FACING ADVERSITY

Stephen Hawking is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist from England. He was diagnosed with a motor neurone disease when he was 21 years old. He was confined to a wheelchair and could not talk. He has to depend on a computerised voice system to communicate and yet is one of the most reputed scientists we have today.

Helen Keller was an American author, lecturer, and a political activist. She became deaf and blind due to some illness at the age of 19 months. But she did not let her disabilities come in the way of her success. She devised various methods to communicate and kept in touch with the world around her.

Benjamin Franklin is considered as one of the founding fathers of America. He was pulled out of school at the age of 10 as his family could not afford it. He worked in print shops and made his way up to become one of the most important persons in the history of America.

The above anecdotes are only a few examples of people who have fought against odds and succeeded in life. Calamity, distress, hostile environment, health problems, psychological pressures, loss of loved ones, etc., are part of life and are referred to as “Adversities”.

Some people collapse during adversities. Successful people develop grit to fight and believe that they can overcome the situation. They always see the light at the end of the tunnel. Such people accept that nothing can be done about what has happened, but they believe that they can do something about what is yet to come. These people look at challenges as opportunities to become tough in life, rather than look at them as threats. It is only the hard conditions in life that can make us tough. As the saying goes, “As the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

People who handle the adversities successfully adopt the following strategies.They remain humble, respect others and recognise that they need help. They hold on to their dreams but patiently wait for the road map to evolve gradually. They acquire the right habits and the behaviour and do not give up on their values for immediate relief. They develop an attitude to be prepared for the worst so that anything that they encounter doesn’t affect them much. They prepare a good internal and external environment. Internal environment refers to their emotional strength, courage, conviction, discipline, etc., The external environment comprises of strong family bondage and friendship.

In the case of students, the effects of adversity may damage their whole future unless they quickly evolve steps to defeat the conditions. Most of the times, apart from problems of poverty, psychological challenges, loss of loved ones, or fear of future may affect their behaviour. This in turn may land them under worse conditions like depression, fights or alienating themselves from healthy emotional attachment with family and friends. Students therefore need to cultivate healthy habits and lifestyles which include fitness, meditation, relaxation exercises as also sharing their problems with parents and friends.

Here is a real story of a 11-year old girl, Maricel Apatan, from Zamboanga city in Philippines.

In September 2000, young Maricel went to draw water from a well with her uncle. On the way, they were waylaid by 4 people with sickles and knives. Those 4 men were her neighbours. Before Maricel and her uncle could react, the men hacked her uncle to death. Maricel started running away from them. The men chased her. As she ran, she kept begging them not to kill her but they did not listen. One of them slashed her neck with a long knife. She immediately fell unconscious. When she woke up, she saw lot of blood around her and also saw that the men were still around her. She then pretended to act dead. The men finally walked away thinking Maricel was dead. As soon as they were out of sight, she put all her efforts to get up and started running towards her house. She kept falling and losing conscious but when she woke, she would start running again. Then she noticed that her hands were falling off. They had chopped off her hands too! All she wanted was to reach her home. When she was almost close to her house, she started screaming for her mother. Her mother ran out to see her child covered in blood. Maricel’s mother was shocked beyond words and screamed in terror. She wrapped her in a cloth and started carrying her to the hospital. There was another problem now. The highway was a 12km walk and it took them 4 hours to reach the highway.

Maricel was taken to the hospital and the doctors put 25 stitches on her neck. Her wrists were chopped off and the doctors could do nothing about it. When she returned to her home with her parents, they were shocked to see their house looted and burnt. They had to start life all over again. Maricel did not give up on life. She completed her schooling from a school for disabled children and pursued a course in hotel management. She completed the course in 2008 and also won gold medal for arts and crafts. She competed another course in 2011 to become a chef! Today she works for a 5-star hotel and is famous as “Chef with no hands”.

One of the take-aways from this story is to not give up on ourselves and our dreams at adverse times but to have faith in our abilities.

-Dr H S Nagaraj

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