From combing her own hair to dressing up for college to working on beautiful paintings – this Raipur teenager does whatever she needs to with her toes! Born without arms, there is nothing else that separates Damini from other ‘able-bodied’ people around her. This is her story of courage and determination.
“‘Don’t keep thinking that some part of your body is disabled’ – this is what I would like to say to children living with disabilities in India. ‘Always, think of yourself as someone equal to any other individual and you will succeed. You don’t have to change. The only things that need modifications are the viewpoints of others’.” – Damini Sen.
A 19-year-old resident of Raipur, Damini was born without arms. But never once in her journey did she let her disability become a hurdle.
The confident and cheerful teenager uses her feet and toes to do everything she needs to in everyday life – in addition to studying and painting.
Among Damini’s many successes is an astonishing feat – this foot painter set a world record for the highest number of drawings (38) made with her toes in one hour, an achievement that earned her a place in the Golden Book of Records, 2015. “Painting is my hobby. I paint using my toes like any other person paints using his/her hands. I enjoy the process and want to practise it whenever I get the time,” she says.
Additionally, Damini scored an impressive 80% in Class 10, writing all her exams with her toes. Damini is adept at independently performing her daily chores – like preparing a full meal or getting dressed by herself.
The person she thanks most for helping her accomplish what she has is her mother. “My mother never let me lose hope. She was determined that I should grow up in a world where I could access quality education and nobody would discriminate against me. She wanted me to become independent in all respects,” she says.
Her mother, Madhuri Sen, first learnt how to write using her toes herself before teaching Damini the same.
Madhuri would learn every new thing she wanted to teach Damini using her toes and would then show her how. She pushed both herself and her daughter to excel. Soon, Damini was even drawing with sketch pens. Her parents noticed her interest in art when she started making small drawings and they encouraged her to take this interest forward.
Gradually, Damini learned how to paint by practising at home. What began as a hobby grew to become an integral part of who she is today. Currently, the BSc first year student is busy with her studies and painting is restricted to practise sessions over the weekends. She finished Class 10 and 12 from Maa Banjari Gurukul Vidyalaya in Raipur and is now doing her Bachelor’s from DB Girls’ College.
Her family members, including her parents, sister and brother, support her in every possible way. “I believe God gifts children to parents. So you can’t discriminate when raising them based on their abilities and disabilities. Kids are like soft clay. They take the shape you give them. My family raised me like that. They tell me that I should study as much as I want to and support me in all my decisions,” says Damini.
The talented girl adds that while it was a challenge to get admission in school, the journey from thereon has been pretty smooth – her teachers and friends always treat her as an equal.
Except for being provided a separate seat where she can sit and write comfortably, she gets no other special treatment at school. She wrote all her exams herself because she did not want to depend on anyone else. And of course, she passed with flying colours.
Looking ahead, this extraordinary young achiever wants to become an IAS officer and work for children with disabilities. “When I started writing with my toes I used to hesitate thinking that people would laugh. But then I decided to stop being concerned about other people. I thought: ‘God has given such a beautiful life. I should make something of it,’” she smilingly sums up the motto that gives her life meaning.
Damini will be speaking at the India Inclusion Summit to be held in Bengaluru on November 19. Register here to attend the event.