He cannot stretch his hands beyond a point, making it difficult for him to write, but that didn’t come in the way of Sourya Sinha, quadriplegic since birth, scoring 84.2 per cent in ICSE.
Sourya refused an offer to appear for the board examination through the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). “Why should I?” was his simple argument. Assisted by a writer, Sourya took the examination with non-disabled students and shone.
But getting admitted to a mainstream school was not as easy. “We approached several schools but he was denied admission because he requires a writer and uses a wheelchair. They would refuse him on grounds of lack of infrastructure. A mainstream school in south Calcutta refused to take him in despite having an elevator because the elevator was meant for teachers and not students,” said mother Sunrita Mitra, a teacher of education at Shri Shikshayatan College.
Sourya was finally admitted to Akshar, an inclusive school, in Class VII. “The school authorities wanted to give him a chance though the school did not have an elevator. His class has always been on the ground floor. I was initially worried but he managed well,” Sunrita said.
Before Akshar, Sourya went to a small special school. “There were very few students, most of them with intellectual disabilities. There was no proper curriculum and they would be trained in activities such as baking. The school and we decided that he should be shifted to a mainstream school,” Sourya’s mother said.
Cerebral palsy, which affected both his hands and legs at birth, makes it impossible for Sourya to stand up on his feet or stretch his hands. But he refuses to call himself a fighter and tries his best to be self-sufficient at home. A bag strung around his neck, Sourya carries his books one by one to his study. “Some people might feel they are doing things differently, but there is nothing different about it. It is a matter of faith and belief in oneself that makes it possible,” said Sourya, who has represented Akshar and won several quiz competitions.
In school, using a writer sometimes proved a drawback during exams. “Maybe he is thinking at one level and by the time he dictates and it is written, he may think of something else and has to make changes. Often, a few points are lost in the process,” says Sourya’s mother, his writer at home. Despite the hitches, Sourya scored 78 in English, 69 in Bengali, 94 in history, 94 in environmental education, 60 in math, 66 in science and 86 in computer applications in ICSE.
The family cannot thank Gaurav Balakrishnan, a Class X student at the same school, enough for being Sourya’s writer for six papers. “Gaurav’s Class IX annual examinations coincided with Sourya’s ICSE. But whenever he had a day’s gap between examinations, Gaurav helped Sourya. Hats off to him and his family,” Sunrita said.
For the Class XII exams, Sourya hopes to be able to manage on his own. Extensive physiotherapy has helped him learn to type on the computer. “I am working on my speed and if I can improve it, I should be able to write the Class XII examination on the computer,” said Sourya, who has taken admission in humanities in The Heritage School in Class XI.
Self-motivation has also taught Sourya to be positive and look ahead. “He has been trying to write for the past couple of years but his handwriting has become slightly legible in the last few months. He had to give a thumb impression before his ICSE exam and that disturbed him. So, he has taken to writing more diligently, practising a page everyday,” his mother said.
Sourya may not be able to go out with friends as often as he would like but the avid reader never gives the Calcutta Book Fair a miss. “Reading for him is a pleasure, not pressure,” said his mother. Keen on taking up research and academics, Sourya’s favourites include encyclopaedias and books on history.