Picture this. Life is a breeze. A big, bad storm disrupts it all. Where does one go from here? What does one do with the pieces picked up? Throw it all away because the perfect life that once was will never be the same again? Or start all over again one piece at a time?
Life is the sum of the choices we make. Every day, our decisions define what we amount to. How we respond to everything around us, big and small, creates our reality. Happy moments are easy to navigate. It’s the times of crisis that make or mar us.
Arpita Roy, the amputee yogini, has shown through her life that this narrative is what real stories are made of; that real stories have heroes who are not perfect but heroes who are up for the fight; that real heroes are willing to rewrite their story. This hero has made it her life’s pursuit to use the greatest setback of her life to give hope to those like her. When life’s storm hit her hard, she struck out on a brand-new journey. She took the sourest lemons life had to offer and made them into the sweet proverbial lemonade. On International Women’s Day, Soulveda sat down with her for a heart-to-heart. Excerpts from the virtual chat:
You lost your legs in an accident. Can you tell us how it happened?
In 2006, barely at 19, I was in a brutal road accident. I fell from the bike and a lorry drove over my legs. I nearly died, but several blood infusions later, the doctors managed to find my pulse. But both my legs were amputated due to Gangrene. I spent the next four months confined in the ICU.
After getting discharged from the hospital, I was in a wheelchair, and I had only one thought. I wanted to walk again.
It must have been hard going through this. Today, spirituality is a big part of your life. How has it helped you?
Spirituality answers unanswered questions. It tells you why things happen the way they do and why they don’t. It helped me train my brain and connect with myself. It gives me mental peace and helps me balance all aspects of my life.
How did you discover yoga? It must have been hard considering the physical demands of the discipline. What pushed you to take it up as a way of life?
Maintaining my weight became a challenge due to the sedentary lifestyle after my accident. An amputee needs to maintain their weight to avoid issues fitting in artificial limbs. So, I started a little workout at home. But it is usually not easy for an able-bodied trainer to train a bilateral above-knee amputee. So, I started self-learning.
During my research, I came across some yoga videos and tried to practice it. It instantly relaxed me, both physically and mentally. This is how my journey with Yoga began. Initially, I sat in a corner in a yoga class just to understand the concept. I couldn’t perform asanas like others, so I customised them, thanks to my yoga teachers.
As I got deeper into the practice, it became my passion and then I decided to make it my life’s purpose to share it with others.
How did yoga help you?
Yoga has helped me cope with both physical as well as mental pain. It is something that helps you seek peace from within and not from outside. It connects the body to the soul. And if we have peace within, we can fight any external situation. It does take time to achieve all of this. I am still learning, and the journey is enriching.
Dealing with such adversity must be daunting. How did you handle it at such a young age?
They say God gives pain to only those who can endure it. I went through a lot of struggles ever since my childhood so perhaps it made me mentally strong and I could handle it even though I was young. It was challenging but I love challenges and try to overcome them with positivity.
What advice would you give to those who face similar challenges?
Don’t think you are disabled. Know that you are differently abled. Accept and love yourself first and don’t assume what others think about you. No one’s life is problem-free, so don’t compare yourself with anyone else without knowing anything about their journey.
Wellbeing is a buzzword today, a trending hashtag. How do you view it?
If both the body and the mind are happy, we are in a state of wellbeing. Mental and physical health together create holistic wellbeing. According to me, the answer is a combination of a healthy diet, an exercise routine, be it yoga or fitness training or even jogging, any form of meditation, chanting, or concentration exercises.
As a woman, what do you think is your place in this world?
Honestly, my place in my world is the same as any other human being on this planet. But if I view the world as a woman, I’d say that women do face inequalities on a day-to-day basis. And the inequalities become more challenging for differently abled women. Through my work, I would like to help other women like me overcome this challenge. I hope to make a difference.