Gritty Women

Shubreet Kaur Gumman

She did not faint when she saw hundreds of ants eating up her paralysed leg in hospital; she did not cringe when she saw fingers falling off one by one from her injured leg; she did not die despite the doctors giving up on her and she did not allow life to push her into the darkest corner of accidental disability after a doctor erroneously chopped off a vital vein in her left thigh. Meet Shubhreet Kaur Ghumman, the one-legged dancing wonder, who gives SANGEETA YADAV a lesson in life well fought & well lived

There is not a single profile shot of Shubhreet Kaur Ghumman on her Facebook page in which she is not smiling or posing for a sexy photograph with her speaking eyes, sparkling smile, high cheekbones and a tall, becoming figure. Yet, they shock you at first sight — for, in most of them, she stands on one leg, the other peeping out as a bandaged stub with just a portion of the upper thigh remaining.

But soon, shock gives way to awe as she stoutly declares that pity is the last thing she would like to evoke and sympathy a crutch she will never take. You may have seen this 27-year-old fighter dancing away to “Chikni Chameli” at a recent round of India’s Got Talent. The performance had everyone teary-eyed and standing in ovation. Setting an example for everyone that nothing is impossible in this world and that one should never give up in life, Shubhreet is not just a proud daughter but also a true inspiration to many able-bodied people who come into her radar.

Not that she was born with one leg. Till a freak accident and a doctoral error led to the amputation of her left leg, Shubhreet was just like any girl next door grooving to Punjabi bhangra and having a yen for belly dancing.

“I enjoyed dancing to Bollywood numbers. It was the first day of my first year of BSc studies at the Rattan Professional Education College of Nursing, Chandigarh. While returning home, my scooty skidded and I lost control. My left leg got fractured and I was rushed to the PGI hospital for corrective surgery on November 5, 2009,” she recalls.

“Doctor Aditya Aggarwal and his team were handling my case. They first gave local anaesthesia to fix some screws into my broken leg. But when they made the first cut, they accidentally cut my vein and the bleeding wouldn’t stop. I went into convulsions and my pulse and blood pressure started failing. They then gave me general anaesthesia but still couldn’t fix the screws into my broken bone. The situation turned so bad that the doctors told my mother that I was bleeding to death with only a few hours to live. I went into coma for 12 hours. After a few days, I realised there was no sensation in my leg due to the damaged nerve,” Shubhreet says.

It was a nightmare Shubhreet’s mother Chanpreet Kaur continues to relive even though her daughter has since not only defeated death but all odds stacked against a disabled person. Already, she had seen lots in life — from an alcoholic husband who passed away without leaving any resources, to unhelpful relatives — she had brought up her three children single-handed.

“When Shubhreet was being taken for the operation, I was at peace as I knew it was a small corrective surgery and she would be fine. But I almost died of shock when doctors told me that my daughter was dying. They said, they wouldn’t be able to do anything about the damaged leg either. I cried a lot and was very angry over their criminal negligence. They gave up on my daughter,” Chanpreet tells you.

There was more in store. Instead of referring Shubhreet to another hospital, the doctors refused to treat her.

“None was ready to take up her case. In those three days, I saw my daughter dying every minute,” Chanpreet, who works in a boutique, says.

Meanwhile, Shubhreet’s condition worsened.

“It was awful. My foot fingers started falling off. My leg used to be covered with a blanket and I was not allowed to move. One morning, when I woke up, I saw two-three ants on my blanket. When my mother removed the blanket, we saw hundreds of brown ants eating up my left leg. Since my sensation nerve was damaged, I did not feel anything. I can’t forget that sight. It was like hell. But my mother comforted me, saying: ‘Sab theek ho jayega. Himmat mat haarna’. Except for my mother and my younger sister Surmeet  (24), nobody from my father’s family helped. My father passed away in 2000 due to alcohol addiction,” Shubhreet tells you.

It was then that Shubhreet took the ultimate decision — to have her leg amputated and get on with life. But no doctor was ready to do the amputation. Finally, Dr Harinder Bedi from Christian Medical College (CMC) in Ludhiana agreed to take Shubhreet’s case. He did a couple of minor operations and finally conducted the amputation on September 16, 2010.

“When she was being taken into the OT, Dr Bedi told us that it was a risky operation. ‘Kuch bhi ho sakta hai but we will try our best,’ he said. I told my daughter not to fear. I was confident she would emerge alright. She kept smiling back at me reassuringly. Doctors said it would take two hours. But after an hour, they called me into their cabin. I was so scared that my daughter must be dead. But when they told me that the operation was a success and she had been saved, I fell on the doctor’s feet and told him ‘mujhe rab mil gaya.’ I was so thankful to him,” Chanpreet recalls.

