One woman’s unconquerable, resilient spirit

When life brings you hardships, take yourself through it

In the winter of 2017, I felt as bleak as the landscape outside. I had spent the past six years working hard to establish myself in Canada and once that was accomplished, all I did was compare my life to others. I hated living in a tiny apartment and I wished I were able to go on holidays as often as my colleagues or neighbours. 

Although I loathed feeling that way, I could not bring myself to emerge from the self-pity I was wallowing in, either. In one of my depressive moments, my husband casually mentioned his former colleague Shalini, a famous blade runner in India. I had no clue what it meant to be a blade runner and so I Googled it.

Before she became a blade runner, Shalini Saraswathi was leading a normal life and had a successful career dotted with meetings and deadlines. She was pregnant, was about to be promoted at work, and was looking forward to new beginnings. Life, however, had other plans. She was diagnosed with Rickettsial, a rare infection she contracted during a holiday. The infection caused multiple organ failure and not only ended her pregnancy but also ultimately led to the amputation of all her limbs.  Refusing to be shattered by physical limitations, she learned to walk and later run with prosthetic blades.

I remember pausing as guilt overcame me. I recalled the many times I had sulked at rainy summers or chipped fingernails. Here I was, an able-bodied woman, who cringed at the thought of driving in snow and out there was a tenacious woman who refused to bow to adversity. This quadruple amputee moved forward to win the bronze medal in the 2018 National Para Athletic Championship and ranks third in Asia in that category. And what’s more, she continued to work full-time at her corporate job. 

As I read about Shalini and saw her pictures, I suddenly realized that I was looking at an extremely attractive and successful woman whose mental strength conquered all physical barriers. When life gave her no options, she made her own choices. Her life today is a self-made bed of roses. It was then that I started communicating with her online. 

To this day, I have not met Shalini in person,yet she continues to inspire me. She has taught me to value what I have more than what I don’t. I always thought life was a journey to arrive at a destination flanked with set goals. I now focus more on the journey part of life and enjoy every moment of it. Contentment is definitely more important than the endless pursuit of happiness. 

There’s a popular saying: when the going gets tough, the tough get going. International Women’s Day means liberating yourself from obstacles, be it emotional or physical. Being born as a female is one thing, but being a symbol of inspiration, perseverance, and conviction is a matter of choice.

I wish for every woman, including myself, to be a Shalini—to remain positive despite the odds and be blessed with a relentless spirit. To every one of our readers: a happy International Women’s Day!


Featured Image: Shalini Saraswathi works full time as a deputy general manager for a renowned business processing outsourcing company and is training for the 2020 Summer Paralympics selection. She lives in Bengaluru, India with her family. | Supplied

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