Madhavi Latha Prathigudupu
A Caring volunteer – Always at my Disposal
Today, I don’t want to talk about how my father brought me up with loads of love and showed me the path to self-reliance. Every parent raise their children with great love and affection. What made my father special is his continuous support and encouragement to do my bit to my fellow persons with disabilities in participating in sports thereby improving their physical and mental well-being.
After realizing the benefits of hydrotherapy/swimming on my health condition, I started a movement called “Yes, We Too Can!!!” with the intention to spread awareness about it. Later I registered it as a Trust. Our activities lead to the formation of Paralympic Swimming Association of Tamilnadu and Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India subsequently. At that time, supporting persons with disabilities would only include rehabilitation, providing employment opportunities and skill development. Sports for the disabled was considered as a luxury. Hence getting support for our activities itself was a herculean task. In such a situation expecting support for our administrative expenses was just a far fetched dream. We mainly depended on volunteers for our activities. No staff.
As a part of my endeavours, I met officials from Government, Corporates, Educational Institutions, media etc. We can get volunteering support during any events or at specified times only. But my appointments may not be at pre-determined timings. Many a time, my father used to accompany me to meet the officials as he was the only volunteer available at my disposal always. I remember during my visits to Tamilnadu Secretariat, how he pushed my wheelchair under hot sun for a long distance from the parking till the office of the Sports official I met. After many years, those struggles came to an end when our application for parking slot near the entrance of the building for persons with disabilities was finally considered positively by the concerned Dept head. Some of the offices had stairs to enter into the building without lift. At such places, he used to search for people who can support us to lift me up through stairs along with my wheelchair and also he used to bear more weight as he didn’t want to take any chance about my safety. He even travelled along with me to different states either for our events or for my talks to take care of me.
I still fondly remember how the IAS officials were in an awe and showered my father with an overwhelming amount of respect after my talk at Lalbahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Mussoorie. Some of them even touched the feet of my father out of great reverence towards him for raising me with such confidence, positivity and social responsibility.
He is the first critic for my all activities. He doesn’t want to see me landing in any problems. That’s why he thinks of all the worst case scenarios and guide me how to overcome them. As he worked as an English teacher, I didn’t leave him in that aspect also 😊. He's my go-to person to check whether my writings are grammatically correct. Later we got support from our volunteers like Sharanya Gopinath, Rashmi Grace Simon and few others
Almost all people with whom I worked, knew very well about my parents and their amazing love and support towards me.
Many a time, I get surprised on how my dad encouraged and supported me when I decided to start my social activities without even thinking for a minute, especially at that age ( Above 70 years at that time..). Supporting their kids is common for any parents but supporting the intention of his kid (who is a woman with severe disability) without any consideration to their age to help their kid support her fellow beings is definitely something else. Maybe that's a feat only a parent can pull off to which I'm eternally grateful.
Love you Nanna (Dad), for always believing in me and I wish you a very happy father's day ! And to all the loving fathers out there in world, I sincerely pray for your well-being on this auspicious day !