I hope you have read the Part 1 of this interview – You can read it HERE. Let’s continue with the part two the Voices from the spectrum interview with Akshay Bhatnagar, the star of the interview.
Q) How old are you?
I am 27 yrs. Old.
Q) You are the first Autistic graduate from Rajasthan, congratulations! Please share more details about your graduation
Thanks.. When I passed out 12th class, I was eagerly waiting to get admission in a college ,the fascination was a colourful dress in fact freedom from school uniform, but when we approached two colleges, my parent told the higher authorities about my Autism spectrum disorder, principals immediately denied my admission on the grounds of— other parent would object ,he wouldn’t be able to adjust with other students ,other students might have Bully him, he may be violent etc
I became very depress, one principal took my interview just for formality and asked me about who was Plato ? Which book Aristotle wrote? I couldn’t reply then he also rejected me, then my mother argued to that learned principal that if he knew who took the highest wickets in one day matches ? Principal couldn’t reply. Then my mother said to him that if a person had no knowledge about Aristotle or Plato, it didn’t mean that he was duffer, like the principle also who didn’t know about Cricket. Every person has his own interest area. The principal keot mum. we left that college.
Finally my mother registered a complaint in the office of Commissioner for persons with disabilities about this injustice of denying admission in colleges .Commissioner issued show cause notices to these colleges. but a Missionary College Stani Memorial PG College Jaipur happily came forward to accept my admission. This incident was also published in a newspaper also. Initially I faced some issues in Stani college as the staff and students were unaware about Autism spectrum disorder then my mom met to principal and staff and told them about speciabilities of mine. Gradually things started changing .In second year I received the third highest academic award in entire college .I also participated in “Sanskriti” the college festival . Everyone was astonished to see my dance performance while the organisers were hesitating before providing me a slot to perform a dance. I completed my graduation in 2014 and I became the first-ever Autistic graduate of Rajasthan, perhaps in India too. I broke the myth that education and specially higher education is just impossible for ASD adults. I wish more n more ASD children come forward by showing their hidden talents.
My mother taught me from 1st to graduation level. She used to prepare my subjects notes. My memory is very sharp I used to learn all the answers within few days.
Q) Where are you working and a few details about how you did you prepare for the exam ?
Ans. Presently I am working in University of Rajasthan, Jaipur. For Government jobs, there is a separate pattern of exam where speed and accuracy matters. It is just a hard nut to crack and this pattern does not support us. it is based on normal and physically challenged candidates’ specific requirements. Then my mom go through all types of Competitive papers. I joined a coaching centre along with my mother as it was difficult for me to learn properly in the class .My mother taught me at my home all the lessons. I used to spend more than 14 hours a day for preparation of competitive exams, but due to the least knowledge about ASD I faced rejection, non cooperation and harsh behaviour of examination incharges, centre superintendents and other higher authorities in spite of interim orders issued by Rajasthan High Court to provide me all the facilities in terms of RPWD act 2016, but my parents have always been behind me to face any situation and I cleared competitive exams and got selected for Clerk Grade II.
Q) How is the work environment? Are you adjusting well?
Initially the work environment was not favourable for me, my colleagues made my fun and talk rudely. It has been very sad and disappointing colleagues used the word” mad /pagal for me . One day due to this sarcastic behavior I faced meltdown condition. That staff didn’t want me in between them.Due to all these first time I saw my mother very disturbed. I got transferred to another branch. There also higher authorities n union members didn’t want to me join. Then my parents met the head of the department and other Union members. My parents explained them about autism spectrum disorder, its unique features, challenges and unique abilities. My parents showed them my certificates of appreciation ,awards and different newspaper cuttings published about my extraordinary achievements .My mother handed over a written representation in which she wrote about RPWD act 2016 and mentioned that authorities are bound to provide me a sensitive environment and reasonable accommodation too. Principal asked my mom to come with me in the office to make me comfortable. My mom daily came with me. She tried to make others aware about autism . After eight, nine days my officer asked my mom no need to come.Now they are comfortable with me. It is Ironical that so called genius persons of our society do not want to understand our emotions in fact society expect from us to change or adjust according to them rather changing themselves .Now I am adjusting there and colleagues are quite cooperative . I read GK book there to spend my time.
Q) I am happy to know that things are better now at work. Tell us more about your wins in the para athletic championship?
I was never interested in sports because I was not very active and due to my study I had no time for sports activities. But in 2017 my mom asked me if I wanted to run in para athletics championship. She made me convinced that if I win, I would get name and fame and it will be good for my health also as I am very much health conscious.
I started practicing but I had no coach my mom contacted in my previous school Principal mam. She arranged School PTI for my running training. Hardly after one month training I participated in para athletics championship Rajasthan and won gold in 1500 metres and one bronze in 800 metre in 2017. Sports brought a great change in my life. But after this victory I again change my mind and refused to participate in running. I had visited Stadium and used to watch other para athletes throwing javelin ,discs and shot put. I tried to throw these.Then my mother asked me whether I was interested in throwing events I said yes I would throw shot put as javelin and disc throwing are not in T20 category. In very harsh winters after just get over from my office I used to reach directly reach stadium with my mother for practice. Finally only after 2 and half months practice I won gold in shot put in para athletics championship Rajasthan in 2019. Now I am practicing daily and preparing for 3-4 hours for National and international Championship.
Q) I would love to know more about the National award you won..
It was really a very very great news for us that I was being conferred with The most prestigious award of India The National Award due to my incredible all rounder achievements in the Role Model Category( Autism) .I started sharing this news on social platforms. I can not explain my happiness in fact it was my mother’s dream which came true. I was feeling myself VVIP at Vigyan Bhawan in the award ceremony .
