For the longest time in history, women are bounded with prejudice, and unfortunately, they still are. But there are women like Dr Richa who endure so much courage that they let no one dictate to them the rules of their life. Women like Dr Richa crave ways of their own journey and hold the flambeau for many behind them. It takes courage, faith in oneself to be able to fight for your rights. Dr Richa, a Sports Physiotherapist and an entrepreneur is one hell of a woman, and whose journey is nothing less than a roller coaster ride, a ride which she commanded.
Dr Richa, who is also associated with the Wheelchair Cricket India Association interacted with Sociotab and took us on that remarkable ride. Read more:
Question: Fighting a conservative patriarchal society to pursue your dreams and move out of your home, tell us something about your journey
Answer- It is easy to talk about it now, but it was filled with challenges 15 years ago. I was not sure whether I would be able to sustain at the new place or not, everything was so uncertain.
I had no idea of how things would turn up the next day, or whether I would sustain at the new place or not. Coming from Bihar to Bangalore was “the challenge”. I was signing up for a four-year course, and it wouldn’t end in four hours. I was so impatient.
I remember when I was attending the orientation on the very first day of college, I was thinking when will I get the graduation degree ( Richa laughs recalling the incident). I was that impatient, sitting at the orientation, thinking of my graduation. It was a big challenge to sustain and finish those four years of college. However, over the years, things changed for good.
Question: Is there a lack of awareness about the profession of a physiotherapist?
Answer- Definitely, there is a lack of awareness and government support. There is no insurance policy to cover physiotherapy, which is why people don’t choose the treatment. If the government can provide insurance to cover physiotherapy treatments, more people will avail for it.
Also, awareness regarding physiotherapy is lacking, people are not aware of the importance of physiotherapy. A lot of districts in India don’t have physiotherapy centres at all, you can still find some in the urban areas, but when it comes to rural areas you will find none, plus people are aware of it too. However, the demand is much more in rural areas compared to metro cities.
Question: Why do you think the profession of a physiotherapist is underestimated?
Answer- There are many factors behind it. First of all, people are not aware of it, people need to be educated about the importance of physiotherapy. There are many physiotherapists who do nothing to promote the profession or spread awareness amongst the layman. As far as the awareness is concerned, government support would make a huge difference which is lacking right now.
Question: Physiotherapist plays a crucial role in players performance on the ground and maintaining their fitness routine, but they are not given the due credit for it. What do you have to say about it?
Answer- Yes, whenever a team wins a match, the credit is given to the government or the associated organisation. There is hardly any mention of the physiotherapists who are a crucial part of a player’s performance on the ground.
It is not just in sports, in hospitals also we experience the same thing, credit is given to healthcare workers but there is no mention of the physiotherapists at all; so this is applicable everywhere it is concerned.
Question: Do you have any such experience with WCIA?
Answer- I have been associated with them for a long time now, I joined WCIA in the year 2016-17. The atmosphere here is very different, I am recognised for my work, and I am updated about the latest events and other happenings about the team. They appreciate my efforts with the team also. That makes a lot of difference compared to the other places wherever I have worked.
Question: How did people around you react when you decided to move out for education?
Answer: I am the first one in my family to come out of Bihar for education. I am the first educated girl child in my family. But after me, this became a trend. Now, many of them are in the government sector and it feels good. Today, whenever you talk about education in my family, they always take my name, and say, “that only after her, education of girls started in our family, she paved the way for you all.” Sometimes, I feel all my hard work has paid off. It is a different feeling to be able to help them to come out of the shell and guide them in their journey. Education is very important for empowerment when it comes to women. It helps you have an opinion about things, your thought process changes, you see things from a different perspective. Education helps you to become more solution-oriented, you don’t see problems as problems; you begin to search for answers. There are challenges everywhere, whether you handle family or personal life; nothing comes easy in life, it is applicable everywhere in life. Education helps you in decision-making.
Question: What circumstances at home led you to move out for education?
Answer- There were two things basically, one is that I was very inclined towards sports, but like every household, my family also said the same thing– what would you do in future, there is no career in it. And second, was a constant feeling I had, that if I don’t go out of this place and complete my education, it will be really challenging for me in the future. Since childhood, I saw my cousin who got married, they were all dependent on their husbands or worst if things didn’t go well in their marriage they were back to their father’s house.
Also, we have this thinking in our country that if we spend on girls’ education, we will also have to save for her marriage. So instead of education, they choose to save for marriage.
So all these things inspired me to change this pattern at my home at least and I decided to get a good education and stand on my own feet. Also, I had no choice, I didn’t have the luxury to complete my education and sit at home, I had to work and be self-dependent and I had to prove it to my family as well.
Question: Who supported you in this incredible journey of yours?.
Answer- I was able to accomplish my dreams because of the support of my parents and my younger brother. I remember a few times it had happened that my grandparents didn’t know that I am in Delhi or Bangalore for my exams, my parents would lie to them. They would say that I had gone to visit my mama or something like that. Also, mobiles were not that popular back then, so they couldn’t cross-check also. ( she laughs).
It was also a challenge for my parents. They didn’t like to lie to them, but they had no other option.
Question: What are the challenges you faced while practising your profession and how did you deal with the stereotypes?
Answer- Yes, there is always a hustle to prove yourself, and when you want to do things differently, there is a lot of criticism. I believed in following my instincts, doing good work and not entertaining the comments. Your work speaks for you and it would ultimately shut their mouth. If my patients are not relieved or having any troubles, then I am answerable to the loudmouths but if I do my work religiously, then nobody can question me.
There are two ways to do it, one is fighting and criticising; the other is to create a strong demand in the market, then the government or policymakers will have to address your issues and people will support you. Just continue with your good work, don’t be distracted by the criticism and learn to move on.
Question: How is your journey with WCIA different?
Answer- I work with a lot of other organizations and players and I work with Wheelchair Cricket India too, but I find the players so encouraging and inspiring at WCIA. They all come from different parts of India. Some come from rural India as well, but all of them are so enthusiastic and passionate about cricket. They are highly motivated and encouraging. I really appreciate the work they are doing and I feel the government should lay out schemes to support them and more sponsors should be associated with them and more events should take place to not just empower them but to also encourage the budding wheelchair cricketers in the country.
There should be more awareness about them and the related events, they are very motivating individuals. They can accomplish so much with a wheelchair. I have seen patients who say I won’t be able to walk in a small injury. When you see and meet the players of WCIA, you feel that there is nothing that you can’t achieve. They have such an inspiring aura around them.
Question: Please share an anecdote with WCIA players that you remember
Answer- I remember one incident when we were in Kolkata for the international series, and I arrived at the hotel where the teams were staying, I met Somjeet Singh, the captain of the Wheelchair India Cricket team at the reception; he was such a gentleman and he asked me to carry my bag. Apart from that also, whenever I am on the fields with the players, they ask about my wellbeing and if I am at comfort. It is always so overwhelming.
Question: What advice you would like to give to people who are fighting to pursue their dreams?
Answer- All the problems in life come with a possibility, and we must look for opportunities and keep doing the good work. We must do self-analysis and take a calculative risk and move ahead in life. Sometimes patience is “the key” and we must learn to be patient, but we must also learn to take a chance. For eg. when the WCIA players are on the field, they are aware of the injuries they might get while playing but they are mentally prepared for that too, it happens everywhere. So I would say that Don’t give up hope before starting. Keep chasing your dreams.