World Disability Day: Scholar Braves Cerebral Palsy to Get His PhD

World Disability Day: Scholar Braves Cerebral Palsy to Get His PhD

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When Akshansh Gupta was young, he was scared to face society. So scared that when his late mother sent him off to school, he would take a different route and skip school. The daily effort of getting ready, travelling and attending classes were strenuous for him as he was born with cerebral palsy.

Battling Great Odds

But the 32-year-old went on to defeat the odds and earn himself a doctorate degree in computer science from Jawaharlal Nehru University. He has written his thesis on ‘Brain Computer Interface’ and was in Malaysia to present a paper on it.

My tutor always encouraged me to think differently. Once while watching television with the remote was in my hand, I started wondering if I could transmit messages to the television directly without the help of a remote. Then I started reading about it.

In his PhD, Akshansh tried to come up with a solution for a larger problem that faces people with disabilities. He says technology based on this idea, if made available and accessible, it will aid disabled people in their pursuit of higher education.

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Akshansh likes to be self-dependent. He typed his entire thesis himself. Despite the limitations of living with cerebral palsy, he completed his PhD in four-and-a-half years. (Photo: Sanjoy Deb/<b>The Quint</b>)
Akshansh likes to be self-dependent. He typed his entire thesis himself. Despite the limitations of living with cerebral palsy, he completed his PhD in four-and-a-half years. (Photo: Sanjoy Deb/The Quint)

His Mother, His Pillar of Strength

Cerebral palsy – a neurological disorder – left him 95 per cent disabled. However, the 32-year-old didn’t allow his disability to defeat him. Born in Jaunpur, eastern Uttar Pradesh, he is the youngest among his five brothers and sisters. Being the youngest he was loved and pampered by all.

The force behind his recent achievement was his mother who wanted him to study.

People have a biased opinion about those who have disabilities. They think what one will get by without studying. But my mother wanted me to study. My father and siblings too have supported me a lot.

With Mahajan’s Care

Other than his family and close friends, there is one more person who has played a major role in Akshansh’s life – his care taker who has been looking after him since 2003. A page in his PhD thesis says, “Dedicated to late mother, father and Mahajan.”

Akshansh is eternally grateful to his helper, Mahajan. Away from home, he is Akshansh’s 24x7 support. (Photo: Sanjoy Deb/<b>The Quint</b>)
Akshansh is eternally grateful to his helper, Mahajan. Away from home, he is Akshansh’s 24x7 support. (Photo: Sanjoy Deb/The Quint)

After his B.Tech, when Akshansh decided to study further and move to Delhi, he asked Mahajan if would go along with him on this journey. It wound’t be wrong to say that this PhD has been a journey the two saw together.

After mom and dad, Mahajan has played a major role in my life. Even though we had lots of quarrels during this period, but it wouldn’t have been possible without him. When I decided to step out and move to Delhi, I asked him to come along. And he agreed.

(Camera: Sanjoy Deb, Editor: Sunil Goswami)

(This piece is being republished from The Quint’s archives on World Disability day, originally published on 19 May 2016.)

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