Everyone in Bappaditya Nag’s distant family blamed him for his father’s death in April 2013. They believed that it was due to a curse which fell upon the family because he was in love with a ‘different’ girl.
He did not let any negative comments affect their relationship and informed them about how his father had given them blessings.
It was not the first time when Nag proudly defended his wife. There also have been instances where Jeeja has borne the brunt of people’s objections, insults, and taunts and shielded Nag from them.
The Kolkata-based couple is an inspiration for several people for breaking stereotypes, challenging the norms of the society and educating ill-informed on the issue of disability.
‘I Fell in Love With Her Sense of Humour’
By the time Jeeja met Nag, she had already carved out her identity as a champion of social work vis-a-vis disability rights.
A real non-conformist, Jeeja never hesitates in reprimanding people for their ignorance and or ones who treat her any less.
“She has been an outspoken person since childhood. Though she is trapped in a disobedient body, she does not shy away from her responsibilities and aspirations. All her confrontations are laced with humour, and that is the best part about her,” says Nag.
After completing her Masters in Disability Studies from the University of Leeds, UK, Jeeja came back to India and instantly joined the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy (IICP) to head the Disability Department.
Post that she joined Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) as a social activist in 2008. This is where she met Nag—he was working there as a legal consultant.
Nag was not present in the office on her joining date, but he would hear whispers of a girl who was highly intelligent but had a ‘different’ appearance.
And then one day, he finally met her.
“I was impressed after learning about her academic credentials. I felt that it was courageous of her to live independently in a foreign country despite having a congenital disorder,” says Nag.
Meanwhile, Jeeja’s steely-eyed focus on her goals left her with no time to even notice him, let alone have a conversation.
“Our love story started out with a rejection. I was crossing the road, and he extended his hand to help. By then I had adapted myself in crossing roads and doing other motor skills, so I refused,” says Jeeja.
The refusal would lead to one conversation, then two, and eventually, both of them were staring at a lifetime of companionship.
They got married on May 11, 2013, but just when they thought they had conquered all, other challenges awaited them.
Completing Their Family With Adoption
In 2018, Jeeja became the first woman with CP to adopt a child in India.
While this is no mean feat, the journey, from filing for adoption to get a seal of approval from the eastern region head of Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) was tough.
Before meeting their daughter, the legal adoption entity had rejected the adoption several times on the grounds that a disabled person like Jeeja was not fit to take care of a child.
The couple ran pillar to post to get reports from multiple medical practitioners that certified them as mentally and physically fit.
It took the couple almost two years before they welcomed home their daughter, Hiya in May 2018 from an adoption centre in Odisha’s Keonjhar district.
“It was love at first sight. She was barely five months old when we got her home. We have hired a nanny as handling a toddler can be very demanding. Jeeja may not be able to entirely take care of Hiya on her own, but love for her is not any less. Hiya has completed our family,” adds Nag.
Nag and Jeeja have faced weathered several storms and challenges in their journey, but all seem to be pale in comparison to the joy of building such a loving family.
It is very rare to find a companion that sees you beyond your shortcoming or disabilities, one that believes in you without any judgments and one that supports you unconditionally.
They are indeed lucky to have found each other!
All the images are sourced from Bappaditya Nag/Facebook
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)