Super humans. We read about them, watch them and admire them in the virtual world - but I live with a superhuman. She is my mother.
I am Diksha Dinde, a 23-year-old student and activist from India. I am 84% differently abled, trying to break the stereotypes related to disabled people.
Be it teaching underprivileged children from the slums near where I live or raising awareness to break taboos around menstruation, I have been doing my part to make this world a better place to live.
My mother, Mrs Chitrarekha Dinde, is my role model. She inspires and motivates me to grow without any barriers. It seems to me that this woman looks at life as a challenge and wholeheartedly intends to seize the day every day.
My mother looked after me and supported me in every part of my life. Right from childhood she has been with me like my shadow. It had been riddled with hurdles and difficulties, but she has managed to cross them all to because of the amazing and independent person she is.
Being physically challenged I am not able to move by myself and because of this I have not been able to do daily routine activities since childhood. At the beginning this was a hardship for my mother, but she was determined to make it work.
She not only helped me whenever I needed but she also taught me to help myself. She taught me to keep myself clean and neat, how to eat and how to know how much to eat. She says, "a child does not learn from what parents say but from what parents do".
I have had three operations and various therapies on my spine but none have been successful. I was rejected from schools because of their lack of infrastructure and facilities. I was finally admitted to one school.
My mother had to be there with me the whole day, but at the same time she also had to handle our home life. So she started tailoring and working during school hours. That is how she was able to satisfy financial needs in the home.
Now I've graduated in Business Administration and I’m pursuing a Masters.
Whenever I look at my mother I see an ordinary person but when I think about what she does and how she does it she becomes divine and the reason of my smile!
The experience of my life so far has truly brought things into perspective. My mother has taught me that hard times can be overcome and that losing battles can be won. She has taught me more than I could have learnt from any book.
She sets an inspirational example to me teaching me how to live life and make wise choices, even in the most uncertain situations.
I respect her a lot. She is my inspiration, my role model.
Children with disabilities
Children with disabilities are more likely to miss out on school than other children. But there are global commitments to overcome the barriers and give inclusive education to all children.
For the longest time, I was only able to get the supporting role in life. And though you may be thinking, “I didn’t know Safa was an actress," well, I’m not. I literally mean that I always focused on helping others and making them happy for the first 13 years of my life. As the years passed, nothing of significance appeared to stand out in my memories, only glimpses of amusement parks and birthday parties.
Perhaps it was because my long-term memory is weak, or maybe those years were blurry because I didn't focus on myself. When I looked at others, I even saw them as bystanders in their own stories. Other friends tell me that they remember most of their childhood adventures clearly, but I can't say the same because my brain didn't mark my childhood as something that I played a significant role in.
Thankfully, I can tell you that every moment of the last three years is crystal clear because of the precious friends I've made in high school, especially my five best friends. These girls have given me the motivation to become a better person for myself and for others. I used to want to live a "normal" life and only engage in necessary activities but nowadays, I find myself wanting to do more, to do things that I'm interested in and wanting to invest myself in.
When I was younger, I loved writing about anything, and I even won second place in the Reflections Contest in middle school. This year, I joined Odyssey because I wanted to revive the girl who always passionately transferred her words to paper, regardless of the topic. I've started reading books for my enjoyment again, rather than simply for school assignments. A few days ago, I picked up "Coma" by Robin Cooke because I hadn't picked up a medical thriller (my favorite genre) since seventh grade.
There are so many more little things that I've begun to do that bring me joy in the midst of my overwhelming exams and assignments, all thanks to my supportive friends who inspire me and remind me that it's okay to indulge in myself.
Neha writes beautiful stories for her growing fan-base on Tumblr (I'm her #1 fan).
Divya is a devoted gamer and watches true crime shows.
Michelle uses her marvelous looks and brain to ace math competitions (she isn't a nerd, so get that stereotypical image out of your head).
Tiffany creates amazing digital art and equally amazing paintings (I take pictures of every one of her exhibitions in school).
And Emily does covers on YouTube with her lovely honey voice (I'm also her #1 fan).
Seeing them find time for the things that make them happy motivates me to do the same.
The friend who played the largest part in encouraging me to find myself was the one I made on the first day of ninth grade: Neha Satish. I will always remember those awkward but heartwarming five minutes for the rest of my life. Neha and I were both from different middle schools that didn't feed into our high school, so we didn't know anyone. We had noticed each other in first period, and we had seen each other again during lunch. My dad had come to the front lobby to pick me up at the end of the day, and Neha happened to be passing by to go to her car, too. She suddenly stopped in front of me.
“Do you want to eat lunch together tomorrow?” she asked.
I was startled to say the least, yet I was also elated. And so began our beautiful friendship. Neha knows me more than I know myself. I tell her my secrets and worries, and in return, she provides me with encouragement and comfort. Sometimes, we're the exact same person, and sometimes, we're polar opposites.
I used to be very cautious about my opinions around other people because I didn't want to hurt their feelings or cause disagreements. However, Neha and I have so many different views that we share without triggering each other. She taught me to think that my thoughts and opinions were valuable.
When anyone asks me who my role model is, I would tell them it's Neha Satish (so are you, Mom; don't freak out). Neha is a strong, loyal and reliable friend. She isn't afraid to pursue what she wants, and she knows how to make herself happy. This girl never runs out of motivational quips that always have me drowning in tears and gratitude. Without her, I would still be focused on making others happy and supporting them instead of myself.
When I told her that I wanted to start living a better life for myself, she promised me that she would help me through every step of the way and that she would make sure her shoulder was nearby when I needed someone to lean on. And finally, that she would support my every decision.
To this day, she has never broken that promise.