Journey to the Zeniths

Updated: Jun 27, 2021

Story by Akshat Rawat

When I was 7 years old, I got tangled up in wires that were carrying 11,000 volts of electricity. I was rushed to the hospital, where the doctor informed that they would have to amputate both of my hands due to Gangrene, which would otherwise spread across my body. My world was shattered. I was completely hospitalized for two years.

After I got over the initial shock, reality began to sink in. My life was completely changed by a single accident. I couldn’t get the unfairness of it, out of my head.

I stopped going out after being discharged because I was afraid of people's judgement. I was eventually diagnosed with depression. I've been painting since I was five, but it became my saviour during that dark time. As a way to cope, I began painting again with a thumb supporter.

My mother helped me to overcome my fear of being judged and encouraged me to enjoy life once more. At the age of 11, I made the decision to step out of my house and face the world once more. My parents and brother stood by my side as I started to conquer one challenge after next.

When I came across a solo traveller on YouTube who had lost both his upper and lower limbs, I knew I had to do this too, for myself. So, at the age of 18, I decided to take my first solo trip to Kasol. I was apprehensive while planning, but I summoned the courage and went for it.

I wasn't able to manage many things because it was my first time, but I persevered. I took a wrong bus from Delhi but finally got on the right one, and arrived there. I was mesmerised by the mountains and greenery. To see all the sights, I took cabs and walked at times.

My fears faded with each passing moment, and after ages, I found myself at peace. I met many wonderful people there, each of whom taught me something. Locals made me feel right at home. I'll always remember playing guitar and dancing around a bonfire with them.

I’m particularly proud of my 12-kilometer Kheerganga trek. When I returned from Kasol, I was a whole new person. I knew I'd found my calling.

I completed the Triund trek next. The path was completely covered in snow and it got in my eyes several times. My backpack was quite heavy, lifting it in minus 2 degrees was difficult and I slipped a few times. Despite this, I persisted and eventually reached the mountain peak.

While paragliding in Bir-billing, I saw the world from an entirely new perspective. I was anxious about jumping from a height of 10,000 feet, but my nerves vanished as soon as I took the first step- the beauty and serenity were unparalleled.

In the Nyingyang monastery, I meditated, played, and practised yoga with the monks. It taught me a lot about sacrifice, compassion and being present in the moment.

My next goal is to do Ladakh trip on a bike and scuba diving in Pondicherry.

When I travel or go outside, some people look at me as if I'm not human, as if I don't belong with them and pass comments. Some sympathise excessively and deliberately make me feel different. But some encourage and empathise with me.

I treasure every moment of my travels, especially the solitude, and the difficulties and judgement do not dampen my enthusiasm. My disability no longer defines who I am. It is up to you to make the most of your life, and I intend to do just that.

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