A doctor’s negligence had altered young Shubhreet’s life forever. But instead of suing the hospital, Chanpreet focused on getting her daughter out of bed and back on her feet.

“For me, saving my daughter’s life was more important than suing those doctors. If I would have thought of fighting the doctors, I would have lost her. My only aim in life was to get my daughter to stand and get on with life. Jahaan tak bhi mein jaa sakti hoon wahaan tak jaungi. Jo chaiye,mai dungi, bus isko her haalat me bachchna hai. Dus darwaze bandh hongey toh kya hua, koi ek darwaza toh khulega. I didn’t want to get into such issues. Also, the hospital refused to give me any medical documents,” Chanpreet says.

From paying rent, running a household and arranging the funds for the operations, it was an uphill task for this 57-year-old single mother of three. More than Rs 7 lakh were spent on her operations. Chanpreet took a personal loan and got some help from her parental side and her son to tide over the expenses.

After seven operations in a year, Shubhreet finally got back to standing — but only on one leg. In that year, she read a lot about handicapped achievers to find inspiration. Her Facebook pictures have lots of snaps of those global greats who have done wonders without their limbs. Vinod Thakur, runners up of the earlier season of IGT and who was born only with upper limbs and a torso, is one of them. Her mother supported her in all her endeavours and now she is a celebrity in Chandigarh.

“I kept praying she doesn’t get into depression. She told me one day that she wanted to go to IGT and perform there. I gave her full freedom to pursue her dreams,” Chanpreet says.

After recovering, Shubhreet started dancing at home.

“I used to keep falling down as I had no balance. But my mother kept inspiring me. I gathered all my strength and practised a lot to strengthen my muscles. I would dance on one leg for three hours at a stretch. I did a lot of gym and yoga. People used to sympathise with my condition. But I told them to not be sorry for me. I don’t want people’s sympathy. I couldn’t continue my nursing studies, but I got professional training as a make-up artist,” Shubhreet says.

Shubhreet’s dream to get through India’s Got Talent took her to many dance academies for professional training but all she got was rejection.

“I wanted to get professional dance training under a seasoned choreographer. But the moment I used to tell them that I had only one leg, they used to reject me. They used to say their’s was not an academy for handicapped dancers. It killed me. I did not expect any special training or attention. They hadn’t seen my dancing talent. How could they underestimate my potential? It was so unfair. Then I decided that I would show the world how I could dance with one leg. Sabki soch, bol kar nahin kar ke badaloongi,” Shubhreet says.

Finally, the Rockstar Academy accepted Shubhreet on seeing her talent. Sameer Mahajan, founder and director of the academy, says that Shubhreet’s presence was inspirational for all his students.

“When Shubhreet told me that she was a one-legged dancer wanting to enroll at my academy to prepare for India’s Got Talent (IGT), I was excited. I saw her dance videos and realised she was outstanding. When I first met her, she came across as positive and confident. When my students saw her, they come to ask me if she was my friend or sister or relative. I told them she was, like them, one of my dance students. Everybody was amazed to see her driving her car and going out for parties without a worry in the world. She used to pick up dance steps very easily. She is a born dancer. She has faced so many problems, but is full of life. She had become famous much before IGT. But to win the show, she needs to work much harder and hone her skills. The most difficult thing to do on one leg is to sit and stand and move right and left on the beat. But she does it like a dream,” Mahajan tells you.

For Mahajan, teaching Shubhreet was the most memorable and creative experience.

“Before teaching her any step, I used to try it out myself with one leg and see if she would be able to manage. But Shubhreet used to tell me not to cancel any step just because it’s difficult. ‘I’ll practice and get it right’, she would say. Her stamina was very low. We prepared a diet and exercise plan for her to gain stamina. After three months of training, we prepared five dances and sent the video to the Colors team. She got selected for IGT auditions and you know the rest of the story,” Mahajan adds.

For now, Shubhreet is in Mumbai being choreographed for dances that will take her to the final rounds of this highly popular reality show. For Chanpreet, however, after the glow of pride settles down, there are issues around Shubhreet’s future that have started niggling, marriage being the prime concern.

“My younger daughter Surmeet is getting marriage this year. There are worries related to Shubhreet’s marriage but I have full faith in God. I will let my daughter choose her life partner,” Chanpreet says. While Chanpreet has left everything to God, Shubhreet says that marriage is a big responsibility not for now. “I do want to get married one day but I want a life partner who accepts me the way I am and one who doesn’t feel negative about my leg. There is always a right time for everything. Jab shaadi honi hogi, ho jayegi,” she says.

