By Girish Gogia
I was ushered into the auditorium in a wheelchair. Being a tetraplegic (which essentially means paralyzed neck downwards) I cannot move an inch on my own, nor can I do any work without the help of a caretaker. And it was my caretaker who guided my wheelchair smoothly through the passage between the audience, to the ramp, and onto the stage as an estimated 500 strong audience broke into applause to welcome me. I was conducting an inspirational seminar in Mumbai, India for an international IT company. As I scanned the audience, I saw that there was as much appreciation in their eyes as there was curiosity. For they had certainly been briefed about ‘The Positive Man‘ – which is the nickname fondly given to me by the Indian media – or more specifically by the leading global English daily in India – ‘The Times of India‘. And they were eager to find out how a 90% paralyzed man completely confined to a wheelchair can inspire or help them in any way. As the sound of the claps subsided in the hall and the audience settled down in their seats, the sense of anticipation was enhanced by the silence. And in a split second my mind travelled 16 years back to an incident which is till today as vivid in my memory as if it was yesterday.
In December 1999, I was in Goa with my beautiful wife Eesha to welcome the new millennium. That was when I was completely able and travelled internationally for my interior designing projects. And that was also when deep sea diving was one of my favourite adventure sport. The spirit of festivity was in the air and the cheer and merriment of holiday goers charged up the atmosphere at the beaches of Calangute in Goa. Soon we reached my favourite point – a cliff jutting out into the ocean and the perfect spot for a deep sea dive. I have never been able to resist this spot whenever I have come to Goa and soon I was on top of the cliff ready for my deep sea dive. I sprang with a certain experienced acrobatic manoeuvre and was immediately shooting towards the sea. And a couple of seconds later, there was – total
I opened my eyes to find myself on a hospital bed. I had lost track of time and had to be informed that I was unconscious for almost a day. And I was extremely distressed to find that I could not move any of my limbs or any part of my body apart from my head. It was later in the day that the doctor explained the diagnosis – my cervical spinal cord nerves had been entirely pulverized and I was now neck downwards paralyzed for life. There was absolutely no cure for my condition and even my chances of survival were minimal. Even if I did survive, I would be living the rest of my life as a vegetable. Needless to say, I was devastated. I was also in denial – I refused to believe that this could happen to me. I could see no light at the end of the tunnel. All I could think about was how my life would no longer be the same. Everything I once knew would be no more. I’d never get to experience walking around my office, or up flights of stairs ever again. Then it occurred to me. Would I even be able to work if I survive this? Do I need to have a look into the disability insurance price in case I needed some income in the event of not being able to return to work for a significant amount of time? It may sound like a small thing to you, but I honestly have no idea how I would cope if I couldn’t go back to work. I think I’d definitely miss it if I couldn’t. All these scenarios were whirling around in my mind, and I found it hard to think about anything else. I was being sucked down into a bottomless abyss of nothingness. Whilst telling me this, the doctor also said that bed rest would be one of the main activities I’d have to do. He recommended that if, I did survive, I should consider getting a bed like the one I was in now. Not only do hospital beds allow you to change positions, but they also can be supportive for bad backs. He gave me multiple adjustable bed reviews and said that they are often used by many people who suffer from similar problems to me. They are one of the most supportive beds, hence why the hospitals use them. I did tell the doctor that I normally tend to sleep on my side (back when I was able) and it didn’t really matter all that much if I had a bed that could change positions itself, I’d more than likely still be sleeping in this position for comfort, it surely made sense my comfort levels were dependable on the mattress chosen, so I started to look for a mattress for side sleepers as well as looking at getting a motorized bed.
Days passed, weeks passed, months passed. But I did not die. Something kept me alive
even when I thought nothing could. And this something grew bigger and bigger each day. Sometimes it would try to talk to me even when I refused to listen. Sometimes it would try to give me courage even when I had none. Sometimes it would try to keep its hand on my forehead and just ask me to relax even as I lay disturbed with myriad negative thoughts. But one thing was for sure. This something was growing bigger and bigger each day. This something within me was almost becoming a rebel, mustering a stronger voice with each passing day. This something started making more and more audacious assertions. It raised its voice higher and higher – “Girish. Wake up. Get out of the abyss. You have come into this world for a purpose. Your accident was not meant to defeat you. Your accident was meant to give you that purpose. Wake up and march ahead. You have a mission to fulfill. You have a billion hearts to inspire. Hope and positivity will spring from your heart and inspire not only yourself but billions around the world. Because you are the Hope Factory. And you have to fulfill – Mission Positive Earth. You have to touch and light up 7 billion lives around the globe. For remember – the greatest success stories are created by people who turn their biggest adversities into their greatest.
