January 19, 2001, is a day Nishant Khade will never forget. All of 23 years old, Nishant was traveling in an ambassador on the Mumbai-Bengaluru highway. It was around 4 am when his car collided with a parked truck near Kolhapur. He suffered from a C5 spinal cord injury during the rescue process. The injury rendered him a person with quadriplegia. But Nishant didn’t let that deter him from living his life.
In an interview with Mahevash Muses, the spirited braveheart talks about how he rebuilt his life, his Access4All Foundation, and his message for strugglers of the world.
One accident changed your entire life in an instant. How did you keep going as you learned to adjust to a whole new way of living?
I don’t think I would have been able to rebuild my life alone without the support of my loved ones, especially my mentor Mr. Arvind Praboo. Arvind told me that there is life beyond the accident and that I must face it bravely.
I also realized that although I have a good support system, I have to become independent one day. I have to learn to do things on my own. So, that kept me going. It helped me to transform from a person who could not wear a shirt without support to a person who can travel the length and breadth of India for 84 days straight!
How did Access4All Foundation come into being?
Access4All is a brainchild of Arvind Prabhoo(who is also wheelchair-bound) and I. We found that physically challenged people like us could not travel freely in the city as our public transportation is not accessible for the disabled. We brought a few vans and modified them to make it easier for wheelchairs to fit inside them. We also hired trained professionals to take care of passengers during the journey. Our objective is to make travel for the disabled hassle-free. Access4All also provides consultancy for infrastructure development for the disabled.
What do people assume about you as a quadriplegic that you are tired of hearing/dealing with?
People think that if you are wheelchair-bound, you cannot do a lot of things that others do normally. Sure, we do have our limitations, but we also have solutions for them. Recently, when we went on the Beyond Barrier tour, we heard a lot of travelers murmur that we are we straining ourselves, why couldn’t we just sit comfortably at home?
I want people to know that we are just as normal as you are and we know what we are capable of doing. I just wish people would judge less and embrace all kinds of people in society as one of their own. Society could do with some inclusion, couldn’t it?
You’ve seen your fair share of challenges in life. What is the one message you’d like to give to people who are struggling in life?
Just this: never ever give up on your goals. There are going to be roadblocks and disappointment on your journey to success. But stay strong and focused on your goals. Eventually, you will succeed.
Nishant Khade is the Director of DAS Offshore, a renowned construction company in India. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.