Simran Chawla smiled, cried, ran, and played around like any other kid. But at the age of five, everything became dark. Simran lost her eyesight.
But she did not lose hope. Battling challenges, she went on to win a beauty pageant. However, the flashback of grim memories still plays in her mind.
"At 3 am, I had a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit. My parents were worried. Since Crocin didn't work, they gave me Nimulet Syrup, which my brother used to take. The next day I didn't wake up till the evening. And when I woke up, my body had red rashes all over. Soon the red marks that looked like mosquito bites turned into burning blisters. Later, my nails came off, my hair fell off and I lost my tooth. And, I was being fed through Ryle's tube. I was reduced to 15kgs," says Simran.
The doctor termed it 'Stevens-Johnson Syndrome', the body's reaction to medicines that don't suit you. After a month, the reactions stopped, but then her eyes were affected. "My eyes dried up. Every time, I cried, tears didn't come," recalls Simran, who was born in New Delhi.
And soon, she lost her eyesight. Simran found it hard to process all that happened to her over a single night. "Suddenly, the world turned dark for me. I used to hit my head on walls when my mother was not around me," she says, describing those difficult times.
When she lost her eyesight, she lost everything. She used to go to a regular school. But now the regular school teacher was unable to teach her. Her parents arranged a home tutor for her.
The turning point
Soon, my parents enrolled her in the National Association for the Blind in RK Puram in Delhi where Simran learnt Braille. She further continued her studies in a regular school. "My mother also learnt Braille and every day she used to help me by rewriting the normal school notes to Braille so that I could read them," she says
Her parents also got her several games which she could touch, feel, and play. They ensured that their child never got bored, while at home.
"I said to myself. So what if I don't have eyes? I have ears to listen, mouth to speak whatever you want, hands to touch and feel," says Simran.
She slowly learned to look at the positives of her life rather than the negatives and to live with her disability.
In 2016, Simran participated in `Princess India', a beauty pageant competition for visually-impaired women that changed her life. She had a passion for modeling since her childhood but she considered herself an introvert and was not confident. But by the time she reached the final round of the competition, she could speak confidently on stage.
The final round was very special for her. Simran discovered that visually-impaired people danced. She decided that this was the challenge that she was taking up for the finale. But she was disappointed when several choreographers refused to teach a visually-impaired girl. Finally, a kind-hearted Kapil Singh showed the willingness to teach her and restored her confidence. And she danced her heart out to the popular 'Sil Sila Ye Chaahat Ka' song from Devdas movie.
"I had never seen the world, so I didn't know how to give expressions. I was clueless about hand movements. I wasn't even sure if I was facing the audience and dancing," says Simran.
Especially, she remembers the dance step where she had to take rounds and go to her left, take up a diya, turn around and come back to her original position. This might seem fascinating for a viewer, but she had figured out a trick. "I counted my steps and identified the directions," says Simran.
Simran was the winner of Princess of India 2016-17. She says she can't explain her happiness when she was crowned by actor John Abraham.
The glowing fire within
The 25-year-old is now a digital marketing freelancer, a postgraduate student in Psychology, vlogger, and host of a radio show on Radio Udaan. She firmly believes that a disabled person is not less than a normal individual.
She likes to smile at the challenges that life offers. In fact, she says, if we don't have challenges, life becomes boring. "Challenges make you learn more through your journey. They keep coming, but remember we have to move on," says Simran.
As a person who has faced several hardships, her motivation is going to leave you wonderstruck. "Life is as short as its spelling. So live it to the fullest," adds Simran.
Click here to view Simran's Youtube channel.