A Social Activist Who Fought Paralysis

Once upon a time, there was a girl who could do anything she wished to. She was showered with every kind of luck imaginable. She was blessed to the extent that anything she painted on a blank canvas would turn true, literally.

One fine day, she started painting her dream. Every stroke she drew that day was excellent and on completion, her work turned out to become a masterpiece. She held the painting in her hand and kept staring at it with pride, contentment and happiness. Admiring her work, she entered into a trance so deep that she didn’t realise when her piece of work slipped from her hand, fell on the floor and shattered into pieces. Did lady luck forget to smile at her that day? Life came to a standstill for Sruti Mohapatra, who dreamt of becoming an IAS officer.

Sruti was a very bright girl, a gold medallist and had a brilliant academic career. She was a basketball lover and had even represented the State and National teams. She was everybody’s favourite and the apple of her parent’s eye. In her twenties, Sruti appeared the UPSC civil services examination and cleared it to make it to the Group A allied services.

She joined the services but being ambitious by nature, she laid her eyes on IAS. She appeared the exam once again and this time managed to secure the interview. Soaring high on her achievements, she planned the best for her future. Sruti got engaged to the person whom she chose as a suitable match for her. Life couldn’t have been better for Sruti.

Whoever coined the phrase, ‘Man proposes but God disposes’, must have done so contemplating unforeseen circumstances. Counting her blessings, Sruti had gone to the temple with her relatives to offer prayers, just a few days prior to her interview. While returning from the temple, a speeding bus hit her car and life changed forever.

Not only did the accident leave her with severe physical damage but also crippled her career aspirations. She was paralysed limbs down which caused her to lose her dream job and also her suitable match. She felt as if someone pulled the rug from under her feet.

Upon urging the commission that her potential is still intact and her deformity will not affect her service, she was offered a reduced post. Sruti raised questions on this offer and was reluctant to settle with anything less than what she deserved. On questioning the authorities, the job was then closed on her and with this, her stack of dreams collapsed.

Life was cruel to her at that point. But God had greater plans for her. Despite the odds, she dared to continue with her dreams. She bravely picked up the pieces and moved on and since then she has never looked back. Today, years have gone by and she believes she couldn’t have done any better if things were fine.

Now, Sruti is a social activist, a torch-bearer for the disabled who aspire to become IAS officers, like she had in the past. She began to assist and train civil services aspirants in training programmes that were sponsored by the union and state government. In 2001, she set up a state disability information and resources centre named Swabhimann, heading it as the chief executive officer and working towards empowering the differently abled.

In 2007, she stepped into the role of director of Odisha IAS Study Circle where she trained hundreds of aspirants who now hold prestigious ranks in civil services, research centres, universities and banks.

Sruti has won many awards in her lifetime. In 2010, she was awarded CNN-IBN Real Heroes Award, on the ground of humanitarian work. In 2013, she won the Vidya Bhawan Social Service Award by the former President of India, Sri Pranab Mukherjee. She has also been awarded with Rockstar Award Nina Foundation 2015, Kadambini Samman 2014, Beasant Selfless Service Award 2012, Subhadra Samman 2012, Sarala Samman 2011, Women of the Year Award State Bank of India 2011, Khyamata Samman 2010. She is the Chief Coordinator of Anjali International Children’s Festival and has other projects like Saksham, Addhyayan and YLTEP.

Sruti remained steadfast in the face of adversities. She dared to convert difficulties into challenges and impossibilities into possibilities. What she could do in a wheelchair, one will fear to even think of it. Sruti Mohapatra is no less than a warrior and we salute her undying spirit!

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