A fulfilling life is within everyone’s reach – regardless of the abilities and challenges they face. Riitesh Sinha, who is having spastic cerebral palsy, is living proof of this.
Consummate student. Creative innovator. Attentive teacher. Model employee. Recipient of Cavinkare Ability Award. Limca Book Record holder. Honorary Doctorate holder. Naturopath Many achievements, one name – Riitesh Sinha.
Cerebral palsy is a group of permanent movement disorders that appear in early childhood. They result in poor motor skills, stiff or weak muscles and tremors, making simple movement painful and simple tasks time-consuming.
Yet, Riitesh was never one to be cowed down by circumstances. He had just passed with flying colours from his CBSE school (securing 75% in his board exams) when his quest for independence led to him invent his own ‘trike.’
Throughout my school life, my parents had to take me to school and other places. I was entirely dependent on them,” recounts Riitesh. It was when he was watching a video on science that the idea of making a trike struck him:
“After two years of research and with very little expertise available in a small place like Karnal, I got modifications done on a normal cycle. I added a foot pedal that helped me steer the cycle and balance myself. The trike is affordable and very convenient to use.”
Soon Riitesh was using the trike to get around town, often going as far as 10 km all on his own – a noteworthy achievement and freeing experience for someone who was forced to depend on others to get around earlier. Teaching in nearby villages as a part of literacy campaigns became easier with the trike, as did attending his B.Sc classes in Kurukshetra University. Says Riitesh, “The trike gave me wings! And I was glad that this was my own innovation.”
With the help of supportive teachers and friends – “All my classes were arranged on the ground floor. I never once had problems of accessibility” – Riitesh completed his B.Sc. That, however, was only the beginning of his academic journey. He went on to do a Post-Graduate Diploma in Computer Application, a Certificate in Computing from IGNOU, a Masters in Technology from Manipal Academy of Higher Education, and a Diploma in Naturopathy from Nature Care Institute, Nashik.
Next, Riitesh opened a computer centre that was affiliated with the National Institute of Open Schooling. Here, he taught children – and some interested adults – the basics of computers.
In 2011, Riitesh landed a job at the Districts & Sessions Court in Karnal. “But after a few months, I was ousted from the job on the grounds of my disability,” he recounts. “I then approached the High Court with my case. The Court asked me to submit to an ability test. I did and I won the case. The Court quashed my termination order.”
“Since it was the first time in the history of the High Court that a physically challenged person was asked to undergo an ability test, my name is in the Limca Book of Records,” says Riitesh.
His win went on to positively influence several other cases as well. His case has become a landmark in the area of employment of physically challenged persons and it has been featured in a judicial periodical The Punjab Law Reporter November 2013 part 2
Riitesh also runs a blog called ‘Riitesh’s Mudraa.’
“I was reading a story about a yogi and how he benefitted from the practice of yoga. I started practicing it myself and found great relief…my body stiffness went away. I decided to help others discover this too,” Riitesh says. The blog lists mudraas and practices that can provide relief to people suffering from cerebral palsy and Parkinsons.
Ask him about the greatest struggle physically challenged people in India face and pat comes the reply: “Social stigma.”
“In India, our society thinks that physically challenged people are useless. We are not even treated as proper human beings. There are easily 25 lakh Indians who suffer from cerebral palsy, and yet, very few of them get jobs. I believe that if we remove this social stigma, more than 80% of physically challenged people can lead more fulfilling lives,” Riitesh explains.
As his sister Anila says, “For a man who finds it difficult to hold a pen, who finds it difficult to wear clothes, who sometimes takes as long as two hours to brush his teeth… the fact that such a man has achieved so much is truly inspirational.”