I was not sure whether all that this strange voice was telling me made sense to me. All that I knew was that I had to meet the doctor who had given me the defeatist prognosis. And yes. I did approach him in my wheelchair after a few days and told him with a determined and passionate voice – “Doctor. I appreciate your diagnosis. But I refuse to accept your verdict. I will not live like a vegetable for the rest of my life. Rather I will spread hope, inspiration and positivity in the hearts of millions of souls.” I could clearly see that the doctor’s expression was changing. He stared at me with a definite awe. Looking at him, I could somehow feel that I had motivated him. And a certain sense of confidence started building up inside me – that if I can motivate a world class doctor, I can motivate the whole world. I can eventually turn my biggest loss into my greatest strength. I can conquer seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I can accomplish Mission Positive Earth.
It was a pleasant winter afternoon in Mumbai. My driver pulled our car at a relatively less crowded location outside Mumbai Central Railway Station – the largest landmark structure in Mumbai. My father and my caretaker got the folding wheelchair out of the car and assembled it. Then they carried me out of the car and seated me comfortably on the wheelchair. I must mention here that had it not been for the tremendous moral support provided to me by my parents, my sisters and my better half, it would probably not have been possible for me to fight against and conquer the tremendous adversities. And as my caretaker guided my wheelchair inside the station the newly refurbished interior was revealed before my eyes – the new color scheme, the intricate details of the carvings – the revamping was planned by me, and executed to perfection by the architects, engineers and workers.
I paused for a few moments enjoying the beauty of the brand new face-lift of Mumbai Central Railway Station. Because this was one project which I had executed even after being confined on a wheelchair, out of a total of 15 international interior designing projects which I did after my life changing incident. And finally my dad came up to me and said “Hats off to you my son. Handling such a huge project is a daunting task even for a perfectly abled person. And I am truly amazed as to how you could accomplish it all in spite of facing hundreds of grinding and arduous challenges, being 90% paralyzed. I am sure it was possible only because of your enduring passion, perseverance and sheer determination because you simply refused to quit and give up in life.” Listening to my dad’s remarks filled my heart with a sense of pride and accomplishment that day. And I also felt happy to note that several of my projects came to be featured in many international architectural magazines.
Back home at night I was supported against pillows on my back in bed so as to position me upright from hip upwards. My wife Eesha was feeding me dinner with a loving smile on her face. She had accepted my accident with immense courage and had decided to dedicate her entire life to help me achieve my goals in spite of my physical inability. However, something was still bothering me inside. I finally confided in Eesha – “I am still feeling an emptiness inside me. What can be the reason ?” “Maybe you don’t want to continue being an interior designer”, replied Eesha, “Maybe you want to help other people now. Inspire them to fight against their adversities. Tell them how one can access the superhuman spirit within oneself. Make them aware of their untapped human potential.”
Eesha’s words got etched deep within my mind. As I looked fondly in her eyes, she lovingly offered another spoonful of food. As I opened my mouth to have it, Eesha’s hands shook vigorously and the food fell down. “Are you all right ?” – I asked. Eesha was quite for a while. “I am sorry”, she gathered, “I must be terribly tired too. It’s been a long day”. “Please take good rest dear”, I replied concerned, “I am full anyway”. After Eesha put off the lights, I was reminded of the very unfortunate day when her health problems had started.
It was October 1999, a few months before we had gone to Goa. Our family was having breakfast together when Eesha suddenly fell down from the chair in what appeared to be a paralytic stroke. It lasted for about 50 seconds and needless to say, we were all shocked. And although she was fine after the incident, we nevertheless made it a point to consult the doctor the very next day. After some tests and scans, the doctor finally gave his diagnosis. Eesha was afflicted with a progressive form of multiple sclerosis which again has no cure in the world. Once we were given this diagnosis, I decided to learn more about this condition. I found that multiple sclerosis is a lifelong condition that affects your brain and nerves, and is caused when your immune system mistakenly attacks your brain and nerves, with no known reason why. As there is no cure, we may have to start looking for ways to manage Eesha’s condition to help prolong her quality of life and have been told by someone that something like CBD oil has been known to manage its progression. I don’t know what to do, to be honest. It’s just come as a massive shock to us all. Before we went off to sleep, I looked lovingly into her eyes and said fondly yet firmly “Eesha. We are the most special couple in this world. And we shall always be with each other Over the months and years Eesha’s condition deteriorated and there were times when he would even lose consciousness, fall down and shake violently. And it was immensely unfortunate and painful that she gradually lost 70% of her vision and 90% of her speech. She became neck downwards completely paralyzed and could not move an inch or do anything on her own. But even this situation has not been able to take away the courage in her heart and the love that we have for each other.
