Tribute to our Founder
Tribute to our Founder
SMRC Founder Shri Ashok Hans
(20-10-1950 - 18-07-2008)
I was born in Gwalior on 20th Oct’ 1950 into a refugee family from West Pakistan. A year later we moved to Bhubaneswar where I spent my early childhood & underwent schooling. Later I was sent to a school in Dehra Doon as I was handful for my parents who were struggling to survive economically after having lost every thing during the partition. I completed my schooling from Sainik School and Graduated from St.Xavier’s College, Calcutta.
During school, I took active part in debating, elocution, dramatics and all round sporting activities. Won several prizes and was selected as School Captain. During the intervening period between school and college, took up flying, rock climbing, trekking and traveled to different parts of the country. I led the NCC contingent at Republic Parade in Delhi and was selected for the Himalayan Mountaineering Institution. During college I pursued cricket and was selected to play for the college & later for the University. In 1971 I took part in the Second Asian Motor Car Rally from Tehran to Dhaka.
Education over in 1972, took up a job as Sales Executive in Avery India Ltd. I think the enriching experience from the variety of schools and a range of other activities laid a strong foundation for the future. My hard working parents saw in me as one who would take up the household’s future responsibilities. This was not to be as on a cool October afternoon of 1974 while riding home on a motorbike I was hit from behind by a car driven by a fourteen year old. Witnesses later told me that, I was flung over the car headlong into the open drain. Later in hospital I learnt that a few vertebras behind my neck had being crushed and my spinal cord had been severely damaged. I was irreversibly paralyzed below my neck for life after a lamenectomy was carried out a month later. This was devastating for our family as our mother had passed away only a year ago with leukemia (cancer).
Life, they say, must go on and soon I under went rehabilitation training under Dr. Mary Verghese who was a pioneer in spinal cord injuries management and a paraplegic herself. This empowered me and the family to face the world as it was. On returning home I began my quest for socio-economic independence and acceptance. I was confident that, the position we enjoyed in society, it would be a matter of time that I would be back to active living. It was not to be. The same society would sympathise and assure, but, a look at my wheel chair was enough for them to ignore my abilities. This continued over the next nine years and I was depressed yet looking for an opportunity that, would give me a full and a productive life.
I was very young and knew that this was very important to my future. After knocking at different doors - banks, government offices, corporate and business houses, I found each door shutting and no response. Finally I managed to get a petrol pump given by the Indian Oil Company for management by persons with disabilities. Running it, was tough, but I was prepared to face the challenge. I was a new tetraplaegic and could not sit more that few hours a day. The oil company provided me with a kiosk, which was inaccessible. The company personnel finally decided that a person who did not sit in an office 17 hours- 6 am to 11 p.m. a day could not run it, though owners with no disability were running it from their homes and other offices.
In 1984, the first support came from a sister’s friend Neena Kapoor who helped me get air tickets to the United States. I visited innumerable institutes and met a large number of activists. It was for me a visit which deeply impacted my very being and I was convinced that, such were the initiatives that, I would pursue for the rest of my life. Marcellino Heurta Jr. of the J. Clifford MacDonald Centre (USA), Carol Anne Robersone of the New York’s Mayor’s Office impacted me with their dedication, the latter in her work in getting the American disabilities act passed.
While visiting the MacDonald center for the adult with developmental disabilities in Tampa, Florida during my visit to the US a young person came to me with a potted Christmas plant and said, “I have created this”. I was extremely moved and at that moment I decided to spend rest of life to work for with persons with disabilities. SMRC would be a creation of persons with disabilities.
Another fascinating visit was to the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation where later Christopher Reeves (Superman) was to undergo rehabilitation after a spinal injury. It was a fascinating world where people like me regained not only physical but also mental strength. A group of young Oriya and American students and the famous writer Dominique Lappeire who invited me to France to the St. Vivien’s Institute for Congenital disabilities showed what civil society could do.