Sai Kaustuv Dasgupta addressing an audience
Having more than 90 per cent of disability, Sai Kaustuv Dasgupta is a motivational speaker and international graphic designer. His story is creating an alternative narrative and defying the odds. Since his childhood, Kaustuv has suffered more than 50 fractures till date, due to a rare bone disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as ‘brittle bone disease’. With help from grit and determination, he turned his disability into the greatest gift as Kaustuv strongly believe that disability is nothing but my super ability. As a singer, he also got opportunities to showcase his talent, before accomplished artists such as Manna Dey, Ustad Rashid Khan, Anup Jalota, Anuradha Poudwal to name a few. He has conducted motivational sessions for Ph.D. scholars of various institutes in different states of India, as well as those in countries like the US, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Nepal.
In a freewheeling interview with Impact News, Kaustuv is shedding light on a wide range of issues like disability, Indian society, government and many more. Despite an unfair treatment, Kaustuv is willing to work with the governments to check out the scopes and exposures available for accessibility in India.
Kaustuv on Upbringing, Education, Family, and Indian Society:
I was a dancer. I used to imitate all the steps just by witnessing the dance forms. It used to come from the heart. Then one day doctor suggested my parents that dance is not my cup of tea. So I come to know for the first time that I am different. I was very immature to understand that I am having a very rare disease which is going to restrict me from leading a normal life. My first fractured happened when I was just 3 and half months old. It was in my right hand and I was continuously crying. I was suffering but was not able to dictate my suffering. Today after 26 years, when I look back to all these unpleasant memories, I feel my birth itself was very special and unique. I have suffered more than 50 fractures till date, due to a rare bone disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as ‘brittle bone disease’.
After I restricted myself from dancing at the age of 5 years, I thought to do something by staying in a safe zone as I was realizing that my bones are so fragile just like glass. Then I started singing. Upon being inspired by my mother, who was also my first teacher as a trained classical singer herself, & someone who knew the issues that I was facing with dancing, I took singing as a platform to express my emotions. I won the ‘Dishari Award’ for the ‘Best Child Singer of West Bengal’ in 1999-2000. I also got opportunities to showcase my talent, before accomplished artists such as Manna Dey, Ustad Rashid Khan, Anup Jalota, Anuradha Poudwal to name a few. Not just this, later I went on composing more than 150 songs and has released several music albums.
Kaustuv with Manna Dey
Originally belongs from Siliguri, West Bengal, my nature was creative by default. My biggest inspiration is my parents. Through out my life till now, my main supporters are my parents Kausik Dasgupta and Shila Dasgupta. They are like living angels for me. From morning to night they assist me in each and everything. Without their help, I can’t move an inch too. In all my success they are the main pillars and in all my sorrows they are my main consoles. They have sacrificed a lot for my well-being and happiness. They were very supportive from the time I was diagnosed with this disease. They never broke down or complained about their fate. They took me as a blessing and encouraged me to do the best possible in my critical condition. My parents inspired me always to choose what I love to do and it is their greatness which made me see the world in my own way. Whenever I have decided to do something new, they always motivated me to go ahead for it. Apart from them my younger brother Kushal too is my inspiration. He is always supportive and encouraged me to win over situations when life gives you no options. Because of them today’s Sai Kaustuv has come a long way and got millions of people’s love. I could never repay what they have done for me. They are my ideals.
My family shifted to Andhra Pradesh for the betterment of my health in 2004. When I got confined to a room in 2009, I thought to re-discover my life and started designing. Now I’ve become an International graphic designer. I do designs by operating a mouse with my left hand and that too with two fingers only. My hands can’t reach the keyboard, but I can type quite fast by using a virtual keyboard.Being unable to do all the regular works, I have taught myself to do such works, which all able bodies are not able to do.
Besides singing and graphic designing, I love to give motivational speeches. My wish is to become a top Motivational Speaker whose own life is a living inspiration. I have already inspired millions of people, especially students & youths, with online sessions of my pep talks. I have conducted motivational sessions for Ph.D. scholars of various institutes in different states of India, as well as those in countries like the US, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Nepal to name a few. The main ambition of my life is to simply make people happy through my designing works and talks. I would like to bring back the purity of heart and genuine happiness which people lost in today’s course of life. They forgot how to smile selflessly. So I want to help people to regain their true nature and wholehearted smile. That’s why I’m a Happiness Coach too.
In my childhood, every day was a story for me. Every now and then there used to be a fracture in my body. All my relatives and friends used to feel pity upon me. They only used to think that Sai Kaustuv is someone who is defined with sufferings. Every time they meet me or greet me, they used to ask about my health. There was nothing in their mind except my disability. They knew that I am not able to do anything. It’s 100% true that physically I am unable to do anything but I have proved that disability affected my body not the mind. Do my friends and relatives ever try to make a graphics by lying down with the left hand? No, because they don’t know how to smile in difficulties. They can’t live life without complaining.
Society never encourages our community. People always try to be in comfort zone and don’t raise any sound towards disability rights. Very few people really care about our movements and actions. In each society, there are disabled people but what they receive mainly is sympathy. Because they feel disability as a weakness in our life. The role of society in my life is something which I never experienced. In India people never encourage you in hardships, they only make you feel different. In day to day life, I observe so many things which are not developed like my surroundings are not accessible and I can’t access all the public places of my locality. So unwontedly my disability restricted me from many sides but still, I have turned my disability into my driving force to access all the abilities.
