Ashwin Karthik: ‘We need supportive schools and workplaces for an inclusive India’

India’s first BE graduate with Cerebral Palsy (Quadriplegic), Ashwin Karthik brings out an extraordinary story of determination, strength, and friendship.


Ashwin Karthik, an engineer with Mphasis has an extraordinary story, a journey of grit, determination, friendship, and strength. He is India’s first BE graduate with Cerebral Palsy (Quadriplegic), and his story is inspiration to many, with even Sachin Tendulkar a fan of his, proving that with the proper support and empowerment, people with disability can achieve just as much as anyone else.

Ashwin Karthik

Karthik, a speaker at the India Inclusion Summit held in the city on the 29th of November, brought up uncomfortable but relevant questions that we as a society ought to address with respect to differently abled persons and how they are looked at.

Empathy should replace sympathy

“Why are people with disability looked at with sympathy and not empathy?’ ‘It is heart breaking to hear people saying we feel sorry for you. The sympathy should be replaced by empathy. Even the government tells you that they are inclusive but when you want a job they are not open,” says Karthik.

It is obvious even to the untrained eye that the world we live in is not suitable for the differently abled. Uneven pavements, lack of ramps in public spaces and commercial buildings, even educational institutions and workplaces are ill suited for the differently abled.

A friend can change your life

Ashwin & Bharath

Karthik draws a parallel from the Mahabharatha to describe his friendship with Bharath Sharma. “Historically Karna and Duryodhana exemplify friendship by going against tradition, rules, society and family to stand up for each other and I see Karna in my friend Bharath and all that he has done for me.”

“Our fathers were colleagues and Ashwin had been a household name for me right from childhood and not in a good way. I hated him as I was constantly compared to him,” says Sharma. It was in the 11th grade that they started interacting with each other because they found a common interest –cricket. This led to the two of them spending more time together and they also started studying together and Kumar became Sharma’s teacher of sorts.

“At tuition classes, I would take down notes with a carbon paper under my sheet for the both of us, because of this I didn’t miss a single class while Ashwin would sometimes take off to catch a game of cricket,” chuckles Sharma. They began to enjoy each other’s company so much so that Sharma, a cricket player stopped playing and preferred hanging out with Karthik instead.

The depth and extent of the friendship they share can put all others to shame just by the sheer act of selflessness by Sharma. “My brother had to leave to work and support the family after the demise of my father, it was only me and my mom at home. My mother in order to care for me had to quit her job that’s when Bharath was a real blessing, he would help in every possible way. He even dropped four years of his life and education to help me get through engineering college, he was my scribe throughout. I don’t know if I would have done that if I were in his place. It is said that God sends angels to you when you need them the most,” narrates Karthik.

WATCH: Kannada TV host Arvind Ramesh’s interview with Ashwin Karthik:

We need more supportive schools

Schools play a crucial role in shaping children and his school had the most understanding and patient teaches who were very aware of his condition and clarified all his doubts. Invigilators would sit with him during exams as he would take longer than others and would never grumbled or lost patience.

“I had exposure to every possibility and that’s the greatest advantage of going to a normal school and mingling with children. As long as we are not integrated with the normal society we are not living in an inclusive India the first step to that is schools being open to the idea,” says Karthik.

We need encouraging workplaces

Mphasis, the place where Karthik works now is a campus that has ramps, voice enabled lifts and people who are extremely encouraging.

“I was unemployed for two years and although I went for many interviews, was employable and cleared all the rounds, I did not see light. It was through Enable India, a social enterprise, that Mphasis happened,” Karthik says. “I flew to Managlore for training for three months, ever since, there has been no looking back.”

He has many dreams for the future, an autobiography to inspire differently abled persons and to tell the story of his extraordinary friendship. Sky’s the limit for Ashwin Karthik and he will keep the fire going.

“My eyes can’t see but I dream,
My lips don’t talk but I want to scream,
I can’t move my feet but my mind can run,
The strength of my will—second to none.”


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Waste Management and Composting crazy person, addicted to sports and books. She loves people, animals, the gym, conversations and growing organic food. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Waste Management and Composting crazy person, addicted to sports and books. She loves people, animals, the gym, conversations and growing organic food. more

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