The Uttarayan kite-flying festival celebrates the spirit and adventure of flying high. And that’s a lesson Dhaval Khatri, a 14-year-old teenager back in 2003 imbibed well from the sport. In the frenzy of kite-flying that takes over the young and the old on the day of Makar Sankranti, he happened to touch a live wire. He was severely electrocuted and lost his consciousness.
However, things were far from normal. Khatri, an Ahmedabad-resident was confined to the hospital bed for almost three months. The doctors waited, looking for any signs of improvement. In the end, the decision had to be made; both his arms had to be amputated from below the elbows.
Today, 14 years later, he uses his amputated arms to sketch, paint and even create web designs online. His art has seen him becoming a popular name not just among friends and locals, but across the state, and even outside. From live shows to television interviews, people are eager to witness him in action.
Ask him if he always had a flair for painting and he surprises you with his admission.
Gradually, I was doing more than just holding it right. After many days of practice, I had managed to create a sketch of Lord Ganesha with my name signed under it. I guess everything happens at its destined time and in the case of my penchant for painting, it was meant to happen post my accident.”
His painting gave him a purpose at a time when he felt like he had none. Not only the world, but Khatri took even himself by surprise with his skills. A 9th grade student at the time of his accident, his courage was further challenged when his school authorities issued him a Leaving Certificate due to his handicap.
However, he did not let his handicap or the authorities’ decision get in the way of his ambitions. He enrolled at another school, and even went on to complete his graduation, getting himself a bachelor’s degree in commerce. Talking about it, the ever-positive Khatri says, “Maybe it was a good decision by the authorities. Had they not asked me to leave, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to complete my higher studies.”
The next big challenge that awaited him was having to learn regular tasks, differently. “It was like learning my alphabets all over again. Post the incident, I was almost like a child who is born knowing nothing, and gradually grows up to learn a lot of things. Over a period of time, I learnt to live my new life as well as learn painting,” he states.
Clearly, when Khatri was standing at the crossroads of destiny, he chose to take control over it rather than the other way around. His belief that if you look within, you will always find the motivation to go on, saw him emerging as a successful painter despite no formal art education.
“Once I realised my calling, I applied to a fine arts college. However, once again, I was denied admission due to my condition and their belief that I would not be able to paint due to the same.
I had made it so far by listening to my inner voice and would continue to do on the road ahead. I watched videos and developed my skills over the years,” says Khatri.
While his journey has been long and full of travesties, he feels he still has a long way to go. Talking about it, he says, “There is no such milestone in life where one can arrive to say that he is done. I am at a point where I feel there is a lot more that I need to accomplish.”
Ask him what he would like to share with us on a parting note and he says, “Just like I shared my story of physical, mental and financial struggle with you, there are a lot of other such talented folks going through similar situations without finding much support. Just like I am keen to support such people, it would be great if they could find encouragement from all around. If I would have received such support, be it in terms of formal art education and training or the financial support that was required, maybe it would have taken me way lesser time to get to where I am today, professionally.”
Khatri’s tale is a tale of courage and resilience. One that teaches us that in life, sometimes you have to be your own superhero to keep going.
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