Mr Rinku, who was bedridden a few years ago, now walks without support to reach the wholesale vegetable market to ensure the best produce for his fruit and vegetable shop near his house in Narwana village. Rinku is suffering from Ankylosing Spondylitis. The first symptoms arose when he was 15 years old. He started having pain in his knees, which made him limp. Because of this, he was completely bedridden. At this stage, he was very demoralized and sometimes developed suicidal tendencies.

Then, a beacon of hope emerged in his life – CORD. For the past 32 years, CORD has been actively engaged in diverse developmental projects across 650 villages in the Kangra district. People with disabilities and their related issues are being handled under the Community Based Inclusion and Rehabilitation (CBIR) program of CORD. Rinku was also brought to the central OPD of CORD in a vehicle and dropped back home for free. Regular physical and occupational therapy enabled him to start walking with the help of a walker. Slowly, the walker was replaced by crutches, and he became more confident.

During his treatment at CORD, Rinku also participated in the process of social inclusion for disabled people. He became a member of Chinmaya Umang, an advocacy forum for rural people with disabilities. In this group, he met Sonika, a girl with low vision. Sonika committed to Rinku as a lifelong partner. At that point, the darkness completely subdued Rinku’s life. With CORD’s help, he was trained in making carry bags from newspapers and soap at home. He also started a small tea stall near his house.

Financially supported by Chinmaya Umang, he earned enough money to run the house from the tea stall and sell carry bags and soap. To walk independently, Rinku had to get his hips replaced. His parents couldn’t afford it but somehow gathered enough money to replace one hip, but the doctor said that the other hip had to be replaced soon. He approached Dr. Didi (Kshama Metre), the National Director of CORD, for help. Dr Didi arranged for the surgery in Maharashtra, completely free of cost.

After the surgery, Rinku was put on intensive physiotherapy in the CBIR department of CORD and started walking within two months. He then actively participated in Chinmaya Umang’s work, taking responsibility as President and leading the advocacy group.

Now, through Chinmaya Umang, he is actively raising the issues of people with disabilities in the Kangra district. He plays a key role in celebrating World Disability Day on December 3 every year. He regularly attends Gram Sabhas (local units of self-governance) as a responsible citizen. With CORD’s support, Rinku got a two-year fellowship from the People Science Institute, Dehradun, under which he worked for disabled people in 8 Panchayats of Kangra district.

With a new vigor for life, Rinku took a loan from Chinmaya Umang to set up a vegetable shop in his village. His wife plays a key role in helping him in the shop. Rinku gets fruits and vegetables at a discounted price and uses the waste materials as cattle feed. He has learned all the tactics of a successful entrepreneur. He aspires to expand his business and eventually wants to own a shop. He also wants to start a fresh fruit juice stall. He wishes to earn more monthly income so that he can fulfill the needs of his aging parents and raise his two children well.

He says his most powerful inspiration was Dr Didi. He wants others facing problems to know that life is dull without challenges. Instead of becoming demoralized, everybody should stay strong, work hard, and face life.