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‘Everyone Said You Can’t Do It’: How I Run My Spice Business While Being on a Wheelchair

From playing basketball in a wheelchair to establishing her own spice business, Sumarty from Kashmir has shattered multiple stereotypes to prove her mettle despite her disability.

‘Everyone Said You Can’t Do It’: How I Run My Spice Business While Being on a Wheelchair

Born and raised in the picturesque Kashmir valley, life was cheerful for Sumarty. She enjoyed going to school and meeting her friends. But one day, she returned home running a high temperature.

“We thought it was regular flu. But when my parents took me to the doctor, we were told that I would not be able to walk ever again now,” she tells The Better India.

Sumarty was just 10 years old then. Instead of going to school, she started visiting hospitals.

After the family was turned down by doctors in Kashmir, they went to Mumbai where surgery was performed to treat her legs. “After surgery, the doctor offered me [specially designed] shoes. With its help, I was able to take small steps. But those shoes were very heavy, I was forced to discard them,” she adds.

Safat says her father was her only pillar of support. Except for him, everyone else doubted her capabilities.
Sumarty says her father was her only pillar of support. Except for him, everyone else doubted her capabilities.

Eventually, Sumarty had to rely on a wheelchair to move around. By this time, she had to discontinue her education. “While children from the neighbourhood went to school, I would watch them sitting in my wheelchair at home. I did not understand why this was happening to me,” she says.

Things worsened when her father, her “only pillar of support”, passed away. “Except for my father, everyone else doubted my capabilities. But he always encouraged me to dream big. I missed him. There were days, when I would end up crying all day, sitting alone in my room. I was getting into depression,” she says.

“By now, I realised that either I have to end my life or struggle to prove myself. I chose the latter. I wanted to prove to the world that people like me can also achieve something. I had just lost my ability to walk, not my ability to use my brain,” she adds.

That is when Sumarty decided to step up for herself.

After running boutique, Sadaf ventured into selling unique spices of the Kashmir valley.
After running a boutique, Sumarty ventured into selling unique spices of the Kashmir valley.

In 2015, she opened a boutique but had to shut it a couple of years later as the work affected her eyesight. She says, “But I wanted to try my hands at everything. So, I decided to play basketball as well. I have also been awarded multiple times by the Jammu and Kashmir Basketball Association.”

Recently, Sumarty ventured into selling unique spices of the Kashmir valley, like the famous Kashmiri red chilli powder.

“Today, I have established my own business without anyone’s emotional or financial support. People would question me what I could achieve sitting in a wheelchair, all this when their educated and able-bodied children sat idly. Now the very same people give my example to others,” she says.

Sumarty believes that people with disabilities should never doubt themselves. “If you listen to others [say negative things], you may end up depressed. Instead of living within the confines of a room, try to empower yourself. Do not let your disability define you,” she advises.

Edited by Pranita Bhat; All photos courtesy Sumarty.

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