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The Heartwarming Tale Of A Friendship That Defeated Disability

Bharath put his own career at stake to help his friend Ashwin become India’s first Engineer with Cerebral Palsy. From going against family and society to sacrificing four years of your life just so your friend can achieve his goals, their story has given a new meaning to the word friendship.

Ashwin Karthik wanted to pursue Engineering. But the pressure of studies, competitions and scoring good marks was not something that bothered him much. Rather, it was writing a three hour long exam that was his biggest challenge. What made Ashwin different from any other engineering student was cerebral palsy, a condition that made movements and speech extremely difficult for this talented guy.

I knew it would be difficult. But I was ready to work hard and do whatever it took to live a good life and achieve my goals,” says Ashwin.

Ashwin’s condition was first identified when he was just 16 months old. He wasn’t sitting or crawling like other children. As he grew older he realized he was “different” but the immense love and support from his family kept him going and he managed to excel in all exams.

He secured 84 percent marks in his 10th board exams which was the highest score ever by a student with cerebral palsy.

Ashwin (left) with Bharath at India Inclusion Summit, Bangalore.
Ashwin (left) with Bharath at India Inclusion Summit, Bangalore.

“My mother would sit outside my school for hours to help me to go to bathroom. She would borrow notes from other students to copy them for me as I could not write quickly enough in the class. She has been a great support,” Ashwin says.

But, the biggest milestone came in Ashwin’s life when he met Bharath Sharma, a friend from his Maths tuition classes in 11th standard. What started as a good friendship soon turned into an inspiring and life-changing relationship for both of them. Bharath once visited Ashwin and saw his mother helping him out with Maths problems. “That day I decided to help him with studies and thought of studying together,” says Bharath.

As time went by, Ashwin managed to clear his 12th board exams with good marks while Bharath could not clear the exams. And then Bharath did the most amazing thing a friend could do.

He became the scribe for Ashwin for his Engineering studies, knowing full well that he would have to keep his studies on hold for four years.

But this was something I was ready to do. I wanted to help Ashwin, it was my priority,” Bharath says. Though he faced a lot of criticism from his family and society, but he was determined to help his friend.

With Ashwin’s hard work and Bharath’s amazing support, Ashwin managed to become a Computer Engineer. He is the first successful engineer from India with Cerebral Palsy.

Ashwin & Bharath2

Bharath gave up his career and lagged behind for years to help his friend but he does not regret it at all. Rather, he is proud of his decision. After finishing his Engineering, Ashwin encouraged Bharath to study further and become an Engineer too.

Ashwin now works at Mphasis and has received several awards, including the National Award for the “Best Employee with Disability” from President Pranab Mukherjee in 2013.

Besides this he has been the recipient of the Helen Keller Award in 2011 for being a role model employee with disability and Positive Health Hero Award by Dr. Batra in 2013. He also received three state level awards including Veer Savarkar Award and Young Achiever Award.

Though he has received all these awards subsequently, it was extremely challenging for Ashwin to find a suitable job and make his mark at first. “People had notions that because I have this disability I wouldn’t be able to perform the task properly. I took it as an opportunity to prove my worth and worked really hard,” he says. He gradually won everyone’s trust and heart at work.

Bharath too is now an engineer and works at Hewlett Packard. He is happily married and has managed to mend his relations with his family.

Ashwin enjoys writing and has written many poems in English, Kannada and Hindi. He has also started writing his autobiography which will be an inspiration to people facing similar challenges in life.

The story of these two friends is inspiring and heart warming. How both of them stood by each other in spite of many challenges is commendable. We wish the duo good luck for all their future endeavours and hope to see many more examples of such unconditional friendships emerge.

We met Ashwin and Bharath at the India Inclusion Summit 2014.

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