Q) You also dance very well and have won a prize in the All India dance competition, please share more details..
of course I love dancing .I dance with full of energy. It gives me immense pleasure, reduces my stress and anxiety. my dance skills provided me opportunity to communicate to others ,to show my talent where fluent speech is not required at all. My mom registered my name for “Hoslon ki Udaan “all India dance competition held at Udaipur in 2018. Without considering anything I danced on the stage and won 3rd prize. It was unbelievable.. everybody including TV and film stars of Savdhaan India and Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah were clapping for me.
Q) Tell us more about the Role model award and Divyang Ratna award you won..
In 2017 I won State Award in the Role Model category by Social justice and empowerment department Government of Rajasthan Jaipur on the occasion of World Disability Day 3rd December 2017. There I danced on the stage also.Tge Cabinet minister of Social justice and empowerment and higher officials were astonished to see my performance .When the Minister sir delivered his speech he specially mentioned about my extraordinary dance and scholastic performance that he had never thought that an ASD person could do so.
In 2018 I received Divyang Ratan award by Umeed Foundation in Jaipur.
It is not the end, I would happily share that I have received one more prestigious award of India which is Cavin Kare Ability Mastery Award in Chennai on 23rd February 2019 .I am the only person with autism, who not only received the Role Model State award but National Award and Cavinkare Ability Mastery Award also.
Q) What are your hobbies Akshay?
My hobbies are dancing, swimming ,watching cricket match, watching action movies ,visiting new new places, talking to people, sharing ports on social media and purchasing new dresses..I like to ride on motorcycle also which I learnt from my father. Full on masti!
Q) Please share a few details about your friends and how you spend time with them?
I don’t have any close friends .When I go on ground for sports practice I talk to mothers of other players, as they show affection for me. those persons who speak softly to me I like them
Q) Your mom told me that you’re good in computer skills and English shorthand too, how did you learn?
My father taught me English short hand and English typing. My speed was 80 words per minute. I learnt Hindi typing from my mother.
Q) Do you like to go on vacations? Favourite or recent vacation?
I always like to go on the vacations. My favourite destinations are beaches. I visited Mumbai, Kovalam, Chennai ,Mussoorie Kashmir, Dalhousie ,Manali ,Bangalore, Agra etc. recently in June 2019 we visited Badrinath, Auli and Joshimath
Q) What is your favourite movie? Actor/actress?
My favourite movie is Singham. My favourite actor are Amitabh Bacchan and Ajay Devgan and favourite actress is Kajol.
Q) How do you like to spend your free time?
I spend my free time on mobile by viewing likes & comments on my posts, by watching cricket match ,or talking to myself if I am not occupied in any activity as it reduces my stress.
Q) Would you like to share your future goals with us?
Now I want to win National and International medals in sports. I want to participate in KBC. It is my big big dream also
Q) Your advice to other Autistic individuals and their parents?
For other autistic friends and their parents I want to say :think big, be positive, never stop until you achieve your goals .
I feel very bad, get depressed and Disturbed when someone dislikes to talk to me and ignore me. I want to talk and share my thoughts with others. I want my known persons they call me and talk to me.
This interview would be really incomplete without the sibling perspective. Let’s hear from Jyoti, Akshay’s elder sister. She is married and presently living in USA with her husband and a daughter.
My brother Akshay has autism and I am his elder sibling. I have Few experiences that I would share being his sister. My brother is special not only because of his limitations but also because of his special abilities. If you ask him About a certain occasion he would most certainly be able to reply with the exact day, date, year; Something That most of us aren’t able to remember but he can. He can learn hundreds of paragraphs and recite them back like a parrot ; Something that most of us aren’t able to do. He is the recipient Of many awards and honors; something that most of us don’t have. He has appeared in Newspaper columns numerous times because of his achievements; something That most of us have never experienced. He is definitely brilliant and priceless. His brain works in different ways unlike most of us because he has autism.
Growing up with him has been very different; his needs were always more important than mine. Acceptance was difficult ; for example when he acted out in public on several occasions and the weird look on peoples face around him ; it was all quite tough. I always wanted to be the best in everything that I did; Maybe to compensate for a sibling with disability. I never pushed my parents for anything, be it the latest cell phone or the latest ladies bike in market or a brand purse Or a branded jeans like most teenagers; These things felt completely useless when your sibling is struggling with basic life skills. I knew my parents were constantly facing the heat of their destiny.
Being the sister of an autistic child means a new day every day, You never know what to expect,it’s crazy, It’s stressful. You grow up very quickly. I remember when I was in my 10th standard and my father got transferred to a different city ; it was the turning point of my life. I would do groceries For our home, I started Teaching kids to earn in my pocket money and I felt a lot more older than my age; I tried to help my mom as much as i can so she could take care of Akshay in best possible way.
Life has been quite a roller coaster being his family member and it still is at least for my parents. Their struggle is real and never ending despite Akshay’s countless achievements. I can see on their faces the pain and concern they have for the uncertainties about his future. I know he will face more challenges than he never faced but I m sure my brave little brother can overcome those like he always did. And if he lives with me for the rest of my life, I will feel honored to share my world with someone so honest, innocent and a pure soul.
And this is specially to my brother, “I love you more than words can ever describe, I would not trade you for anything in this world and I would never change anything in you because you are too special and much much better than most of the so called normal people of this world”.
All I can say is Kudos to this wonderful family. They have shown us that no matter how much struggle or obstacles are on the way, unconditional love and determination is the best way to parent an Autistic child. I hope you’re as inspired as I am! God Bless You Akshay! May you fulfill all your dreams and reach greater heights. I am sure you have the blessings of everyone who has read your interview.
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