Palash Patidar (26) is unlikely to ever forget the events of 10 May 2014. Just 19 at the time, and 15 days away from attempting the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) for the second time, Palash became a victim of a horrific road accident which broke his spinal cord. (Above image of Palash Patidar, who doctors said couldn’t walk again.)
“My family and I were travelling to our village, which is about 100 km from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, for my cousin’s marriage. I don’t remember very clearly why the accident happened. It was probably a mechanical failure. As the car swerved off the road, I fell out, got crushed underneath it and that’s how my spinal cord broke. My lungs were completely compressed, I had a clot in my brain, and suffered other injuries as well. For a month, I was unconscious and breathing with the help of a ventilator. After waking up at Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai, I had lost all feeling below the waist,” Palash recalls.
It was an extremely difficult period, he says. Some doubted whether he would even survive. A few months later in July, Palash’s family took him to the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre in New Delhi. On a wheelchair at the time, he had miraculously begun to acquire some feeling below his waist. But after showing the concerned doctor all his medical reports, he was in for a rude shock. His doctor explicitly told him that he may never walk again.
“When I came back to Ujjain, I went all out on the prescribed physiotherapy and tried all possible solutions that allopathy and naturopathy could offer,” he recalls.
Palash has come a long way since then, but saw many roadblocks along the way. Today he is a full stack developer with SuperProcure, a Kolkata-based logistics company. He is financially independent, earns more than an average software engineer in India and can walk with the help of a walking stick.
In a conversation with The Better India, he discusses his journey.
Born and raised in Ujjain, Palash recalls being an average student in school, despite having an aptitude for physics and mathematics. From 2012 onwards, he began preparing for JEE, the competitive all-India exam students write to get into the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). He cleared JEE in his first attempt and even secured a seat at IIT-Roorkee.
However, he lost that seat after falling short on his Class 12 board exams by a measly 2%. After that disappointment, Palash dropped a year, prepared for JEE and also reappeared for his board exams, in which he got the necessary marks. But he then suffered the tragic accident 15 days before attempting the exam for the second time.
“Naturally, I couldn’t appear for JEE. Instead, I took admission in a local college in Indore. Unfortunately, due to my physical condition, I wasn’t able to attend a single day of college. So I spent the year trying to improve my physical condition instead. My medical records explicitly stated that I wasn’t going to walk again, but after a year of consistently doing physiotherapy and trying all possible solutions, I started to gain some feeling below my waist and could perform minimal movements. I even began walking a few steps with a lot of support. As a former athlete, if I even got a glimmer of hope that full recovery may happen one day, I would go all the way,” Palash recalls.
With the college in Indore not working out, he joined a local college in Ujjain and studied computer science engineering. But once again, he was unable to attend classes due to his condition. He would only appear for his exams. On his road to recovery, however, another tragedy struck.
His father, Balchand, an employee with the Madhya Pradesh Housing Board, suffered a cardiac arrest in June 2016. Palash says it happened all of a sudden, even though his father did regular exercise, yoga and was diet conscious.
Besides the devastation of losing his father, Palash had to deal with his disability. However, standing beside him was his mother Radha, a staff nurse, his extended family and friends.
“Since I don’t have any siblings, it was just my mother and I. Of course, my father’s passing had a financial impact since my mother was the sole earning member, but we managed reasonably well. Mentally, however, it took a toll, given my physical condition. But my extended family and friends were there to support us. They kept my morale up,” he says.
Meanwhile, more than computer science, he was interested in his physical recovery. Moreover, his passion lay in physics, and following graduation, the plan was to study it further while also teaching the subject to JEE aspirants. So he began teaching while also applying for a job to a bunch of companies.
However, when the pandemic struck in March 2020, taking lectures physically was no longer possible. As he began looking at other options online, he received an email from Newton School.
Newton School is a Bengaluru-based edtech startup that allows students to cross financial and locational barriers to achieve their dream of becoming software developers. Students only pay the fees for their course once they secure a job placement and start earning.
The email described how they would train him to become a full stack developer, and that he could pay the fees after securing a job with a minimum salary of Rs 5 lakh per annum.
“Joining Newton School was one of the best decisions I ever made. After a six-month course, which began in August 2020, I was able to build my own web applications. In my four years of engineering college, I hadn’t even started up a computer. Starting from scratch, I finished the course in February 2021. Soon after finishing my course, they started referring to various companies, and just two months later, I got a job with SuperProcure,” he says.
Nishant Chandra, co-founder of Newton School, says, “Seeing students from Tier 2 or 3 colleges get packages equal to IITians and watching their lives transform gives us great satisfaction.”
From the time he graduated from college, Palash had only two objectives—attain financial independence and 100% physical recovery. While his first goal has been reached, the next step is to achieve full physical recovery, for which he continues to wake up every morning at 5.30 am to workout. “There is physical recovery, but it’s still too slow for me,” he says with a smile.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)