Amitabh Mehrotra is almost as old as his disability. Now 48, he became disabled as a child when there was no law, no policies and no organisations to confront the unfriendly attitude of community, society, and the government towards those who were thus challenged.
Mehrotra has suffered from cerebral palsy with mild spasticity and tremors since birth. That he has dedicated his life to bring joy and happiness to those who experience similar neuromuscular disabilities is not despite but precisely because of his own condition.
He has opened a school for physically and mentally challenged children to help them fight and overcome this disability.
Mehrotra began school in a neighbourhood institution. He faced no problem here until he finished his second standard.
“However, when my parents sought to admit me in Mahanagar Boys, one of the better schools in the city, in class 3, the principal refused without citing any reason,” he recalled.
A few years later, they prepared Mehrotra again for admission at the same school. He took the test and cleared it.
In class 8, he underwent a surgery but it resulted in further complications, resulting in a complete paralysis of the left side of his body.
After six months of medication and physiotherapy, the doctors managed to restore him somewhat to his earlier state.
“But because of all of this my ability to write took a beating. I needed a writer during my examinations. I passed class 10 with 70%, and my twelfth standard with 68% and graduated in commence from Lucknow University with 65%,” said Mehrotra.
He then joined the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and did his post-graduation.
He was subsequently appointed officer-in-charge, research and evaluation, at the Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO), Jamshedpur, and worked there between 1987 and 1994.
Mehrotra, however, quit this lucrative job to keep a promise he had made to himself: to help children with cerebral palsy and spasticity.
He went back to Lucknow and opened his SPARC India-Jyoti Kiran School there. Today, this school has a strength of 60 pupils. He and his dedicated team of teachers are trying to teach these students how to combat and overcome the physical and psychological challenges they face.
For his social service, he was felicitated by a national TV news channel with actor Aamir Khan “saluting” him for all the “good deeds” he has done for children suffering from cerebral palsy.
Mehrotra is currently fighting hard for crucial amendments in The Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, to ensure that the legislation gets more teeth so that it can enable visible and significant changes in the lives of people with disabilities.