29-year old Sumit Agarwal from Kolkata started his own PR company after being rejected by six companies during interview. Sumit, who has cerebral palsy, is now moving towards a greater mission to help people with disability access Government schemes and benefits to become job givers than takers.
Sumit took birth as a 7-month premature baby, for whom doctors had declared either the baby or the mother will survive. Though fortunately, both survived, Sumit was born with cerebral palsy. None of the schools was willing to take Sumit as they said they only take “normal” children. Finally, after much persuasion and persistence from his mother, he could study at one of the reputed schools of Kolkata. However, the road ahead was not easy. He would often feel lonely and get mocked by not just students but sometimes even teachers. He has come a long way battling all these barriers and stereotypes to start his to complete four degrees and hold multiple qualifications to become eligible for a job. When he was turned from a few after initial interactions, he decided to mend his own future. His PR firm named PR Signal currently has a small team which operates meticulously with multiple clients. “I always wondered why to plead for jobs when one could give others one. I hope my life’s example can help others like me and their parents take a step”.
Equal opportunity for all
One thing that drives him is his passion to be the ray of light for others like him, to enable them to live up to their full potential by connecting them with the right resources, opportunities and knowledge. For this, he has a Facebook page named Indian Disabled Entrepreneurship Forum. Here he educates them about the available opportunities in both private and public sectors and connects them to the required organisations and companies. He says it’s not rocket science, but many-a-times people are just not aware of the welfare schemes and opportunities meant for them. He is just plain giving away the information he garnered during his personal for his education and employment. “I receive 4 to 5 calls per month. Some enquire if the government has any health insurance for persons with autism. I tell them about the Niramaya-health insurance scheme that provides a cover of up to 1 Lakh.”
While for those looking for loans, he suggests The National Finance Development Corporation which has more customised options for the community. He even recommends to look for alternative schooling systems like Coursera as people with disability find it difficult to access regular schools. He asserts that The National Trust is the one-stop station for persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities. “The number of people who reach out to the page are not very high,” Sumit mentions candidly. “however, even if one person benefits from interacting with my page. My work finds its purpose”
You might also like to read : A company in Paris is providing accessibility to individuals on Wheelchairs
The role of parents
“My mother has always been my greatest blessing and support”, Sumit says. He considers his mother to be the backbone of his existence. She always had a firm belief in my capabilities and never let me give up. “She quit her job as a successful lawyer to fight to keep me alive. I had four surgeries as a child and every time I went into the operation theatre, the doctor would tell her that I might not make it. She single-handedly braved every odd coming her way with very little support. She was determined to have me educated in the best schools that would fortify me emotionally and instil confidence that would enable me to make the difference,” says Sumit.
At the time of the job interview, he faced a similar ordeal like that for school admissions. Sumit recalls, “ From the moment they laid eyes on me, their perception about me settled even before I said a single word. They cared less about how good I was at the job, or the ideas I had, or my qualifications. It is not entirely their fault either, the corporate world needs more inclusion and role models to look up to for the differently-abled community”. This is when Sumit decided to have his own public relations company. He did want to prove to society that his condition is not a disability and he was equally capable just like the so-called “normal” people. Looking back he reflects, “ it’s one of the best decisions I’ve taken.”
Life and his perspective about it
Sumit is a public relations specialist, inclusion rights activist, and motivational speaker. He has done his Bachelors in Business Administration from Techno India Saltlake and posts graduation from ICFAI Business School. He also pursued a post-graduate diploma in mass communication from Jadavpur University and holds an MBA Degree in Marketing from IBS Dehradun. Sumit is currently SDG Ambassador for Diversity and Inclusion for SDG Chaupal. He is also associated with the International Human rights Organisation. Sumit has delivered lectures at various fora like TCS, Reliance trying to change mindsets that associate disability with inability.
Sumit’s message for all the parents who want to cure their children is, “Don’t try to fix what isn’t broken.” Also for those who are differently-abled, he says, “your disability does not define you, neither does your body, what defines you is where you have set the barrier in your mind.” Here he shares his journey of living with cerebral palsy.