Flying has been my passion right from the time I was in my mother’s womb. That’s where I developed my love for it and flying will always hold the most special soft corner in my heart. It gives me a tremendous high, also because I am a nature lover and enjoy being in the high skies. Just looking at the vastness and beauty of the sky in its myriad colours is an alluring experience. A die-romantic at heart, being amidst the clouds takes me to untold and unspoken places where only love, peace and tranquility exist. The experience of flying and seeing nature’s pulchritude at 30,000 feet is unparalleled.
Once I was flying to Houston and fell asleep on the flight while watching a movie. I suddenly woke up palpitating and screaming on the flight because of the worst nightmare of my life. Yes, I dreamt that I had lost my eyesight and couldn’t fly anymore, nor witness the exquisiteness of this world. The mere thought of it made my blood run cold as if I had accidentally touched a big jellyfish while swimming in the ocean. Broken into cold sweat, I had clammy palms, flared nostrils, a throbbing heart and a face as white as a ghost. If the thought of never being able to see again can send such chills down one’s spine, what does a person who goes through this in the real world in his own real life, feel. Honestly, I had suicidal thoughts.
My first brush with the dark world was in school when we had to write answer sheets for blind students. That time reality did not hit me so hard, perhaps because I was way too young to understand how it would affect someone. But when my mother underwent a cataract surgery (which mind you is one of the simplest procedures in this age), I was literally scared to death with the thought of something going wrong. She was way too jittery about it and I was a bundle of nerves, with butterflies in my stomach; till the doctor did not walk out of the operation theatre with a smiling face. How dear is our eyesight to us and what if we lose it after experiencing the joys of being able to see the world?
It would take tremendous mental agility; the strength of a hundred elephants put together and firm determination to lead a normal life in the dark world. For me it would be a snowball’s chance in hell to live normally and enjoy life in all its forms. And when I heard of the feat accomplished by Divyanshu Ganatra in April 2014, it was a bolt from the blue. Was it humanly possible for a blind person to fly a paraglider, that too solo? Respect! That’s all I could think of. I couldn’t allow my moist eyes to let the salt water trickle down my cheeks, because that would mean insulting the courage and dignity of the 36 year old braveheart.
Divyanshu is a clinical psychologist and corporate trainer by profession who lost his eyesight due to glaucoma when he was 19. At the age of 21, after a severe bout of tuberculosis, his health had also started giving up on him. He lay on the operating table with a ruptured lung with doctors unwilling to operate on him in haste to declare him dead and he yelled, “Just hurry up and cut me open will you? I’m still alive, what the heck!” Can life ever be truant to someone with such firm determination?! He fought against all odds, learnt to crawl before he could walk again and accomplished a feat that most of us would never even dare to think about – flew solo for nearly two minutes on a paraglider. I guess he truly lives Einstein’s quote – Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.
When Divyanshu was diagnosed with glaucoma in Class 12 he said. “I didn’t believe it, I didn’t want to. But when I lost my vision completely, I had to.” It was a life-changing event for him and only the beginning of a series of challenges, first of which was to keep learning after quitting school. “I didn’t do it because I couldn’t see, I just felt I wasn’t learning anything,” he recalls. From experiencing an hour long rehab, to learning IT from his friends because all institutions shut their doors on him, to understanding happiness and the human mind and studying psychology in a hostile environment which refused to accept a blind student initially, Divyanshu has seen the most terrible lows in life and yet emerged a winner in every situation.Divyanshu Ganatra, a guy who can do the impossible #WillofSteel Click To Tweet
While working at The Tata Group in the HR department, he realised that that was not his path to the ‘Land of Oz’ and decided to create his own, literally. Today, the Pune based shrink runs ‘Yellow Brick Road’, his own company inspired by his favourite movie, -‘The Wizard of Oz’. The company provides corporate training and counselling, and parallel academia. He is also a mountaineer who has scaled the Milam Glacier and the Kumaon range of the Himalayas among other peaks. From crawling to learning to walk, to scaling great heights and flying, Divyanshu has achieved success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, with blood sweat and tears; and has been felicitated by none other than the President of India, himself.
Divyanshu and his paragliding feat have reinforced the belief that any disability is insignificant if one has the right perspective towards looking at challenges in life. I would like to dedicate a quote by Rumi for Divyanshu – “The garden of the world has no limits, except in your mind.” Hats off to you sir!