It started as a normal day for Chirag Chauhan, a resident of Mumbai. He was on his way for his articleship. Little did he know that the day would end in a tragedy, which would affect him and leave a mark on his life.
But, that was not the end for him. Rather, it turned out to be a new beginning for him, as he stood still like a wall in front of all the challenges life presented him. Here, he talks about his struggles, beliefs, his support system and the tragic incident that changed his life.
Question (Q): Tell us about yourself.
Answer(A): It is my pleasure to introduce myself. My name is Chirag Arvind Chauhan. My family consists of my parents and three elder sisters, all of whom are married. Currently, I live with my mother at Kandivali. My father passed away a few years back.
Being a chartered accountant by profession, I worked with Deloit for six months. Thereafter, I worked with Kotak Bank for three years. Then I started my own practice, and I have been the sole proprietor of CA Chauhan & Co. Chartered Accountants for the past five years now. Last year, I started an online portal (Expertmile) which connects professionals in the fields of tax and finance (legal and secretarial). I am a co-founder of this venture.
During my school days, I was an average student. As I grew, I gradually realised my responsibilities – and along with my other friends, I joined the CA course. I cleared the Integrated Professional Competency Course (IPCC) and continued my articleship with A J Shah & Co.
Q: The 2006 incident entirely changed your life. What exactly happened?
A: I was pursuing my CA course – and the articleship was a part of it. My life was going well until that day in 2006. That day, I was returning from my client’s place in Elphinstone. By the time, I reached Khar, I was already caught in a huge explosion, which left me extremely helpless and injured. People were panicking all around while I was in a semi-conscious state asking for help.
I finally received help and was rushed to a hospital. On the way, I asked a stranger to lend me their phone so that I could inform my family. I was unaware of what exactly had happened, and I could only feel the pain. I was rushed to the KEM hospital where I saw my mom. Thereafter, I fell unconscious after some time and I was shifted to Hinduja. Several surgeries were done.
I was in a coma for three days and was hospitalised for 4 months. When I became conscious, I was told the most unexpected and shocking news of my life. I had suffered a spinal cord injury which could not be cured – and that had resulted in lower-body paralysis.
Q: How did your life shape up after that tragedy?
A: From my childhood, I had heard that life changes with time. But this tragedy made this saying so true for me. There was certainly a very big change in my life.
Things no longer remained the same – this tragedy had changed my appearance. I now sat on a wheelchair. Now, it was all about what I chose – whether I gave in or accepted this change and moved on. I chose the latter one.
I realised that I had to work very hard to make myself financially strong and become independent. After a lot of hard work, dedication, family support and with God’s grace, I cleared my CA final exams.
Q: Did you ever face any kind of discrimination?
A: Yes, obviously. It was a big challenge to get a job. People don’t prefer giving the job to a person with a disability as they doubt their ability to perform at par with the others. But, I was able to prove that my performance was good – and to some extent, even better – than the performance of those without disabilities. The other factors that acted as an obstacle were the non-accessible environment and many small things (like people’s acceptance), which made me feel that I was being discriminated against.
Q: Do you blame the people behind the blasts for all the loss you faced?
A: No, I feel they too may have been the puppets of some mastermind. They may have taken such a step due to helplessness. I believe in forgiveness rather than holding grudges and wasting time – thereby affecting your peace.
Q: Who has been your constant support system throughout?
A: God has blessed me and has been my greatest support system. My mother has also been my backbone right from my childhood. I have also been lucky enough to be blessed with my three sisters, my family, and some extremely supportive friends.
Q: Despite facing such a tragic incident, you are living an independent and successful life. What keeps you going?
A: My willpower, desire to achieve success and to inspire people. I would also like to tell people that they should never give up in life despite all the challenges that life throws in our path. We should face these with a smile on our face and with determination in our hearts. We will all pass these phase.
Q: Do you believe that disability is a strength and not a weakness?
A: No, I don’t believe that disability is a strength and not a weakness. Of course, it’s a weakness in a practical sense. There are many things disabilities prevent us from doing.
However, turning this weakness into your strength is an art which requires a lot of self-discipline, determination, dedication and hard work. Every person has some strengths and weaknesses. I believe that disabilities have nothing to do with these – it’s all in our minds. A positive attitude and approach towards life will help us to turn the weaknesses into our strengths.
Q: Tell us about your future plans.
A: I am looking forward to making Expertmile a listed company in the near future. I have also started a trust by the name of Arvind Foundation to help the poor and the needy. I also support the education of girls, people from the backward communities and people with disabilities. These activities will help me achieve success in my career and also attain inner joy and peace by contributing to the society.