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SAMVEDNA

SUJAN SINGH – A life less ordinary
(The story of Sujan Singh also featured in the Garhwal Post
on occasion of Disability Day 3rd Dec, ’05.)

Come second of every month and one notices a familiar face at the Chief Medical Officer’s [CMO] office in Rudraprayag. The man in question, Sujan Singh, sits patiently for hours to get disability pensions and certificates for the physically challenged of his community. His reward – gratification. Over the years he has worked valiantly and relentlessly for the cause of people like himself.

A day in the life of Sujan Singh is anything but ordinary. His life epitomizes not only a personal victory over adversity but also inspires the life of many around him. Sujan has achieved what most men struggle to achieve at his age. He is one of the few educated young men who has decided to stay back and serve his community unlike the rest, who have migrated in search of greener pastures. Sujan Singh was born in a poor family of five on 4th October, 1977 in Bawai, a tiny village nestled in the mountains of Rudraprayag. He lost his father and a brother when he was very young. The death of his father made their already poor life, worse. Sujan has memories of his mother carrying stones for construction up the steep slopes several times a day, for a daily wage of a meager Rupees ten.

In 1984 when Sujan was just seven, he was severely electrocuted while playing next to an electric transformer. Due to non-availability of prompt and appropriate medical attention he lost both hands and a part of his foot inspite of prolonged and varied treatment. The trauma and emotional turmoil in someone so young after such a tragedy is difficult to express in words.

Sujan was sent to Mumbai to his maternal uncle. He was admitted in a school for the Differently Abled. This was a turning point in his life, where he took his first step towards leading a normal life, a distant dream for people like him. The school built upon his determination and imbibed in him a strong spirit of self-reliance. As time went by Sujan gradually gained more confidence. He soon learnt how to brush his teeth, comb his hair, sweep the floor, make tea and bathe. He could do almost everything on his own without assistance. He learnt ‘life skills’ within a span of three months. Thereafter he 18 studied in Mumbai in a school for children with special needs. His legs became his strength. He could not only take care of his needs but could also artistically express himself, for which he was even felicitated by the then President of India Dr. C. Venkataraman in a painting competition.

Ten years down the line news came that Sujan’s recently married brother working in Mumbai had died in an accident. His brother was the only working member of the family and was repaying the loan that he had taken to get married. Now it was Sujan’s yoke to bear. There were a lot of responsibilities and commitments and it became increasingly difficult to make ends meet.

Grieving his brother’s death Sujan’s mother took ill and was bedridden. She never did recuperate and eventually died. Sujan was now lonely. This is when the ‘pradhan’ [village head] and ‘pramukh’ [head of many villages] of Augustmuni proposed that Sujan marry his brother’s widow. For Sujan’s society this was a very radical proposal. Widow marriages were unheard of as was marriage of someone as physically challenged as Sujan. Finally the marriage did take place. It was widely attended and publicized in the media. It has been the only marriage the community of the villages has witnessed. Sujan and his wife Sarita have been blessed with two sons Rahul and Vikas. Sujan is now part of an ever growing family called, ‘Samvedna’ dedicated to a forgotten community of the Differently-Abled.‘Samvedna’ is a joint initiative of Kinderhilfswerk (KHW), Disha Hospital,
Dehradun and ‘Grahmin Samudayak Vikas Sewa Sansthan’, Rudraprayag. Its ultimate aim is to help the Differently Abled lead a life of purpose and dignity. Over the past many months Sujan has not only been involved in quantifying the disability population in the Rudraprayag district but has also seen the work grow to include - detection and correction of physical disability, training and employment of the Differently Abled, and advocacy and liaison with the government, organizations and individuals on behalf of the Differently Abled.

“I have been encouraged to see the positive impact that my life and work is having on my community and many others”, says Sujan, “Dr. Rajnish Singh, from Disha Hospital, Dehradun gives us not only his valuable time and skills but also provides his services free of charge. Disha Hospital, Dehradun also provides quality treatment and care at highly subsidized rates to Samvedna beneficiaries. Since January 2005 KHW also helps in the education of my two boys and also provides a monthly stipend. This support has made life much easier for my family”.

When asked whether he harbors any political ambitions. With a humble smile he responds most articulately that till the time the people of his community don’t tie him by the neck and drag him to the nomination centre, he will not consider himself worthy. A humble statement from a humble man who is stalwart in his thought and deed.

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Agnes Huttenlocher a Paediatric nurse from Germany who visited KHW-India from November 05 to March 06 and provided valuable services to our Special Needs Centre in Tilwara, Rudraprayag. She expresses her opinion on her one month visit to the region. [READ MORE]

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