For now, she aspires to win IGT but that’s not the end of her dreams.

“I would like to dance with Hrithik Roshan some day and work in the entertainment industry. If I win IGT, with the prize money, I will open a dance school to train everyone, especially people like me and underprivileged children,” she says rushing off to practice another dance number, this time telling you how she would be practising for three hours straight on her sole leg!

Bravo Shubhreet, you are a lesson for all of us!

‘My never say die attitude attracted my wife’

(L-R) Vinod Thakur, Salman Khan & Raksha at India's Got Talent

(L-R) Vinod Thakur, Salman Khan & Raksha at Nach Baliye

Vinod Thakur was born with only a torso and upper limbs, to a truck driver in Bihar. Although his parents felt dejected about Thakur’s birth defect, he was determined to prove himself and not become an object of pity. Sangeeta Yadav spoke with the man who defied all odds to make disability his biggest strength

The idea of being born handicapped may be a nightmare for many but Vinod Thakur, runner-up of India’s Got Talent, 2010, and now a contestant in Nach Baliye 6, has lived with this condition for 24 years of his life.

“Challenges have been my life since birth. I have faced many stumbling blocks. Every time I failed, I treated that as a stepping stone to do something big. I have learnt to extract positives out of any situation. I to do everything by myself and can’t rest till I’ve perfected it,” he says.

Despite his missing lower limbs, dancing has been Vinod’s passion.

“Many times people smirked that a legless man like me wanted to shake a leg. But their mockery made me more determined to prove myself as a dancer,” Thakur tells you.

Apart from logistical challenges what irked Thakur was the pity with which people viewed him.

“To lead a normal life and make others see me as a normal person has been the most difficult part of my growing up. My parents were always worried about my future. Isse shaadi kaun karega was a question that dogged them. I used to worry about that too but I hid my fears so that my parents didn’t feel depressed,” the only child of his parents, says.

Born in Patna to a truck driver, Thakur wanted a formal education but since his parents couldn’t afford his fee, he was pulled out of school. Not wanting to wither away at home, Thakur took up dancing. “That decision changed my life,” he says. There was no turning back from then onwards and the dance floor was his only worship area. From hip-hop to contemporary to even break dance, he has mastered them all. It was pain and dejection that sparked off his desire to be an independent and successful person. And when people started liking his dancing, he thought of making it is his career.

“I wanted to earn a living for my family so I took up a job with a mobile repair shop. I also started exercising and making myself flexible so that I can do any kind of work with my body. I learnt a few dance steps and showed them to my friends. They encouraged me to learn further. After three months of hard work, I went to the auditions of India’s Got Talent and impressed the judges with my dancing style,” Thakur recalls.

Like any other person, he too had dreams of getting married to a girl who accepted him the way he was and did not consider him a burden.

“I was earning well and doing all my work myself. The only thought that nagged me was whether I would ever find love? I got some money from IGT Season 2 and spent that in building a dance academy for the disabled. We don’t charge a dime at The Indian Disabled Talent Hunt Trust in Delhi. This is where I met Raksha and we fell in love. She understood me. Every girl aspires to get married to a tall and handsome, person. But Raksha appreciates other qualities in a man. She loves me for what I am and for what I wanted to become. My aspirations and kuch kar dikhaney ka junoon attracted her to me,” Thakur says.

In 2012, Raksha and Vinod eloped and got married. Though Thakur’s parents were happy with this union, Raksha’s mother was against it. She couldn’t look beyond his disabilities.

“My parents were not too happy with my decision so we decided to elope. We knew our parents couldn’t have remained angry with us for a long time. Once we were married they would forgive us. Recently, on Nach Baliye, the producers surprised us by setting up a mandap and inviting our parents to give us their blessings. It was a very emotional moment,” Raksha, who is also a professional dancer, tells you.

According to Abhishek Sultania, CEO of Taurus Services  which manages the publicity of Vinod Thakur, he had an added advantage in bagging lots of projects as there was no competitor.

“Vinod’s USP is that he is one of his kind. Being legless and still dancing like a normal person is a very inspiring thing to do. With sheer hard work, positivity and determination, he has carved a niche for himself,” Sultania tells you.

Vinod wants to continue working with his wife in the television industry and has some international dance and theatre projects in the pipeline.

“I have to undergo an eight-month theatre project in Berlin. I also want to be a part of Bigg Boss,” Thakur says.

(The article published in The Pioneer Newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/investigation/gritty-women.html).

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