A Sheer Lack of Facilities in India:
Frankly speaking, I’m not satisfied with the Government facilities. Actually not getting any facility at all. The place where I live is not accessible and the road is really very bad. In the rainy season, it gets fully muddy and I can’t get out with my electric wheelchair. So Government is not looking after all these things which are really necessary. The main thing is a lack of awareness. The government is not actually aware of our real condition which is very important. So if any way we can bring these facts to their notice, they may help us out. Unless our sound reaches them in right way, the situation will not go be changed. So I’m just trying to spread this awareness more and trying to reach them to solve these daily life problems.
Due to my disability, I have faced always discrimination in society. For example, everywhere I had to wait for my turn to come. I’ve not received any Government job or pension yet in spite of having 90 per cent disability. Also, I did not get any scholarship or other advantages to fulfill my necessities and to expertise my skills. I had to discontinue my education because I was not able to write properly and examination seat was far away. That time I was little disappointed by not getting any help or support from any Institution to study further. Whatever I’m today, only because of my strong will power. Now when I hear the word incredible India, I truly feel that we need to go far to achieve true incredibility.
At present, I’m doing research on Accessibility and how to improve it slowly. I would love to work on Accessible Travelling so the problems I faced during my trips can be avoided in future. I have a wish to work with Government authorities to check out the scopes and exposures available for accessibility. The government is doing many things but we need to discuss, what practical benefit us and what measures we have to take to make our locality accessible. My plan is to conduct more awareness programme and educate people to come forward. We need more support and strength to spread the light of hope to all those people who have confined themselves due to lack of accessibility in their places. I want to make India a wheelchair friendly country because of we, the disable community is very much talented and skilled in performing well. But we need a platform to explore ourselves. I wish to make that platform through which all specially abled people can contribute their bits which will benefit the whole society.
Divyang: Disabled, Ignored but Divine
It’s very difficult to say and it really does not matter what I think. Disable persons are calling as “DIVYANGJAN” which is a very good word and we can definitely use it. But Divya means Divine. So in that sense, all disabled persons are divine. That is not acceptable for everybody. So here start confusions and debates. It’s fully on the personal level that we should accept or use this word. It varies among individuals. But for me, I’m fine with the word ‘disabled’ or ‘specially abled’ as that’s the fact of my life. It’s not the right thing to escape from the truth of our lives and assume something else. It’s just a way around to call a disabled as ‘Divyang’ and if people are happy with it, let them be like that.
How to Smile after Confining into a Room for 6 Years:
From my childhood itself, I and my belief used to travel beyond all boundaries and that belief became my main strength to fight against all odds. Life taught me how to smile after confining into a room for 6 years (2009 – 2015)! I used to feel terribly down in depression. But slowly I started realising that if I break down like this, then what about the other differently abled people who are also struggling to break the barriers. How will they get motivated? Then I started developing a desire to change the situation fully. I made myself a Wheelchair Warrior who defeated all the obstacles and came out of the room to show the world the power of positivity. So my positivity is my most motivational factor which is helping me to achieve all extraordinary feats. I set a goal to inspire all abled and specially abled people in this world through my journey which went through tremendous turmoil but ultimately won the race.
It was a great moment when CavinKare and Ability Foundation chose me for the Mastery Award 2017 which is also a national level award for my accomplishments as a singer, music composer, graphic designer & motivational speaker. I was also the winner of the ‘All India #WheelchairWandurlust Competition’ in 2016, where I won an accessible trip to Goa and was privileged to meet the State Commissioner for Disabilities in the Government of Goa: Mrs. Anuradha Joshi. She took my feedback on how to make Goa and India more accessible for the differently-abled. I have penned down a book in English titled ‘My Life, My Love, My Dear Swami’ published in 2015, where I have myself and has delivered a message, by reflecting upon my life, the struggles and learnings from it. The book has been translated in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Oriya, Hindi and Gujarati. Even our Prime Minister Narendra Modi loved and appreciated the book upon receiving a copy of it.
Kaustuv is Working
Today, I might be in an Electric wheelchair but I have destroyed all the barriers and soars high on the wings of self-confidence, courage, will power and determination. Though being a 90 per cent differently able guy, I have become the fourth icon after Helen Keller, Stephen Hawking, and Srikanth Bolla on the basis of my leadership quality which has acknowledged by millions in this world.For all the specially abled people, I would like to say, “Please have faith that you too could fly high on the wings of self-confidence and courage. Have strong determination and have a clear idea about your destination. Life is too short to celebrate it fully. So give value to your every moment. Know who you are and know that you are worthy of reaching your dreams. It is never too late to start creating that life which you have always dreamt of. Do not compare yourself with others. No two individuals are same. You are special and you are unique.”
Life gave me two options. To spend my whole life confined to a small comfort zone or to share my positivity and love with the whole world. I chose the second option as I believe that, life is a unique story, everything is possible and nothing to worry about anything. I’ve turned my disability into my greatest gift as I strongly believe that my disability is nothing but my super ability.