Comfort zones are called so for a reason.
No one really likes being uncomfortable, but it is often when we do so, that life and world open their arms to embrace us.
Such has been the inspiring experience of Parvinder Chawla, a woman based in Mumbai. Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 15, Chawla was not ready to let the disease take over her life.
“I was very active at sports, and am a certified Kathak dancer...Yes, definitely after the disease it all stopped. But the spirit of liveliness that made me play sports is still alive. It never died in me. It is this spirit that makes me travel".
Now at the age of 46, she has visited 11 countries and continues to explore her wanderlust.
But obviously the rewarding present was not achieved without a few battles and self.
“The doctors gave up on me. They said I could only live by the medicines and would have to take the bed. The disease had no cure. In the initial year, it took me time to accept this. The pain was tremendous and nothing could help me.”
She wasn't ready to let an incurable disease get in way of her love for traveling. So she bravely confronted and battled societal prejudices and depleting confidence by taking her first trip to London. Sponsored by her father, who owns a restaurant in Mumbai, Chawla decided to travel to London and fell in love with the city.
And as a single woman making her first visit to foreign city, the internet came to her rescue.
“When I planned my trip to London, I made friends with a couple based there over the Internet. I stayed with them, and they were very supportive and helpful. My friend took me around London, pushed my wheelchair and helped me explore the city".
One thing she learned through her travels was the inherent goodness in people. From the sensitivity of people in New York to young African-American boys in Manhattan who lifted her chair and carried her out of a train station, to Kedarnath where a person carried her on his back to the shrine and the pundit parted the queue for her to complete her darshans.
Her curious soul is filled with gratitude for friends and family as well who have relentlessly supported her through everything.
“I have always been blessed with people I come across while travelling. After my first, there was no stopping. I went on to explore the world.”
Despite her travel and life story, Chawla has a very important issue to discuss as well. As she always reconsiders and often cancels her trips in India, she discusses the difficulty she had while visiting Mysore palace.
“I think the Government should make some effort towards accessibility of physically-challenged people. On my trip to Mysore, I wanted to see the Mysore Palace, and went there in my automated wheel chair. I was sad to see that there was a flight of staircases, and had to hire a man who carried me up to see the palace."
Lack of amenities and accessibility for differently able people has been a consistent issue in India, and Parvinder continues to address that by saying,
"I feel that the new infrastructures that are being constructed should have ramps and other facilities that would make accessibility for the differently-abled. India is so beautiful and has a rich geography with mountains, plains and valleys. It is so beautiful but there are no facilities for the disabled to access this beauty”.
Parvinder Chawla now continues to travel the world with her best friend (wheelchair) and writes to spread awareness about aforementioned matters.
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