We talk everyday about doing the extraordinary; changing the world, making a difference, helping those in need. But there exist a very small percentage of people, who actually go out there to make that change and BE that difference. Punekar Divyanshu Ganatra is one of them.
Paraglider, scuba diver, mountaineer, IT expert, entrepreneur and psychologist. The man has done it all. With just one little catch; Divyanshu is completely blind.
The Early Years
At the age of 19, Divyanshu lost his eyesight to glaucoma. At 19 years old, life is confusing enough as it is. But to suddenly adjust to a completely dark world is an ordeal difficult to fathom. Divyanshu was told that the only possible career options were the likes of chalk making or becoming a telephone operator.
He says, “It angered me that people thought they could dictate my future for me. I had lost my sight, not my dignity.” So Divyanshu did what people told him he could never do. For seven years, he pursued a successful career in IT and emerged with a National Award from the President for his contribution to the field.
“People told me that I couldn’t do it because I was blind, but I took it up as a challenge and proved to myself that I could.” He later diversified from the IT world and went on to becoming a clinical psychologist and setting up his own company called Yellow Brick Road.
His accolades don’t stop there. Divyanshu has always fostered a love for sports and the outdoors and he defied all odds by becoming India’s first blind solo Paraglider! Whether it’s the mountains, the seas or the winds, there’s no obstacle that can deter the path of our man with a mission: to do the unthinkable.
It angered me that people thought they could dictate my future for me. I had lost my sight, not my dignity.
Social Stigma and The Challenge
“Tomorrow if I apply for a job, the first thing people are going to see is, oh he’s blind! People don’t know that blind people can use computers and phones. All this leads to a lot of missing of opportunities and social attitudinal barriers that we face. Children are locked indoors because of shame or guilt. Parents don’t want to take them out and they never come in touch with the mainstream community. They’re shy, scared and awkward and they come to accept their isolation. But people with disabilities need to learn to socialise, because this is the world they have to learn to live in.”
This realisation of the need to bridge the gap between able-bodied and disabled people, led Divyanshu to set up Adventures Beyond Barriers, an NGO working towards bringing these two communities together through the power of sport and adventure.
Breaking Barriers through the Power of Sports
“A lot of disabled people are never introduced to the outdoors because they are made to believe that they can’t do it. At Adventures Beyond Barriers, all we do is create spaces where people come together in play. When two different communities come together, all these social barriers are broken down and friendships are created that last a lifetime!” says Divyanshu.
Adventures Beyond Barriers caters to people of all age groups who face different kinds of disabilities. Everyone, from amputees, paraplegics to visually impaired people, is given the means to enter the wonderful world of sports and adventure. With activities like scuba diving, mountaineering, paragliding, running, cycling and many more, Adventures Beyond Barriers encourages people with disabilities to do things they otherwise never thought possible.
“These activities give them a sense of identity beyond their disability. Instead of ‘Sana the blind girl’ it’s now ‘Sana the marathon runner’ or ‘Raju the mountaineer’! It lets the world actually see them,” he says.
Today, Divyanshu has received nationwide recognition for his outstanding contribution towards the community of disabled people in the country. He teaches us to be fighters. To get up and DO what the world thinks you can’t. That even though you sometimes can’t see it, the view is still pretty damn beautiful.
The team is organising a trek to Everest Base Camp and also aims at flying their flag at the Everest Summit this May. They are currently looking for support in terms of funds to make this expedition possible. Contact them at email@example.com to learn how you can help!
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