Spectators look on in awe when Dev Mishra performs callisthenics at Bandra’s Carter Road. He has no legs and performs the classic moonwalk with his hands!
The 22-year-old Juhu resident wowed judges in the first audition of the upcoming season of India’s Got Talent. He shares his incredible story with The Better India.
Dev was born in the village of Dhakjari in Bihar’s Begusarai district to Vandana Devi and Raj Kumar Mishra. The youngest of three siblings, he was only six-months-old when his father passed after a prolonged illness. All his mother’s savings were spent on his treatment.
When they ran out of money, Raj Kumar died a painful death leaving Vandana to raise three kids alone.
She toiled all day as a landless labourer on farms and worked as domestic help. There were nights when hunger pangs kept her awake, but Vandana did not let any of her children sleep on an empty stomach.
Dev had started working at the age of five, helping his mother in domestic work and grazing cattle. In class eight, financial crisis at home pushed him to drop out of school and take up odd jobs.
On June 1, 2015, Dev was travelling to Hyderabad to work as a welder for a contractor. He had no idea that the trip would change his life.
Just as he prepared to board the train entering Barauni station, he felt a strong push from the frenzied crowd behind him. The train was hardly ten steps away. But the teenager had fallen onto the tracks.
In the flash of a second, the train that he thought would take him to his destination, ran over him, amputating his legs above his knees.
He was 19-years-old then.
Speaking to The Better India, he recalls,
“I kept screeching in pain. Nobody reached out to help. Just when I thought the situation could still be salvaged, another speeding train ran over me. Some people picked me up and left me at the corner of a platform. I was lying there for the next three hours screaming and begging people to help me. They stopped and looked. But did not help. I was rushed to the hospital only after my friend arrived.”
Six hours after the accident, he finally reached the hospital. He had lost a lot of blood in that time.
“Doctors said it was impossible to save me. But I survived. It was my second shot at life,” says Dev.
He spent a month recovering in the hospital and still has a pending loan of Rs 1.5 lakh from his treatment.
When he returned home, his mother took care of him. For the next three months of recovery, she did not leave his side.
“What killed me wasn’t the pain of losing my feet, but the fact that my own brother had turned on me after my recovery. It was the day I realised that until I was an able-bodied man who could contribute to the family, he respected me. When I was bedridden, he considered me useless. He told me, ‘You won’t be capable of doing anything in your life. Tu jeeyega toh meri badaulat, marega toh meri badaulat (Whether you live or die, you will be dependent on me.’’ It broke me completely. This was the brother I had loved and looked up to all my life,” he says, emotionally.
Dev decided to not dwell upon it, but make something of his life.
He travelled to Jaipur to consult doctors about getting prosthetic legs, but he was told that his existing limbs were too short, so the procedure wouldn’t be possible.
“My only hope of standing back on my feet was shattered,” he says.
That day at Jaipur railway station, on a whim he boarded a train to Mumbai.
“In a hopeless world, I knew the city of dreams was my only hope. Nobody who enters here returns empty-handed. So, my journey began at Kurla station. I hardly knew anyone. I lived off alms, slept on the footpath near Carter Road, ate leftovers and often slept hungry. When I asked people for work, they refused.”
He travelled to Bandra and Juhu, waiting outside the bungalows of top celebrities in search of work. Actor Jackie Shroff was gracious to hand him an envelope of Rs 5,000.
Exactly a month later, fate smiled on him when he met jewellery designer, Farah Khan Ali.
“She is like God to me. Wherever I am, she is the driving force behind it. The day that I met her, I told her I found it difficult to walk, and was in need of a job to survive in the city. Moved by my story, she immediately got in touch with some of her workers and bought me a tricycle. On the same day, she gave me Rs 10,000 for food and other expenses. She found me accommodation too and has been taking care of my expenses ever since. She told me, ‘Till the day I am alive, I will help you in every way I can.’”
Farah was also the guardian angel who made Dev’s dream of standing on his feet come true. Spending over Rs five lakh, she helped him get prosthetics.
“I knew I had to make the opportunity count. So I started out by getting into body fitness. I would practice callisthenics at Carter Road to build my upper body strength since the entire weight of my body was often on my hands.”
Ten months ago, during one such practice session, a dance instructor spotted him. This was the beginning of Dev’s journey into dancing.
This instructor was Vishal Paswan.
When he introduced himself, Dev asked to learn a few moves. To Paswan’s surprise, Dev had picked them up quickly.
“He told me to use my skill, chase my dreams and inspire people. Dance in a manner that everyone who looks on goes, ‘Wow, this is incredible.’ I am indebted to him for teaching me everything I know about dancing.”
After performing at several stage shows, the young lad decided to audition for the popular talent show, India’s Got Talent.
At the time of this interview, Dev was preparing his act for the show’s second round. Along with this, he is also pursuing his Class 12 privately.
What’s next after the reality show, I ask him.
He smiles and says,
“I really want a job that can help me sustain. I study, dance, cook, eat and live, all by myself. I know I am not highly educated and don’t have certificates to prove any skills. But I am a hard worker. I am willing to learn if given a chance. I am living my second life only for my mother. She continues to live alone in the village. My dream is to give her a comfortable life and make her proud.”
In a final message to everyone who took the time the read about his journey, he says, “Don’t give up. Life will throw all kinds of obstacles and problems your way. Don’t run away from them, fight them. Problem aapko nahi, aap problem ko bhagaiye (Don’t let problems scare you, instead you scare them away).”
Watch Dev in action here.
If this story inspired you, get in touch with Dev on 7254055763. Follow him on Instagram at @dev.mishra.ak47.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)