NEW DELHI: A 19-year-old student born with multiple congenital anomalies and limb defects has scored 70 percent on his Grade 12 exams by writing the tests with his feet.
Tushar Vishwakarma, who declined to hire a writer or ask for extra time to finish the exams, said that he realized early on in life that he wanted the disability, which prevents him from using his hands, “to be my strength and not my weakness.”
“I never thought of myself as disabled. It took me three years to master the art of writing with my toes,” Vishwakarma, who is from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, told Arab News. “Disability is a state of mind and not the body,” he said.
Born into a lower-middle-class family with his father, Rajesh, working as a small-time trader in Lucknow, Vishwakarma lives in the city with his parents and three siblings.
Rajesh said that a few months after Vishwakarma was born he took him to hospitals “with limited resources” in Lucknow and elsewhere to identify the issue, but in vain.
“When Tushar was quite young, doctors in Lucknow told me that I should get him treated after he grows up. At the age of 3, I took him to hospital again but doctors only prescribed medicines,” Rajesh, 46, told Arab News.
He added that the PGI hospital in Lucknow diagnosed Vishwakarma with “multiple congenital anomalies” and said he was “missing a few veins from his hands.”
Next, the family tried to get Vishwakarma treated in Lucknow, in Chitrakoot, a city in Uttar Pradesh, and Udaipur, a city in the northern state of Rajasthan, but “none of the doctors could help him.”
Finally, in 2015, Rajesh was referred to a facility in Udaipur where doctors advised Vishwakarma to have plastic surgery on his hands.
“First, the doctors told me that they would perform the surgery but later decided against it as they were not sure whether that would cure my son or not,” Rajesh said.
“Doctors told me that the veins that control his hands were missing, and the issue could not be addressed through an operation. It’s the same response I got everywhere,” Rajesh said.
Dr. Ankur Bhardwaj from the PGI hospital in Lucknow, who was part of the team handling Vishwakarma’s case, was unavailable for comment when contacted by Arab News on Wednesday.
However, Dr. J. Bhadani from Patna in the eastern state of Bihar, told Arab News that “multiple congenital anomalies are structural deformities of the body and such deformities are the cause of chronic illness and disability in children.”
Rajesh said that the family moved to Lucknow from the neighboring district of Unnao 20 years ago for “a better life” but were “always worried about Tushar, especially after we grow old.”
Vishwakarma’s high scores in the recent exams, however, have offered a renewed sense of “hope for his future.”
“I know now that he will not need our support in the future. Tushar has proven us wrong in life so far, and I am sure he will shine in life and make us prouder,” Rajesh said.
Vishwakarma credits his success to the Creative Convent College in Lucknow, which played a “great role in supporting” him.
“No one was willing to admit a disabled student when I was looking for admission in a higher secondary school, but the Creative Convent College helped me a lot,” he said.
School manager, Yogendra Sachan, told Arab News that it had “never charged” the family a fee for Vishwakarma’s education.
“We gave one full bench to Tushar so that he does not have any problem in writing,” Sachan said. “We made sure the school doesn’t charge any fee from the boy. He is bright and ambitious.”
Vishwakarma said that he aspires to be an engineer and is working toward realizing that dream.
“It’s not easy when your hands are not working, but I never allow negative thoughts to (take root) in my mind,” he said.