Rise Above: My Journey from Being Declared Disabled at 18 to Becoming a Chartered Accountant
- Hi! I am Sanjay Mukhopadhyay, a Chartered Accountant based in Kolkata (India).
- I work as a Manager Finance in Balmer Lawrie & Co. Ltd, a 154 years old iconic PSU under Ministry of Oil, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India.
- Yes, this sounds like any other Chartered Accountant, right? However, I am differently-abled!
- At 18, due to adulteration of cooking oil, I lost the sensation in my lower body and could no longer walk. The doctor gave up on me and said I would be ‘vegetable all of my life’...but that DID NOT STOP me.
- Here is my story of the power of indomitable courage…when the light of hope and ambition is bigger than the darkness of despair!
Growing up ambitious but having my dreams crushed
“Never mind these failures, these little backslidings; hold the ideal a thousand times, and if you fail a thousand times, make the attempt once more.” (Swami Vivekananda)
I was born in the 1970s in Kolkata, India in an ordinary middle-class family...with no financial strength!
My father, the eldest of 5 siblings was asked to go out of the rented old family home and settle down elsewhere so that his younger brothers could marry.
Since he could not afford a posh locality…we lived in the low middle-class locality of downtown Kolkata mostly inhabited by 'factory workers and truck drivers'.
There was a fabrication factory beside us sending shuddering and deafening sounds the whole day.... yet life was full of high spirits and towering ambition!
I was a very good student at school, always within the first ten students in my class!
I was good at extracurricular talents and activities as well - I could sing well, draw & paint and act in school dramas, write poetries and recite, and was very good at Cricket, a good medium pace bowler.
Life was going great and my goals were set - Clear the IIT JEE Engineer entrance exams and continue my passion to play cricket at the national level.
However, all my dreams came crashing down when one fine morning I woke up to discover that I was losing sensation in my limbs. I was all of 18 years of age.
Later we got to know that thousands of others in the locality were complaining of the same strange numbness in the limbs without any sensation.
Fast forwarding, after much interrogation, it was concluded that this was caused by the criminal activity of a local grocery shop that had 'contaminated edible oil with low-level poison!'
The doctors had no idea how to treat patients like us, who could not walk or move their limbs.
What Next? Some died, some broke in despair, some just ignored, without a voice and with no /low social support.
Not giving up, Dealing with Disability and Pursuing CA
“Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached.”
After this incident, my education stopped, as I was completely bedridden...and overnight I was declared a patient of 'Impaired Peripheral Nervous System'.
To say the least, I was devastated.
And to add to my misery, one of the most popular neurologists declared to my parents that ‘I would remain a vegetable all my life, on the bed’.
You know the best part - I chose NOT to believe him. I still remember, in that very moment...I scoffed and whispered to my heart that 'I would be back on my legs'.
And my spiritual support and guru was Swami Vivekananda.
And that's what I did!
I practiced my fight against disability with indomitable courage, waking up at 3 am everyday to practice standing and sitting. Yes, I started rehabilitation all on my own, no physiotherapy nothing!
Many of my neighbours would laugh at my peculiar gait...I would cry but that did not deter me.
It was obvious that given my physical challenge, pursuing a career that needed a lot of physical movement had to be canceled out...so studying to be an 'Engineer' was out and so was playing cricket!
Instead of wallowing in sorrows at not being able to study to be an engineer with my disability, I changed my stream.
I regularized my education and joined a Commerce College with the intention to pursue Chartered Accountancy!
Why CA? I understood that CA is one of the qualifications where one can have restricted movements and yet be honored for his work and be remunerated well.
Also becoming a Chartered Accountant meant that I could 'find a white collared job' in reputed organizations.
Amidst the unsure results of the CA stream and the low pass-outs, given my frail health and disability, my family was not really confident...however, my undeterred penchant to achieve the certification convinced them.
And here started my CA journey.
The road to becoming a CA was not so smooth
The journey to becoming a CA is never easy for anyone but given my situation, it was super tough!
I was unable to walk without any support, so going to any client’s place during my articles was an immense problem...we could not buy a wheelchair as we could not afford it!
My mother would carry me to the client's office and my father would get me back after his office hours...it was tiring for me and of course my parents!
My clothes used to get wet with the amount of sweat churned out by my weak muscles...yet with undaunted strength of mind, I decided to do my articles sincerely!
After the long stretch of 12 to 14 hours per day spent on my articles, I used to come home and sleep like a log...it was quite natural that my studies got affected and I could not clear my CA exams during my articleship period.
We lived in a very tiny house making it even more difficult.
I kept attempting the CA exams and kept failing...sometimes I used to fail by 1 mark and 3 marks.
In the meantime, my father was almost close to his retirement and the Company was declared sick and could shut anytime. I knew this was a warning bell and put forth my fullest effort and I scraped through finally.
My physical challenge, my father’s financial difficulty, the indifference of the society to the disabled and my eagerness to disprove them - did not let me give up!
I finally qualified as a Chartered Accountant...I sighed in relief at last!
Being empowered by the two letters 'CA' before my name
Qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, made me feel that 'I was no more a disabled person' walking with the help of an elbow crutch...the essence of this qualification is one that cannot be ignored!
I regained the self-esteem that I had lost on seeing all my friends far & away from me and well established in life.
There were people who were awed by the fact that 'a person like me' could become a Chartered Accountant!
Wherever I went, my identity got elated by the sheer weightage of the two letters that embraced my name.
It was a new identity that overtook all the weaknesses that I had and gave me the self-belief and capacity to take on challenges.
The social quality of a CA is still unchallenged. It is no less attractive financially too though one has to remain patient enough.
The best part, I started earning my livelihood and also started supporting my family after my father retired.
In short, becoming a Chartered Accountant transformed my life, to say the least!
A few words to conclude…
Today life is great. I have a great job, a supportive wife and mother. I have come a long way from those days of despair.
Life is a journey full of experiences and no experience is insignificant. We sometimes underestimate people on the basis of their apparent weaknesses...when we forget that the strongest person can be the weakest in reality!
How did I achieve all this? INTENTION + PERSISTENCE. Never underestimate the power of 'DESIRE'.
My desire to live a better life and rise above, helped me achieve success.
I want to make an effort to attract the contribution of CA professionals in supporting young aspirants who are either physically challenged or financially downtrodden but talented in their own ways.
So let us support each other and trying empowering those who we can.
Now It’s Your Turn…
Did you find my story motivating?
What is stopping you from achieving your goals?
Do write to me through the comment box below.
(Article edited by CA Uma Krishna and Image edited Ankit Lodhi)