Her broad smile lights up the stage,
Where she dances without legs,
Not a story but a fact of one’s life’s page.
People say this world is pitiful.
But she says it is beautiful,
On her world frowns
But she takes it and smiles at the crown,
Her hands are now legs.
Her body whirls, curves and shakes,
With living music when plays.
Looks like lilies in the dew
And daffodils at play rain, hail and snow
Will never turn aside
And my disability, she says
Through dance and smile, I can turn aside
Live a graceful life.
——Deepak Kumar Patnayak
Virali Modi is the exuberant optimist wheelchair flyer but you know what you will not notice the wheelchair because her beauty of being just envelopes you so much that it’s a long while before you realise that she is on four wheels. Meet India’s first model who commands the arena from her wheelchair. Stunning good looks aside Virali has worked hard to reach the pinnacle of assignments pouring her way. And when I say hard work I mean four times to get that perfection that many of us on two legs can’t achieve. Sheer grit, perseverance and blah blah words are not made to describe this powerhouse because who is redefining adjectives and the trajectory related to physically challenged people.
Big names like “Kay cosmetics “ by Katrina Kaif, “Being Human” with Salman Khan, “Big Bazaar”,” Shruti and Mangesh”,” Ethnicity “, and “Tailor and Circus” are just some in the long list of her beautiful assignments. And when you ask her about working in such a cutthroat field she replies with her trademark optimism,” it’s amazing “ and she elaborates that trolls aside the crew the staff the brands the photographers have all been super supportive of her and quite keen to learn to shoot with her limited capacity. It’s like a learning curve for everyone around but a curve which she says people are happy to curate.
Talking about her career she says that inspired by the movies of “Shahrukh Khan “ especially “Kuch Kuch Hota hai”, she always wanted to act and In fact trained in Barbezone school of acting in the USA where she lived before the life-altering experience in India. And as I keep saying Virali is made of different mettle and disability (I know she will reprimand me for inappropriate language) didn’t come in the way of her dreams. In 2014, she won second place in the Miss Wheelchair India pageant, which gave her further hope and courage to pursue modelling and acting. But the path was initially full of no and no due to her special status and many casting houses and agents didn’t even want to try.
Her faith and more so her mother’s absolute faith and power of tough love bought her back with double the strength to realise her dreams and that is exactly what she is doing. At 15, she became wheelchair-dependent and today, she’s a motivational speaker, model, disability rights activist and influencer, having spoken on TEDx thrice to an astounding ovation. How and why— well a freak high-temperature episode from which things just got from bad to worse; so much so that she was declared dead for 7 minutes but the fighter came back though when she regained fully she discovered That she was initially paralyzed neck-down, but her sheer will and lots of therapy sessions enabled her to regain the mobility in her upper body with time.
She slipped into depression because of the isolation she faced from her relatives, friends and society at large. However, with the unending support from her mother, a sherni in her words, she soon picked herself up. Since then, there has been no looking back.
Virali shifted to India with her mother in 2008 for undergoing Ayurvedic treatment, and she realized that the infrastructure is not friendly for people with disabilities. When the government passed the Disability Rights Act in 2016, she was relieved but was again left surprised at how accessibility at several places was restricted to just a few sections of the differently-abled. This irked her and she posted an open letter on social media, which went viral.
The gritty woman then filed a petition on Change.org – #MyTrainToo, which caught the eye of a railway official from Kerala. They worked together to implement portable ramps at nine railway stations across India. Her second effort is #rampmyrestuarant and she is working really hard for accessibility specially abler. Virali’s efforts were recognized by the Delhi Commission For Women, and she was awarded the Women’s Achiever Award in 2017. She was also selected as one of the 100 influential women by BBC that same year. But this is all you can read everywhere because the Star is much sought after. But what touched a chord was the absolute girl full of excitement in her who talks about the awe of speaking in Nagpur at Youth Speak and how positive the response of people was.
The exchange in her voice when she talks of the huge response at her on ground talk in March 2022. But even more exciting is the way she talks of the normal day to day achievements like taking her mother on a trip to Thailand and her curiosity about a new project or even the absolute concreteness of covid lockdown and how she had to learn to cook properly and came closer to people through the one to one interaction in the total pause of life. Yes, the stunner has the same issues and sometimes even more. Her weight for example escalating due to the steroids prescribed for her health requires double the dose of discipline in eating and exercising than most. Regular young girl with yet again a huge dose of optimism and strength to tackle the variation in people’s attitudes though not necessarily in her circumstances and struggles that of a regular single working young woman which bought me my next curious sawal from her especially considering that she is a stunner. The dating scene and the challenges of navigating that.
She of course with her typical optimism replies about navigating through tinder bumble and all and of course searching through a mirage of many to reach the one but again she emphasised the total acceptance of young men to her as she is and not being fazed by her special status which is refreshing to hear and fills me with positivity that maybe change is sooner in the happening. Or maybe it is just the typical Virali affect — the motivational speaker in her infusing optimism in everything around her.
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