Wheelchair-bound Mumbai couple's message for all Indians: Go out and vote!
Andheri resident Girish Gogia’s email id, mrpositiveindian, is a succinct summation of all that he is. ‘Positive’ is an understatement for Gogia’s spirit, which leaves the most eloquent bereft of words or labels. Today, Girish has a message for all Indians — go out and vote.
The waters are still, lovely and deep: We have miles to go before we sleep, say Girish and Eesha Gogia
“I am confined to a wheelchair, and most election centres, do not have ramps. Still I make it a point to be taken to the centre and cast my vote, and I shall do the same this election, too.”
Able or disabled, make it a point to go and participate in the voting process, otherwise, you have no right to complain,” says Girish who rewinds to 15 years ago...
Hand it to life: Participants at a workshop conducted by the Gogias
In 1999, Girish was at a beach in Goa, to usher in the new millennium. A confident ocean diver, Girish decided to dive off at Calangute beach on December 29, 1999. “Unfortunately, I miscalculated the depth of the water. I dived into shallow water and landed upside down with my head hitting the soft sandy seabed. I did not get any skull injury but my body weight impacted my spinal cord. My neck broke and I was instantly paralysed. I drifted into deep waters as I could not swim back.” Girish was brought back to shore with help.
Darkness to light
“Since then, I have been completely paralysed, neck downwards. I became a quadriplegic, with just 50 per cent of respiratory function and zero sensation in almost 90 per cent of my body,” he says.
Girish recalls, “I remember the day vividly, when doctors told me that I would never be able to lead a normal life. I remember screaming from the depth of my darkness. How could I, a jet-setting entrepreneur, an interior designer and an adventure-lover, turn into a vegetable? I was just married and I had my entire life to live. Why me? I felt perplexed. More so, as my wife Eesha too was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) six months prior to my debilitating dive.”
Girish’s defiance, however surfaced soon. He remembers, “I recall the neurologist said: ‘Girish you will have to live the rest of your life as a vegetable’ and also told my parents that I won’t be able to survive more than a year or two. I met the doctor and challenged him and said, Doctor, I appreciate your diagnosis, but I will not accept your final verdict.’”
The fight back
Eesha has an equally difficult story to tell. “By early 1999, when I was 25 and two years into my marriage, I started losing my balance while walking and could not go walk around. My vision was distorted. The doctors diagnosed it as MS. Before things worsened for me in December 1999, my husband, Girish took me to Goa for a holiday. There he met with a terrible accident, which left him 90 per cent paralysed.”
By 2006, Esha’s condition worsened and she could barely walk. “I decided to go back to my parent’s home. It was then that a family friend introduced me to Nichiren Dashonin’s Buddhism. I took up the practice, praying sincerely for my husband. Prayers gave me the courage to understand our predicament and I refused to be defeated,” she recalls.
Leaning on each other
Meanwhile, Girish was back home. “I had a helper to feed me, bathe me and carry me. Every time I needed something, helplessness engulfed me. Eesha was there to care for me and help me. So were my parents. But what is a life of dependency?”
But if Buddhist chants helped Esha, for Girish, the darkness began dissipating when he understood that while he did not have his limbs, he still had his mind. “I understood that the problem is your attitude about the problem. So I was determined to fight. I started focusing on factors that were positive rather than negative,” he says.
Eesha, too, had to dig deep for courage to face the world. “My family welcomed me back in December 2006, supporting me wholeheartedly, despite the upheaval to their lives. But soon, my legs stopped moving and my lower body became immobile. I was unable to take care of myself. Previously, I would cry a lot, feeling very sad for myself. I could not control my tears.”
Today, however, Eesha rarely stops smiling. “Now, a smile is kind of stuck on my face. Today at 38, my spirit is high and I take my situation in my stride through my prayers,” she says, adding: “Never ever run away from the problem. Fight it. You have a choice. Life always gives you two options — fight or flight and I say fight,” she signs off. The Gogia couple’s story doesn’t end here. It goes on. And yes, they are making sure they vote to elect the next government.
Girish Gogia today travels and conducts motivational workshops at many orphanages, schools, old-age homes and blind homes — all free of cost in order to spread positivity and motivation