Differently Abled

April 26 2017

What started as a moment, became a journey. What started as a journey is defining my life. Time for a flash back !!! I participated in International Speech contest in 2015. Was I a born orator ? Of course not. Did I know I could reach the semifinals of the competition ? Not even in my wildest dreams. So what happened ? How did I end up in the top 30 speakers among 30000 competitors across the world  ?

Let us rewind a little bit further. It all started when I was a year and half old, I had just started running around causing enough trouble to my mother. But then, suddenly I came down with a fever and soon after I was diagnosed with Polio. My legs were paralyzed. Over the next few years with intense physical therapy, I managed to walk but differently. I was physically disabled often pitying my own life . I managed to get a good job, family and was leading a good life but always wondered if I can ever lead an inspirational life.

Then something amazing happened in 2015. I joined a Toastmaster club which is for people to improve public speaking. I saw it as an amazing opportunity to meeting new people. One day, my Toastmaster club president said "You should participate in the International Speech Competition, you have a story and you should share it". I initially thought it would be fun. I had no hopes of winning any contest because I was a novice. But alas before I know it, I won the club, area, division and finally district contest. How did a novice end up winning the district which comprises of 7500 members with amazing veteran speakers ? Although I didn't make it to finals, I finished 3rd in my semifinal group ending up in the top 30 speakers in that year.

How did it happen ? That is when it becomes interesting. You see, I didn’t participate to win, I didn’t dream to give an amazing speech. I was simply narrating my life. Did I think my life was inspirational ? Hell no. But my club members saw it different. They didn't see how I walked or struggled, they saw what I said and how I survived. They helped me sculpt my speech. They saw something in me which I was not seeing. They made me realize I was differently abled not physically disabled.

Life is not a movie, where inspiration happens in distinct moments. In reality, we all lead simple lives, surrounded by simple folks. I keep hearing if you want achieve something in life, you have to surround yourself with inspiration people. Is that true ? May be. But not all of us are lucky to have Elon Musk or Steve Jobs around. That begs the question , so does it mean we the ordinary people cannot achieve greatness ? Is our life not inspirational enough ? I thought so too until I shared my life with others in my speech. They saw something in me, I failed to see all these years. They were inspired by me, when I was not inspired by myself.

We all have inspiration in our lives, just that we don't realize it. Friends, we all have a story, a story that could inspire others. We all have our faults, disabilities. But we don't realize the inspiration around us, in us. We are all differently abled in our own beautiful unique way.

You can see the speech 'Differently Abled' in my YouTube channel prabhuspeaks


Prabhu Kandasamy
San Diego
[email protected]

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