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Paralysis Couldn’t Stop This Mumbai Man From Living His Dream And Starting A Business

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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.

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        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

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        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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