“It was a regular day in class, I was in the 8th grade. My teacher asked me what I wanted to do in life, and for whatever reason, my answer was “I want to be in the Indian army”. Something stirred in me that day, and from there on in, it became the only goal I had in sight. That rewiring of my brain started a snowball effect and I began studying better, playing more sports, and getting more involved in extra-curriculars.
After 4 years of hardwork and sacrifices, and convincing my parents, I made it to the National Defence Academy in 2015, and slowly started building my merit there as well. It’s difficult, that’s for sure. There’s things that happen in the academy that are extremely jarring, but it’s all worth it. I was finally at peace with where I was in life, and began planning out the blueprint for the future- my next vacation, marriage, vacation, new bike- everything was going smoothly.
28th Jan 2017; it was a regular day and I was performing a physical task. But life has it’s way of throwing a curveball; I suffered from a back injury. Initially I thought it was just another injury, but 2 hours later the adrenaline wore off and the pain really kicked in. I was rushed to the hospital where the MRI scans showed a disc deformity. After spending over a month in the hospital, in March 2017, I was told that I was unfit to continue, and my career was over.
My days in the hospital were grim. I was ready to end my life. I saw no reason to live anymore because my one goal had now perished. On D minus 2, I was going through pictures of my family and friends for the last time. It was as I went through these pictures, I realized I was running away from my battles instead of fighting them like I had been trained to do. Yes, a part of me died when my career ended, but there were parts of me that were still alive. So I decided to see through this new gradient of my life.
When I returned home, I didn’t say a word for eight days, not to my parents, not to anybody. The eighth day, my mother broke down in front of me. As I held her, I knew I had to claw my way out of this pit. If not for me, then for them. I began looking for courses in universities, and getting back into the world. It wasn’t easy to fit in considering my entire universe had been in the fauj, but there was a day I recited a poem about my story. My friends were in tears, and pushed me to write more and more, and I ended up doing a lot more open mics and even wrote a book. What started as an emotional release became a tool for social change. I began expanding my range of writing to include a lot about mental health, and realized that it is such a travesty that as adults, we are so horrible at coping with mental health because we are not brought up to accept it as a part of the struggles in life. For the past 3 years I’ve been very vocal about Mental Health, but I wanted to bring a ground level change.
Coming to 2020, COVID-19 caused a huge hit to all of us. I couldn’t stay quiet, I had to do something. This is the reason I began a petition to our Education Minister to incorporate mandatory Mental Health Curriculum(non-graded) in Indian Schools. In support of the petition, I’m currently walking from Kanyakumari to Leh (4000 kms). My goal is to see our country dealing with Mental Health as important as physical health, if not more.
I’m nearing Telangana border right now; I’m about 1500 kilometers in, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the journey. Hopefully, there will be a change soon. I’m not stopping until then.”
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Let’s bring #mentalhealthinschools
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