posting motivational and uplifting content. Earlier this year, TikTok happened.
“I started using TikTok because my 87-year-old grandmother loves to act. We had some time on our hands and created a series of short 20-second comedy videos together. It was then I realised that TikTok would be the best platform for short-form videos.”
Geet repeated the same cycle on TikTok. Along with funny content she started posting motivational videos as well. The response she received gave her the encouragement she needed.
These videos amassed a phenomenal number of views, something that I could never fathom. In the comments section, I had people telling me that my simple, less than one minute videos were changing their thinking, their lives. It was surreal.
In April this year, she received multiple requests to teach English, and decided to give it a shot. “I was absolutely overwhelmed by the response. Within a week, I had 100K followers on my English teaching account.”
From “I can’t” to “I can”
Geet was born in a traditional Indian family and spent her childhood between Africa, India, and the US. She was 10 years old when she met with an accident that left her paralysed waist down and confined to a wheelchair.
One moment, I was sleeping in the back seat of my parents’ car, and the next moment, when I woke up, there were ambulances all around with doctors telling my parents I would never walk again. I suffered a spinal cord injury and was paralysed waist down. Unable to feel or move my legs, I was confined to a wheelchair.
The trauma spiralled her into depression. “It was such a traumatic time that I don’t really remember much of it. My mother tells me that I used to cry all the time because I felt my life was over and my dreams were shattered. I would be an invalid for the rest of my life. Everywhere I went, people stared at me and felt sorry for me which made me feel sorry for myself.”
Her family’s support and love eventually helped her to move from “I can’t” to a “I can” phase in life.
A stellar student, she went on to study engineering and also a degree in Law. After graduation she worked with a leading law firm in the US, which had clients like Boeing, Microsoft, and Starbucks. Wanting to make an impact and touch lives she also worked on several cases pro bono. “I volunteered at homeless shelters, the juvenile jail, hospitals, schools, and community centres. Years later, I left a promising career in the US to move to India to help slum children and at-risk youth. There’s been no looking back since then.”
Geet now runs a small NGO in Delhi-NCR, which engages with slum kids through story-telling, song, dance and drama, teaches them positive values and encourages them to dream and succeed in life.
Geet says, “It gives me great pride to see how this has resulted in many of them giving up drinking, smoking and other vices. By involving them in social service projects, motivational talks, one-on-one counselling and organising free talent shows, we encourage them to channel their energies towards positive goals. We also visit the youth jail facility on a periodic basis to try and impact the lives of the youth detained there in a positive manner.”
With all the work she does with slum kids, she is also happy that her second career on social media, especially TikTok is shaping up.
“I initially thought that there was no way to convey a socially relevant message in just 20-40 seconds. But I’ve learned through my time using TikTok that short-videos is all it takes to change minds, hearts and lives. I have had to learn how to communicate relevant information in a short and effective way and that's what has worked with my fans.”
She also collaborates with other content creators on Tik Tok, Rishxpress, and IndianMensGuide, to create short videos for their #EduTok programme, on socially relevant and motivational issues.
Embracing the love
As a content creator, she admits it’s impossible to make everyone happy.
You cannot please everyone. there are many people who will hate you, not for anything you did or didn’t do, but just because they feel like it. You have to have a ‘thick skin’ and choose to ignore the 10 negative comments and focus on the 100 positive ones. Never lose heart when haters show hate.
She may not have become an actress yet but she is happy doing what she always wanted to do - touching people’s lives.
“TikTok has given me a platform to reach so many people with my message of hope, positivity and love. While I was only able to meet a maximum of 100 people in a slum, today with one TikTok video I’m able to reach thousands of people,” Geet says.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)