DU student to be first wheelchair-bound Indian to study at Oxford

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“I met with a severe car accident on my way from Hoshiarpur to Chandigarth (Punjab), with my family. I was 13 then. With various other injuries, my spinal cord broke and made me paralytic from chest down,” recalls Pratishtha Deveshwar, a final year student of Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, in a matter-of-fact tone. Remembering the incident that changed her life is of course not easy for her, yet her voice gleams with positivity as she says in the same breath: “People with disabilities can achieve anything!”

“Everyone advised my family to not to send me to Delhi because I’m differently-abled and was dependent on them. So, it would be impossible for me to live alone. But the word impossible was never in my dictionary.” – Pratishtha Deveshwar, LSR student

On the path to make her belief and statement true, Deveshwar had been a high ranker in academics, and convinced her family that she could stay all by herself in Delhi, after being home schooled. “I always knew that I could overcome my situation only with education. So, after 12th, I told my parents that I don’t want to live inside the four walls of my home anymore; I deserve better. I applied to LSR, and got admission! That changed my life,” says Deveshwar who was soon spotted on a wheelchair on Delhi roads, with shopping bags hanging on either sides.

“Everyone advised my family to not to send me to Delhi because I’m differently-abled, and was dependent on them. So (they thought) it would be impossible for me to live alone. But, the word impossible was never in my dictionary! I started living by myself — did grocery shopping, paid bills and even travelled, by myself, almost the whole of the city in the metro train. And don’t be surprised if you see me buzzing around the roads of Delhi again, on my wheelchair, after the pandemic ends.”

Thrilled to share that I'll be pursuing Masters in Public Policy from the University of Oxford!
From the ICU where I fought for my life,to being the first wheelchair-user from India to get into Oxford-it has been a rollercoaster ride! I want to thank you all for your support!❤ pic.twitter.com/1K4t1D1jYM

— Pratishtha Deveshwar (@iiampratishtha) June 15, 2020

This young lady has one more dream to fulfil, and that is to pursue higher studies at Oxford University, UK. “I applied to Oxford because their course on public policy is one of the best in the world, and I got through. In fact, I’ll be the first Indian who is wheelchair bound, to study at Oxford. I intend to study there, come back to India and use my knowledge for the betterment of 26.8 million people with disabilities in India, who urgently need to be empowered. Also, because I wanted to prove that my accident or wheelchair do not define me, and I’m not what happened to me but I am what I choose to be. I wanted to show it to the world that a woman in a wheelchair can achieve anything she dreams of, despite all the hurdles.”

Studying at Oxford, however, is an expensive affair, and Deveshwar has been raising money on a crowdfunding platform to realise her dream. “Due to lack of scholarships, I decided to start a crowdfunding campaign because I sincerely believe that there is absolutely no hesitation in asking for help if the cause is genuine. And there are so many wonderful people out there who are willing and able to support. And I’m someone who sincerely believes in the goodness that prevails in the world. I just know in my heart that sharing my story of strength and determination will inspire people, and good vibes will come my way,” she says with a smile.

Author tweets @FizzyBuddha

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