Published: 03rd December 2018
This diffabled man couldn't find a job despite having a PhD. This is how he turned it around
Akshansh Gupta, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy is a research associate in JNU. This International Disability Day, we talk to him
I can meet you at JNU tomorrow over lunch, Akshansh Gupta replied to my text last night, "We can talk then." But when I told him that I am in Chennai and wouldn't be able to meet him for a conversation, without much hesitation, he agreed to a telephonic interview. We decided to have a word at around 1.30 in the noon and five minutes before that my phone rang. It was Akshansh. Excitedly, I picked it up. And why would I not be excited? The last news article I read about him spoke about how a young man, almost 95 per cent disabled, battling all the odds to get a PhD from JNU.
This was three years ago. Today, I wanted to know what he was up to and how the PhD has changed this 35-year-old's life. Also, it was the International Day for Persons with Disability, so it just made sense. "Hello," I heard Akshansh say, struggling. It was difficult to decipher what he was saying. But his story was worth listening to. Also, if he's making an effort to narrate it, despite the struggle, why will I not listen?
Suffering from Cerebral Palsy, he can barely move his hands. His speech is broken and his legs are immobile. Despite all this, Akshansh, the hard worker that he is, smiles brightly in all of his profile pictures on Facebook. There is great strength that goes into his enunciation. But the palsy has made it difficult. For him to speak and for me to decipher. But we plodded on.
He takes us through how, three decades ago, there was a differently-abled little boy in Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh, who wanted to go to school like all the other children. When the whole world laughed at him, he smiled back at him, went to school and finally managed to get a PhD from one of the most prestigious universities in the country. He's definitely got a lot more to do and make everyone around him proud.
He talks about how the great press aside, his getting a job and a career is still bleak. Akshansh is now a research associate in JNU. He has vacated the University hostel and is living outside the campus with a caretaker. But while all seem fine from outside, this apparently isn't the case. "I have an MTech and a PhD. But despite this, I find it hard to find employment," he says. His job in JNU is also a temporary one, which will end on April 2019. But for the fighter he is, this is definitely not an obstacle.
So he decided to do it on his own. Start a company that is. Akshansh is now actively working on a start-up, along with two fellow PhD scholars from JNU, K R Anandam and Prabhat Ranjan. The company, called IRADA (Integrative Research Analysis and Development Academy), aims to promote education and research for even the school students as well as PhD scholars."It will provide career counselling at each stage of education. The venture will also guide young and novice researchers to pursue their research," Akshansh says in a Facebook post. "Hopefully it will start functioning from December," he tells us.
We're sure it will!