Every act, be it of kindness or pain, no matter how small or big, has a tendency to create a ripple effect that can reach great distances and resonate great minds. We got an opportunity to meet a person whose journey has resonated the greatest of minds, the venerated President of India, Smt. Droupadi Murmu.
Smt. Swarnalatha J stands as an illustrious individual, a motivational speaker, a five times TedX speaker, and a holder of Asia Book of Records for her motivational speeches. Beyond her accomplishments, she also seems like a person who finds every way possible to articulate herself to inspire others, be it advocacy, singing, story telling or photography. She is a beauty pageant winner, despite facing the challenge of being diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis in 2009. She is also a polyglot speaking about 10 languages, another proof that she is an excellent communicator.
Married to Dr. T S Guruprasad, Swarnalatha is a loving mother to two adorable children, Gagan and Gaana. Her remarkable journey has garnered widespread recognition, with more than 40 awards and accolades bestowed upon her, solidifying her impact and influence across India. A testament to her achievements, she was honored with the National Awards for the Empowerment of Divyangjan (differently abled) in 2023, presented by our honorable President Droupadi Murmu in New Delhi.
Despite encountering a series of challenges, Smt. Swarnalatha J reminisced about her school days, affirming, "School gave me happiness", as she has always been a seeker of knowledge. From taking tuition to the neighbor kids at the early age of 14, to visiting doctors by herself from as early as 11, she boasts that she has always been an independent woman, not just financially but also in her personal choices, career pursuits, and the way she navigates life's challenges with resilience and self-reliance.
What personifies independence more than love? Smt. Swarnalatha fell in love with Dr. Guruprasad, who happened to be her neighbor in the Railway Colony in Bangalore, as both their fathers were working for Indian Railways at that point. Dr. Guruprasad was an ardent thinker, an exceptional Engineer, and an expert in Supply Chain Management. With love that transcended parental objections they began a life in Bombay and later moved back to Bangalore upon the birth of their son, Gagan.
In 2009, she faced a life-altering diagnosis of Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, resulting in paralysis. Since her days at the hospital, she dedicated herself to empowering those with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and other neuro disorders. Recognizing the unique challenges faced by parents of specially-abled individuals, she emphasized the importance of providing basic education for them to attain self-sufficiency. She initiated this journey by teaching candle making and jewelry crafting at the hospital, a small beginning that has blossomed into the impactful SWARGA FOUNDATION, reaching people from every corner of India today.
She has the credit of launching Sarathi, India's first travel solution for persons with disabilities and senior citizens. It has positively impacted approximately 1300 families by providing safe and reliable transportation. Offering essential amenities such as ramps, toilets, sofa cum beds, TVs, washbasins, and more, Sarathi has covered over 100,000 kilometers, serving communities across 15 states. It has gone the lengths and breadths of Bharat. Smt. Swarnalatha has redefined mobility for the specially abled while saying, “Walking has perpetually been my dream, but moving forward has always been the inevitable.” She also used the opportunity to appreciate the dedicated drivers they have who are happy to serve for this noble cause.
Swarga has also installed accessibility-built ramps, built disabled friendly toilets and provided wheelchairs in around 24 police establishments, 10 Government Schools and various other places. She bore a proud smile when she said that Swarga was instrumental in installing the disabled friendly elevators and toilets in the Coimbatore Railway Station. She has empowered more than 1 crore minds through her motivational talks and their initiative called Sowkhya is helping more than 18,000 patients with physiotherapy, Ayurveda and Counseling.
Suraksha is yet another initiative from Swarga, providing door step palliative care with doctors, counselors and physiotherapists to more than 60 families. The initiative Lakshya is now helping 15 parashooters including 3 women at Nehru Air Rifle Academy. She was proud to say that one of their shooters, Smt. Balamani is now selected for the World Cup. They also have an inclusive band of singers with challenged artists and an exceptional keyboard player. They have created a yearly calendar, which acts as a fundraising activity for the foundation, bearing the words, “I’m not just special, I’m Limited Edition”, highlighting the specially abled achievers across India as a piece of inspiration to others. On top of this, with services for 6540 senior citizens in homes and medical camps benefitting 752 patients, the list goes on to tell the story of Swarga Foundation.
As they say, seed doesn’t fall far away from the tree. The children of Smt. Swarnalatha and Dr. Guruprasad has grown into fine human beings, involved in the social activity right from such a young age. It is noteworthy that their son Gagan is a state level swimmer, cyclist, badminton player, and a national level Karate champion. The daughter Gaana has participated in a national level Yoga Program and is also a singer.
The vision of Swarga is to build an in-patient and comprehensive rehab center to serve people better. She also added that there is a gap between idea and implementation and that which defines success; intent matters, but involvement and implementation is necessary.
While such a fatal persistent agony would leave any family shaken, the strength of one woman and the support of a devoted man had rewritten the customary and is rewriting the fates of hundreds of individuals. The way the family has coped up with extreme uncertainties and found strength not just for themselves but also to help others is commendable. And the fact that the entire family is a part of this social initiative is admirable. As we took leave, Smt. Swarnalatha smilingly said, “Behind every successful woman, there is a committed man.” The Verandah club is wishing all the success to this superhuman family that is now moving forward.
|| Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah ||
Vigneshwaran, Senior Correspondent of TheVerandahClub.com is both a skilled digital content writer and marketer by profession, as well as an avid independent writer driven by his passion. His literary talents extend to crafting beautiful poems and captivating short stories. In addition to these creative pursuits, he has also authored a book titled "Halahala," which can be found on Wattpad.
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