“If I tell you I have traveled 58 countries till date, I am sure you will believe it. But if I tell you that I have visited them all on my wheelchair, will you?” - Parvinder Chawla
Story of Wheelchair and Eye
Hello everyone, introducing you to Parvinder Chawla, fondly known as “Pammu”, based in Mumbai, India. With her recent trip to Egypt, Pammu has travelled to 58 countries across six continents so far, and yes, all of them on her wheelchair. 50-year-old Pammu is clearly breaking all the Indian stereotypes!
FieryBones had the opportunity to interact with this fantastic cheerful lady, and take our readers through her life’s roller coaster ride.
Pammu grew up as a bubbly girl who loved skating, swimming, hiking, dancing, partying – you name it, and she would have done it. Pammu was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), an inflammatory autoimmune disease, at the age of 15. Recalling the first signs of RA, Pammu said, “I was really pampered, and my mom loved feeding me food herself. My mom kept asking me why am I not opening my mouth fully, and I kept insisting that this is the extent to which I can”. Her mother realized that something was wrong and took her to a homeopath doctor, who warned Pammu that condition could worsen as she grows older. But Pammu was always a carefree person and never took it too seriously. She continued the medication for a while, and then stopped it once she started to feel better.
However, when Pammu was 20-year-old, she realized the gravity of the situation. Pammu’s sister was getting married, and Pammu had prepared a dance sequence to perform at her sister’s wedding. Some of the dance steps required her to squat on the floor, but, Pammu was unable to perform those steps and had to move off the stage. This is when it hit her that this was a serious problem.
Watching her mother pray to God, and feeling helpless with the pain, Pammu also started developing a lot of faith in God herself. That faith helped her get through some of the toughest days. She confessed to God, “I know life isn’t a bed of roses and filled with ups and downs. I have had all the fun and lived my life fully in these 20 years. So, take as much time you want, but do make the latter part of my life beautiful. While you heal me, you can keep my one finger deformed so I always remember my struggles.” Through these conversations, Pammu slowly learnt to accept her condition. At that point, Pammu decided that she wanted to use a wheelchair. Like all RA patients, Pammu would get tired easily after walking a few meters, and left with no energy for anything else. She told herself, “Why cannot I use a wheelchair? Who are these people that I am embarrassed of? If I cannot walk, I cannot walk. I would rather be on a wheelchair and save my energy to actually enjoy, smile and laugh”.
Pammu wanted to stand on her own feet, and hence, started hunting for a job. Before an interview, she always prayed hoping there is either an elevator or not too many steps. Fortunately, she always found somebody who could help her with the stairs or the wheelchair. She calls these people, “Angels of the day”. She has always met them throughout her journey with RA. Eventually, Pammu found a job at a call centre. Pammu loved staying up till late at night, and loved talking to people – so this was a perfect job for her. Later, she moved on for a better role at her brother-in-law’s company, Bharat Thakur Artistic Yoga.
When her brother-in-law saw what Pammu was going through, he gifted her an automatic wheelchair. Once Pammu sat on that chair, her life took a 350-degree turn. She no longer saw her health as a barrier and was finally independent. She had to no longer depend on somebody to push around her wheelchair. Pammu exclaimed, “I am my own queen now. I can sit on my wheelchair and travel wherever I want”.
Pammu has always been an adventurous person and loved to travel. She wants a stamp of every country on her passport. It was her dream to visit 50 countries by the age of 50. Today, at the age of 50, Pammu has already travelled to 58 countries across 6 continents. She has travelled to all these places on her wheelchair with a beautiful smile on her face. Pammu said, “Automatic wheelchair was like wings that allowed me to fly towards my dream”. She travelled a lot with her cousin Bhumika Chawla to Dubai, which according to her is the most wheelchair friendly country. While exploring Dubai solo on her wheelchair, Pammu realized that she can manage on her own. And that built her confidence, and fuelled her to follow her passion – Travel.
Message for the readers
On ending note, Pammu said, “Follow your passion. Do not let your illness overpower you. Put up a smile and fight it out. There is a positive spin to everything in life. My struggles have made me more empathetic and humbler towards other people. It has made me value simple things in life which I otherwise wouldn’t have. Live in the moment and stay happy.”
Follow Pammu’s amazing journey at Wheelchairandeye (links below), and she will show you the world through her eyes while sitting on a wheelchair.