Stories about Disability Don't have to be Sad: CA Chirag Chauhan - Train Blasts Survivor and Entrepreneur

  • Hi, I am Chirag Chauhan a Chartered Accountant from India and founder of Chauhan & Co and expertmile.com - a platform that lets consumers find professional services near them.
  • In 2006, at the age of 21, I suffered a 'Debilitating Spinal Cord Injury' in Mumbai Train Blasts and got confined to a wheelchair.
  • In spite of all the odds - I completed my CA, worked in MNC's then quit my job to start a successful CA Firm and online CA Portal.
  • All of this has not been easy but I choose to convert my disability into an opportunity. I have proved with my grit that - DISABILITY IS JUST  A STATE OF MIND.
  • Here is my story of how I have proved that a strong determination and will are far more important than a strong body.

From a carefree to a responsible teenager 

I was barely 18 when I lost my father. From then on, life changed.

Earlier I was like any other 18 years old - I lived a carefree life and did not take anything in particular seriously, including studies.

I was smart, but my grades were average because of a lack of focus. This sudden realization that life could be unpredictable struck me and made me see the world around me differently. I became serious about my life and my responsibilities.

Since then, I kept performing well academically and wanted to become a Chartered Accountant. This decision was partly influenced by the fact that I lost my father and needed a job, which was respected and ensured speedy returns.

I pursued my ambition relentlessly of becoming a Chartered Accountant along with my graduation despite warnings from several people that the journey would be a difficult one!

After graduation, I joined a CA firm for my articleship. Life was great until 11th July 2006!

An incident that changed my life forever 

On 11th July 2006, there were a series of bomb blasts in the local trains in Mumbai (India).

That day I left work early, becoming a victim of the blasts. I suffered a 'debilitating spinal cord injury'- A Term that was unknown to me and my family.

I remember the day I was first termed a ‘PARAPLEGIC'. It changed the way I lived forever.

The times that followed were very tough. Immediately after the terror strike, I spent months in the hospital. I became incapable of caring for myself and performing the daily chores that we all take for granted. It was devastating.

My doctor, Dr. Rahul Vasa, and a scientist in motor control tried to empower me to slowly get back a semblance of normalcy. They helped me practice sitting in a wheelchair. At first for 3-4 hours and then longer. I had to undergo rigorous rehabilitation training and make extraordinary efforts to achieve even ordinary things.

I slowly realized that being a paraplegic was an irreversible condition. It was a feeling of devastation. I asked God WHY ME?

Continuing my chartered accountancy studies 

After days of self-pity, I made a crucial decision to move on from being sorry for myself and taking on what life had thrown at me.

I trained myself through a rigorous physiotherapy regime and with a single-minded focus, I continued my CA studies. To continue where others thought 'it is impossible — that's one thing I dared to do.

Again it was tough, but I cleared the intermediate level CA exams ( known as IPCC) in 2 attempts and my CA final exams on the first attempt.

I was now a Chartered Accountant....a dream come true. 

Life after qualifying as a chartered accountant 

My career as a Chartered Accountant started in 2008. However, even after passing my CA, getting a job was tough.

Companies rejected me only because I was Paraplegic. Most of the companies overlooked all my educational qualifications and concentrated on my only defect.

Finally, I joined Deloitte in December that year and traveled 30 km to my workplace every day. I worked as an employee in different jobs until I decided to set up a business of my own.

Entrepreneurial journey 

In 2012, I started as an entrepreneur with my own firm named CA Chauhan & Co. I was all excited but acquiring clients was a challenge and that gave me another idea.

Three years into CA consultancy, I joined hands with a partner to launch 'EXPERTMILE.COM'- a platform that lets consumers find professional services near them.

Again, while working on both these ventures, I faced a lot of bias.

Several potential clients doubted my ability to deliver on time as well as deliver a certain standard, just because of my disability. This was a little disheartening, but I remained focused on my ambition.

I started writing articles, consulting online, and interacting with clients.

The quality of my work, writings, and interactions demonstrated my caliber, and people started sharing my articles, reading, and asking questions online. One of my articles online has got as many as 23,00,000 hits resulting in several new leads every month.

As they say, where there is a will there is a way. Today we are a team of 5 and achieving super growth. My online venture expertmile.com went live in April 2015.

In just 2 years, we had lined up 4000 experts and 26000 registered users. I am now looking for PE funding to the tune of a million dollars with a long-term view of issuing IPO via listing in the stock exchange.

Working for the differently-abled

We have to do something to help the differently able. I also plan to generate jobs for partially disabled people who can work from home.

I do not want to be viewed or rated as someone with a special ability. I am what I am, competing with others on equal footing.

I often drive on weekends to Lonavala and have driven far as Goa and Gujarat with friends, it is a customized car from Mobility enhanced (the person to connect there is Ferdi Rodricks who has changed more than 1000 cars) is which can be driven by hands alone.

Staying happy...

I am grateful all the time that I am still healthy. I welcome every day with a smile. I have forgiven the attackers. I live in the present. I choose happiness every day.

Don’t spend time thinking too much, just go ahead and do it. Once, you take the first step you will automatically find your way, your journey.

Believe in yourself. Be consistent. The only disability in life is a bad attitude.

My favorite quote by Winston Churchill keeps me going - Success is Not Final, Failure is Not Fatal, it is the Courage to Continue That Counts.

He could be reached at chirag@cachauhan.in/thecastory@gmail.com

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