Every once in a while we come across a person who defies the insurmountable odds and rises like a phoenix from the ashes. Today we’ll chronicle the inspirational life story of one such bright example who incidentally celebrates her Twenty Third Birthday today i.e. 30th September.
Meet Shailja Bais a medical student, national para athlete swimmer, dancer and an upcoming fashion blogger. She belongs from small town Akaltara in Jangir district.
She had a regular and active childhood growing up in Singhrauli, MP, where her father worked as an SDO at BSNL and her mother was a Professor. Her younger brother Anshuman, is a year younger to her. She was keen into sports and outdoor activities and learnt to swim in the ponds at a very nascent age. During summer vacations she used to come to Akaltara, which was her maternal hometown, with her sibling and enjoyed the company of her nana nani, mama mami and younger cousins.
On the fateful day of 31th January 2005, after one such vacation her parents had come to pick Shailja and Anshuman and while going back to Singhrauli, their car met a serious accident, when it had a head on collision with a freight truck, near Bilaspur. Her both parents died on spot as they were seated in the front two seats, while both the kids were knocked unconscious.
When Shailja regained her consciousness after 2 days she found that her brother was in coma and her left hip was dislocated. The hip dislocation resulted into foot drop in her left foot i.e. the length of left leg relatively shortened from the right due to grievous multiple fractures. This led to her “Permanent Partial Disability”, while Anshuman recovered from his coma in five days.
After this catastrophe, Shailja & Anshuman were formally adopted by their maternal uncle & aunt, as they permanently shifted to Akaltara and carried on their schooling there. At the time of the accident Shailja and Anshuman were in classes fifth and fourth respectively.
Shailja was functionally paraplegic for over 6 months as she had to resort to wheel chair and later crutches. During her rehab, Dr. Surjit Singh, a reputed orthopedic from Korba, treated Shailja and thus inspired her to become a Doctor, as there was no one from medical field in her family then. An interesting anecdote was she resumed swimming before learning to walk again. So from there on she and her family realized her potential at swimming and gave a serious thought to pursuing Para swimming i.e. Competitive Swimming for the Disabled (differently abled).
In 2007, Shailja participated in Pune National Para swimming Championships, where she won 2 Gold medals in Sub Junior category.
In 2008 she participated in Allahabad National 1 km stretch swimming in Yamuna River, where she clinched Runner Ups Silverware in junior category. Incidentally she also met legendary Paralympian Deepa Malik there, who was competing in senior category.
In 2012 she cleared her 12th boards and participated in Chennai National Para Swimming championships, where she bagged two gold medals in her last junior event. After this she joined renowned Allen Institute at Kota for NEET (National Eligibility Entrance Test) preparations.
In 2013, she cleared NEET with flying colors and got admission at Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, Raipur. The very year she also participated in her first Senior National Para Swimming Championship, Bangalore, where she won a Silver medal in Backstroke. Similarly she won a Bronze in 2014 and Gold in 2016 at Para swimming Championships held at Indore and Jaipur, respectively.
In May 2017, Shailja further increased her repertoire of fields of interest as she took upto Fashion Blogging. She runs a blog by the name 20sIndianGirl, so that any Indian girl in her twenties could relate to it. Her central idea and objective behind starting this “out of the box social media venture” was to reach out to young girls from all walks of life and give them a wide array of fashion, styling and grooming options, at affordable prices. This focuses on women of all shapes and sizes so as to demolish the myth and stigma surrounding “body image” and encourages them to be comfortable in their own skin.
Shailja is going all out expanding her horizons across multiple disciplines, as I write. Let’s take a leaf or two out of her serendipitous life journey and discover our own pursuit to happiness by trying out something afresh which will add a new dimension and value experiences to our life and will take us closer to finding a purpose of our existence in sum total.
Story Teller – Shubhang Sharma