Who Dares Wins
Aatika H Jain
The courage to walk the path less traveled, the audacity to laugh at the troubles life throws at you, the resolve to see one’s resolution through to the end… all the five fighters featured in our cover story have these remarkable qualities. Qualities that are worth emulating, if one may say so. These are the people who remind you that failure is but the stepping stone to success. And who better to show that off than Natasha Diddle, more popular as her Instagram handle, @thegutlessfoodie. Having lost her stomach to a tumor, she should have been turned off food. But it turned her into a food stylist and recipe developer instead. Her colorful and cheerful Insta posts are a daily motivational tool for many.
Anand Arnold, paralyzed since the age of 15 after surviving cancer, has been crowned Mr. India three times over. His rippling physique is a reminder to anyone with a ‘can’t do’ attitude that a dream, no matter how mighty, can come true. IAS officer IRA Singhal would cheerily attest to that, being the first differently-abled person to top the IAS exam.
Sunitha Krishnan’s struggles go beyond the personal. She broke the binding chains of a personal tragedy to help rehabilitate victims of sex trafficking. Her efforts have won her international accolades as well as the love and gratitude of thousands of rescued victims. Dilshad Master is the embodiment of cheer and optimism. Having trekked to the Everest Base Camp just weeks after major surgery for cancer, her resolve is as steely as it gets. Are these stories of fearless people then? No. These are indeed stories of flesh-and-blood humans, with all their self-doubts and fears. But these are also stories of those who decided to mute the voice that said ‘no’ and pumped up the volume when the inner voice said, ‘Yes, you can.’
India’s first differently-abled woman to top the UPSC exam, Ira Singhal is living the life of her dreams.
Don’t let your problems define you: this is the one thought the bold Ira Singhal has to share with the world. She is not just another IAS officer, but one with many shades to her never-say-never attitude. Being India’s first differently-abled woman to top the UPSC exam, Singhal’s journey towards becoming an IAS officer par excellence is one to be told over and over. Diagnosed with scoliosis, a locomotive disability, as a child, Singhal grew up in an environment where her physical impairment was never allowed to be an excuse. “I was made aware of my condition since childhood and was told that I have to work to overcome it,” she shares, gratefulness towards her parents evident in her tone. “The expectations from me were exactly the same as with every other child in my family. I was never allowed to not do something because of disability. It was just a part of me and not something that defined me. I was pushed to be a part of every activity and encouraged to be an all-rounder. In a way, I was forced to try my best at doing everything and only let go of it if I had absolutely no interest or talent for it.” Acing the UPSC exam had always been on her mind.
“THE EXPECTATIONS FROM ME WERE EXACTLY THE SAME AS WITH EVERY OTHER CHILD IN MY FAMILY. I WAS NEVER ALLOWED TO NOT DO SOMETHING BECAUSE OF DISABILITY. IT WAS JUST A PART OF ME AND NOT SOMETHING THAT DEFINED ME.”Ira Singhal,
Sub-Divisional Magistrate, NCT, Delhi
When she quit her corporate job to pursue her dream, she knew fully well what she wanted to do for the rest of her life: to work with, and for people. But none of her victories have come easy. Although Singhal cleared the exam in her first go in 2010, she was denied posting on the grounds of disability. Singhal moved the Central Administrative Tribunal stating a violation of the Persons With Disability (PWD) act and won the lawsuit in 2014.
She was posted as Assistant Commissioner in the Customs & Excise department of the Indian Revenue Services initially but always held her hopes high for an IAS rank, which she went on to achieve by topping the exam in 2014. Singhal is currently posted as the Sub-Divisional Magistrate at the Government of NCT of Delhi and is also actively involved in several social initiatives that work towards inclusion and women empowerment.
“I am actively involved with over five NGOs that represent causes from disability to education to women and child-related issues,” she says.“I also lend a hand in individual and group counseling in various schools, colleges, and universities on issues related to youth, inclusion and women empowerment.” An avid reader and traveler, she is on a bookish mission this year, to read 100 books. “I am on track to complete it,” she says. Recently, she also held an exclusive Aadhaar card camp for transgenders and third gender persons and hopes to continue her race towards the inclusion of the marginalized.
Singhal is the epitome of determination and resilience. She is not just another person who has rowed against the waves. She is blatantly honest, unapologetic and relentless in her pursuit of happiness and justice. “Always remember, the world only sees you as you see yourself. The only person who truly knows you is you. So don’t let others tell you what to think of yourself. Be honest with yourself. You believe in you and the world will do it too,” Singhal signs off with a few words to live by.