Despite her being completely bedridden since the last nine years of her debilitating condition, we stood besides each other like pillars of support. Rock bottom became the foundation on which we rebuilt our life. We came to observe life very closely and understand it to its deepest core. We realized that the human spirit is far stronger than anything that could happen to it. We also realized that giving is the highest form of living. And as my wife had suggested, I shut down my thriving interior designing business to answer my divine calling – which was to reinvent myself as an inspirational and motivational speaker. By considering the world as one global family, and by duly loving and respecting each individual unconditionally; we can share our example of resilience in the face of gruelling adversities with everybody and inspire them to transform victim into victory and trial into triumph – like a diehard optimist. And though my wife cannot accompany me physically for my seminars, in spirit she is always a part of Mission Positive Earth.
Looking back at all these incidents today, I feel that every adversity I went through and am still going through is actually a divine plan to prepare me for the bigger challenges lying ahead in the global pursuit of my Mission Positive Earth. I also feel that each one of us has that powerful voice deep down within us and that the deepest core of every human being is a field of infinite possibility. I was finally beginning to understand what that voice was trying to tell me –
“If we human beings realize that all the power we need to succeed is already within us, and if we can channelize this untapped potential, nothing is impossible to achieve. In every human being’s heart lies a spark of fire which lights up in the darkest hour of adversity. All that lies behind us and all that lies in front of us is too little in comparison to what lies within us, and when we realize this, we find that limitations are but imaginary. And if we simply accept this miracle of our mind and march ahead with a positive belief in our own selves, we can overcome all our hardships and turn all our dreams into reality. All our obstacles actually strengthen our resolve even more. All our struggles make our character even stronger. Every challenging situation actually brings us closer to our inevitable victory.”
The small seminars at orphanages, old age homes, leprosy homes, home for the blind, non-profit organizations, etc soon turned into much bigger corporate seminars for multinational companies and educational institutions (my first corporate seminar being at Taj Palace Hotel, Mumbai). A pulsating burning desire within me broke the shackles of my disabled condition. I – The Positive Man – became regular news in the print and electronic media. I received the Karmaveer Chakra Medallion, The Positive Real Life Hero Award and the MTC Global Top Ten Thinkers Award amongst many others. But I do not work for awards or honors. Neither do I work for money.
Someone once asked me how much I earn. I replied that my current turnover is a staggering 7 billion good wishes and blessings from people all around the world. My real award is when someone tells me – “IF YOU CAN DO IT, SO CAN I”.
It is said that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. And as we all know, total commitment is paramount to reach the pinnacle of success. I believe that ultimately the collective energy of billions of humans can achieve anything, including fighting Climate Change and attaining World Peace. And I hope to achieve all of these through my global pursuit called Mission Positive Earth. For it is said that our potential is God’s gift to us. And what we do with it And today again, a big audience is waiting before me with high expectations.
Wish me all the best my dear readers so that I can touch their hearts and inspire them to live their highest vision. Because there is no man living who is not capable of doing more than he thinks he can do. How does it matter that I have lost sensation in 90% of my body and my respiratory function is only about 50%. How does it matter that I cannot drink a drop of water on my own or eat a morsel of food on my own. How does it matter that all my four limbs do not function and I am completely dependant on my caretaker round the clock. How does it matter if I have zero control on my bladder and bowel. How does it really matter if I am neck downwards completely paralyzed. What really matters in life is that I am neck upwards wise and positively analyzed. I still have a heart that beats, a soul that feels and a mind that thinks optimistically. And as long as I have your love and support, I know that I can fulfill my mission of spreading hope and motivation to each and every soul on planet Earth. Because our I cans, I ams and I wills are far more important than our IQs. So I take your leave dear readers, as I commence my
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen ! What a miraculous journey life is …”
The Positive Man : Girish Gogia (Motivational/Inspirational Speaker/Life Coach)