The Disabled Too Have A Right to Beauty, Says Priya Bhargava

The Disabled Too Have A Right to Beauty, Says Priya Bhargava

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How does it feel to spend 10 years of your life in and out of hospitals, in similar rooms but different beds — and to see your body slowly wither away, minute by minute, to 75 percent disability?

Living Through Despair.

At 19, she was diagnosed with lupus and transverse myelitis, a disease that affects the spinal cord. The illness took many things away from her — her balance, her hair, due to the chemotherapeutic drugs she was being administered and even her bladder control. In the end, it struck a final blow – rendering the lower half of her body completely paralysed.

“Was Hopeful That One Day I’ll Be Able to Walk’’

Priya’s agony lasted several years. It has still not abandoned her body. While on her road to partial recovery, Priya was still hopeful that one day, she would be able to walk. However, the realisation that perhaps the day would never come, broke her.

Watching her lower body slowly degenerate, her mental health began to take a toll. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression.

I got hallucinations... I couldn’t sleep. I forgot everything. My studies took a toll and I had to drop out of medical school, where I was studying physiotherapy. I had a college near my house, and I would sneak inside and sit in a class because I wanted to study so badly. My parents would then have to look for me and get me home.
Priya Bhargava

For two-and-a-half months, Priya was in this stage. After this heartbreaking condition, Priya managed to pick up the pieces, bit by bit, as she resumed painting. It helped her heal, and better her mental condition.

Priya’s Scars Tell The Story of Her Suffering

The mental agony may have gone, but the scars on Priya’s legs and arms are remnants of her physical suffering.

I had multiple infections on my skin. There was pus all over the legs and arms. I got septicemia. I recovered partially, but got myself discharged because I was sick of being in hospitals. I started my own tuition classes for Class XI and XII students. My wounds hadn’t healed properly, and therefore, while teaching my students, the pus would ooze out of my bandaged legs and seep into the creases of the sofa. 
Priya Bhargava

The struggle and suffering may be a salient part of Priya’s narrative, but that’s not what she would like it to be reduced to.

I was determined that I would do something in my life. I had decided that I won’t go without doing anything big.

Seeing her charming personality and striking face, a doctor suggested that she enter the Miss Wheelchair India pageant. The year was 2015.

Miss Wheelchair India Helped Priya Embrace Her Body Again

After I got to know of the pageant, I started working on myself. Since I was wheelchair-bound and was being administered a number of drugs, I had gained a lot of weight. I was no more the attractive girl that I once was in my school days. It was all very demotivating for me. I had stopped thinking that I could wear make-up again and look good. When Miss Wheelchair India was announced – pushed by my near and dear ones – I decided to enter it. Once again, I began to focus on my appearance. It made me feel confident and beautiful once more.
Priya Bhargava

Also Read: “I Can Be a Model Too” Says Miss Wheelchair India Priya Bhargava

While many loved ones supported her, there were others who questioned why a disabled woman was embracing the pageantry at all.

As part of the Miss Wheelchair India pageant, we were told to garner likes for the Miss Popular round. That time, I had to request people to vote for me. Many of them asked me point blank, what purpose will it serve you? And that time I said, ‘I don’t know how it will benefit me, but I do know that it is motivating me to live my life once again.’ 

For a woman who was restricted to the four walls of the house as her immune system had become prone to the slightest of infections, this was a big leap.

Due to my disease, my legs were disfigured. My arms were disfigured. But make-up helped me gain control of my femininity once more. And it made me feel great. 

Priya represented India at the Miss Wheelchair World pageant in Poland in October 2017. But she needed the help of make-up artists, designers and photographers to help her prepare for the worldwide competition.

She said she would like to start a similar beauty pageant for disabled men and women in the country. Says Priya, “In India, people can’t correlate beauty with disability. I hope that through my endeavour, people can see that the disabled too can look good”.

Camera: Abhishek Ranjan Chaudhury
Editor: Rahul Sapui

How does it feel to spend 10 years of your life in and out of hospitals, in similar rooms but different beds — and to see your body slowly wither away, minute by minute, to 75 percent disability?

Living Through Despair.

At 19, she was diagnosed with lupus and transverse myelitis, a disease that affects the spinal cord. The illness took many things away from her — her balance, her hair, due to the chemotherapeutic drugs she was being administered and even her bladder control. In the end, it struck a final blow – rendering the lower half of her body completely paralysed.

“Was Hopeful That One Day I’ll Be Able to Walk’’

Priya’s agony lasted several years. It has still not abandoned her body. While on her road to partial recovery, Priya was still hopeful that one day, she would be able to walk. However, the realisation that perhaps the day would never come, broke her.

Watching her lower body slowly degenerate, her mental health began to take a toll. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression.

I got hallucinations... I couldn’t sleep. I forgot everything. My studies took a toll and I had to drop out of medical school, where I was studying physiotherapy. I had a college near my house, and I would sneak inside and sit in a class because I wanted to study so badly. My parents would then have to look for me and get me home.
Priya Bhargava

For two-and-a-half months, Priya was in this stage. After this heartbreaking condition, Priya managed to pick up the pieces, bit by bit, as she resumed painting. It helped her heal, and better her mental condition.

Priya’s Scars Tell The Story of Her Suffering

The mental agony may have gone, but the scars on Priya’s legs and arms are remnants of her physical suffering.

I had multiple infections on my skin. There was pus all over the legs and arms. I got septicemia. I recovered partially, but got myself discharged because I was sick of being in hospitals. I started my own tuition classes for Class XI and XII students. My wounds hadn’t healed properly, and therefore, while teaching my students, the pus would ooze out of my bandaged legs and seep into the creases of the sofa. 
Priya Bhargava

The struggle and suffering may be a salient part of Priya’s narrative, but that’s not what she would like it to be reduced to.

I was determined that I would do something in my life. I had decided that I won’t go without doing anything big.

Seeing her charming personality and striking face, a doctor suggested that she enter the Miss Wheelchair India pageant. The year was 2015.

Miss Wheelchair India Helped Priya Embrace Her Body Again

After I got to know of the pageant, I started working on myself. Since I was wheelchair-bound and was being administered a number of drugs, I had gained a lot of weight. I was no more the attractive girl that I once was in my school days. It was all very demotivating for me. I had stopped thinking that I could wear make-up again and look good. When Miss Wheelchair India was announced – pushed by my near and dear ones – I decided to enter it. Once again, I began to focus on my appearance. It made me feel confident and beautiful once more.
Priya Bhargava

Also Read: “I Can Be a Model Too” Says Miss Wheelchair India Priya Bhargava

While many loved ones supported her, there were others who questioned why a disabled woman was embracing the pageantry at all.

As part of the Miss Wheelchair India pageant, we were told to garner likes for the Miss Popular round. That time, I had to request people to vote for me. Many of them asked me point blank, what purpose will it serve you? And that time I said, ‘I don’t know how it will benefit me, but I do know that it is motivating me to live my life once again.’ 

For a woman who was restricted to the four walls of the house as her immune system had become prone to the slightest of infections, this was a big leap.

Due to my disease, my legs were disfigured. My arms were disfigured. But make-up helped me gain control of my femininity once more. And it made me feel great. 

Priya is all set to represent India at the Miss Wheelchair World pageant to be held in Poland in October. But she needs the help of make-up artists, designers and photographers to help her prepare for the worldwide competition.

If she wins, she would like to start a similar beauty pageant for disabled men and women in the country. Says Priya, “In India, people can’t correlate beauty with disability. I hope that through my endeavour, people can see that the disabled too can look good”.

Camera: Abhishek Ranjan Chaudhury
Editor: Rahul Sapui

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