I grew up in a remote village in India, where knowledge of the polio vaccination was limited. I was affected by polio at seven months old: a massive attack that left me paralysed below the shoulders.
Where I grew up, a girl with a severe disability does not get a chance at education easily, as parents tend not to be interested in providing it, but thankfully my parents were progressive thinkers and made sure I went to school. I was unable to go to college or university because they did not have disability friendly facilities, so I turned to home education and graduated in mathematics. I decided if I could not go to the external world, it would come to me.
Working to work
My first attempts at securing a job were not easy. I applied for a post at an insurance company and was disappointed to not be considered. My disability was a bar for the post. One of my cousins suggested I try for a job with a bank, as he was aware of people with similar conditions working in financial services.
So I attended a Banking Services Recruitment Board exam followed by an interview, and passed with flying colours. I was called for medical test, which should have been just a formality. But for me, it was another fight. The head of the medical board declared me unfit for the job. I challenged his decision based on other orthopaedic doctors' reports. After three months, I finally received my offer letter.
Years later, when somebody told me the private sector would be difficult to succeed in, I decided to rise to that challenge. I studied for new qualifications and joined Standard Chartered in 2006.
I was so happy to join. The accessibility services were so much better than I’d experienced before. They made changes for me, simple things like disabled-friendly restrooms. People would laugh when I told them how delighted I was simply to have accessible restrooms!
In 2007, just a year after I joined, my health deteriorated. My spine was compressed and my lungs were under pressure. I went to a doctor who told me I would soon be bedridden, and that I had only months to live. I didn’t know what to do. Facing this health crisis was one thing, but I had only just secured a job I was really enjoying. Thankfully my bosses told me to take the time that I needed.