- Hi, I am Padmakar Cheenepalli, a chartered accountant who never let his disability stop him.
- When I lost the ability to walk at the age of 9, doctors told my parents that I wouldn’t live for my 18th birthday.
- But my desire to make something of myself and my parents’ unconditional support changed my course of life.
- I defied all odds to become a CA and now work at one of the Big 4 firms like any other employee.
Losing the ability to walk at the age of 9
Growing up in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, I was a very active kid.
I had been an ardent lover of cricket from a young age and would play the game pretty much every day as a kid.
So you can imagine how much of a shock it was for me when I was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a disorder where one’s muscle decays over time.
At first, the symptoms were not that serious, although I had difficulty climbing stairs, and walking on my toes, and there were frequent fallings. But at around 9 years of age, I lost my ability to walk completely.
When doctors looked at my condition, they discouragingly told my parents that “Your son will not live for his 18th birthday.” That came as a big shock to both me and my family.
The doctors gave up on me, however, my parents did not.
Just like the doctor suggested, I spent a whole year just being carefree, playing video games, so that there was no mental pressure.
My mother could not take that anymore.
Seeing me heartbroken like that, she told my father, “We have to give our son the childhood he deserves. We have to let him attend school.”
But society had labeled me as a specially-abled child. The nearby school rejected my admission.
Thankfully my previous school’s correspondent Mr. Vasu accepted my mom’s request. If not for this great man I would have never gotten where I am today!
Tag of specially-abled didn’t keep me from pursuing chartered accountancy
Like every other meritorious student, I thought of pursuing engineering at IIT.
But when I applied for the Polytechnic examination, I came to know that a person with a neuromotor disease is not eligible to write it.
Then my father introduced me to one of his friends who was a practicing-chartered accountant, and there started an empowering journey.
Again, my mother took up the challenge of getting me into a good college.
I got admitted to Emerald’s Educational Institution and completed my CA IPCC. This was in 2012.
The then junior college principal Mr. Madan Mohan, the directors Mr. Viswanath and Mr. Giridhar, and every other college staff extended their helping hands toward me.
They ensured that my classes were downstairs.
This gesture really went on to validate the saying “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Up until now, I was using a manual wheelchair. To make my life a little less difficult, my father bought me a motorized wheelchair. This was such a huge turning point in my life, as it lifted my spirits.
Now I was able to go to college and every other place without depending on anyone.
CA degree helped me use my talent for good
The CA journey definitely takes a lot out of you.
From preparing for the examination to writing on my own without any scribe, I went through a lot of physical and mental pain.
Thanks to my physiotherapist Doctor Anush Kumar, I was able to write with little to no difficulty.
Another blessing was that I was provided with extra 90 minutes in my final exams.
CA final was my long-fought battle through which I came out as a champion because of my perseverance.
I qualified as a CA in 2021.
I was always keen on doing a job and earning like a normal employee. And education made it possible.
Specifically, the CA degree helped me use my talent for good, and provide for myself and my family.
After searching for jobs diligently, I got a reference through LinkedIn. I am currently working as an Associate for Assurance Services at PwC Acceleration Centers India, and I have never felt more liberated.
Don’t pity the differently-abled people, provide fair opportunities
Giving someone the tag of specially abled and not giving them access to equal opportunities is not fair!
I feel, we as a country are not able to provide proper resources and opportunities for differently abled people, in comparison to other countries.
For example, there are comparatively fewer indigenous institutions, or companies supporting differently-abled people. Every institution must take an initiative in drafting the mission statement for assisting special people.
Another major issue is the lack of ramps and accessibility for differently abled people in public places.
People like us have to go through a lot to get to a certain place, which is not an issue for a normal person.
I sincerely request every state, organization, and citizen to look into it.
When people like us aspire to study and have relevant qualifications respectively, do your best to support us.
Throughout my journey, I’ve learned that when we are really determined and persevered, we can achieve many great things in life. One key factor for my achievement is GRATITUDE!
As far as my future is concerned, I really want to pursue the CFA course and work for investment banking and consulting companies.
Maybe in the future, I would start my own consulting company, if everything works out.
And the last thing I want to say is, ‘I always hold on to Hope and you should too.’