The Gig Junkie: Nipun Malhotra Malhotra has arthrogryposis, which means his limbs aren’t fully developed and he uses a wheelchair. After being turned away from a restaurant, Malhotra lobbied with the Indian restaurant review platform Zomato to bring back the disabled-friendly tag in their reviews. Because he wanted to attend the NH7 Weekender music festival in Delhi last year, he worked with the organisers to ensure that the event had elevated platforms and ramps, even holding a sensitisation session with the festival’s volunteers. Malhotra loves food, cricket, clubbing and music festivals, but with most public infrastructure being inaccessible to the disabled, he gets around in a customised car with a driver.
The Gadget Geek: Deepa Narasimhan Narasimhan was diagnosed with the degenerative disease at birth and says it took a long time for her to understand and accept what was happening to her body. A turning point for her came in 2000, when her parents bought her a computer and got a dial-up internet connection. Narasimhan started researching her condition and talking to doctors online. It was through this research that she was able to move on, express herself in a blog, make virtual friends who faced similar difficulties, and take online courses. She learned HTML, Flash, Photoshop and became a freelance designer, building websites. In 2008, after a four-year search, she was hired as creative lead for marketing and branding at EMC.
The Dating Game: Sweta Mantrii Sweta Mantrii (center in pic), 28, a content developer from Pune has spina bifida and walks with crutches and a caliper. Last year, Mantrii wrote a monologue about love, fidelity and disability, to highlight how differently abled people are commonly stereotyped. The monologue was performed by theatre group Dream Stage at Whistling Woods Andheri Base, Mumbai, as part of a Taboo Talk series. Mantrii loves writing so most her experiences are documented on her blog, Swetamantrii and on her Facebook profile. She writes short stories about love and loss; posts on friendships, learning from mistakes and her experiences at government hospitals or family weddings.
The Travel Writer: Sonali Gupta Sonali Gupta’s day job is as a corporate communications executive but her passions are writing and travel. She has limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, a degenerative disease, and sometimes uses a wheelchair. Online, she is known for her blog Howstraitthegait where she writes about her journey from a young woman who would arrive at dates early and hide her cane to someone who is open and upfront about her disability. Offline, her friends know her as a travel junkie – she’s lived in Spain and travelled to the Caribbean, Turkey, Italy, Morocco, and across India, from Rishikesh to Bangalore, Chennai to Munnar and Kochi.
‘People don’t believe I can see’: Nidhi Goyal Nidhi Goyal, a Mumbai-based writer, gender and disability rights activist and programme director at the NGO Point of View, is visually impaired but is often confused for a sighted person. Goyal, 30, was 15 when she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disorder with no cure. She is completely blind but has a mild perception of light. She once supported two of her slightly drunk friends as they stumbled out of a Mumbai restaurant in the wee hours, and got them home safely. She also got a friend to teach her to salsa and now shows off her moves at parties.
The Budding Filmmaker: Priti Shetty It is on the weekends that Priti Shetty comes into her element. During the week, Shetty, 30, is a digital marketing and social media consultant who resides in Mulund. Shetty has spinal cord muscular atrophy and uses a battery-powered wheelchair. “I just can’t sit at home doing nothing. So I joined a friend’s company called 9tanki Entertainment and we make short films and documentaries on education, the true meaning of festivals and the city’s unsung heroes,” she says. Her job at 9tanki involves auditioning actors, scouting for locations and putting together production and post- production teams. She does most of this online. Three years ago, she started the NGO Wills on Wheels Foundation with three others, including her brother who suffers from the same condition.