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Spreading my wings…for first time

Dreams, hopes and leaps with faith
If there was any group of words that described me within every inch of my being, the above 6 words would win the first prize. I was never afraid to get lost in my thoughts and dream big . I was always hopeful that the next second would be better than previous. After all, “woh zindagi hi kya jisme ummeed na ho” (what is life without hope).
My positive attitude and my ability to laugh off challenges that came my way were key factors in making this journey to my wheelchair a truly unique one.

The story that i’m sharing with you all today, is the one that added, leaps with faith to my repertoire !

So here i was, Parvinder Chawla ready to take on the world with my positivity and laughter when i got the news that i was suffering from RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis). For all those who’ve heard the term but haven’t asked google yet, RA is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the joints.
Classically it is the knuckles, fingers, wrists and feet that are affected. Now this is obviously a pretty painful condition to live with as it affects mobility and hence restricts so called normal daily activities.

And though this may sound heavy and depressing to some, that person was not me!!
I’ve been blessed with a serious dose of ” i can do ANYTHING!!!”, so i went full speed ahead with my life, living it in the best way that i could.
I also have a loving and supportive family who constantly made any feelings of self doubt vanish instantly.

After i completed my graduation, i joined work at a call centre, this helped me earn a sizeable income for my personal needs. Since i lived with my parents, at that time, i was comfortably off from the point of view of security.

My parents, being the typical Indians that were wanted me to ” settle down” and thus began the saga of the arranged marriage run around. We went through the gamut of “seeing boys” but my heart was just not in it. Something told me that i needed to take matters into my own hands.
I decided to create a profile on one of the popular matrimonial sites ‘Jeevansathi’ and take it from there. The idea was to find a person who could love me just the way i was, someone with whom i could be myself, someone with whom i could share an honest relationship.

Early stages of Arthritis

My profile was completely honest and it mentioned my condition, along with my family background and that i was from a business family. I soon got a few responses , but one of them stood out as the respondent was a doctor. We got chatting online and hit it off almost immediately since he spoke Punjabi i felt a familiarity and was instantly put at ease.
He was not from my community, nor was he Indian, not even from the same religion as the one i followed but i continued ahead as i really did like chatting with him. On hindsight i feel he did know the exact things to say that made me comfortable and happy. He sensed what was important to me, and made sure he touched upon those topics.

Since he was a doctor, he reassured me that he would take care of my joint surgeries at his own hospital at no cost as by then we would have been married.

At this point, when i look back i think i may have been some kind of desperate to find “love”. Maybe i was trying hard to fit into the norms of society, and ticking off boxes that spelled normal. Maybe i was just being myself, hopeful and full of dreams. I really don’t know what made me be so very trusting toward this stranger in another continent but i just was and i was about to be rudely woken up to reality

As time went by i continued to chat online with my “friend” and his words were always re assuring and loving. We would casually discuss how our lives would be once we were married, how he would support me, help me, organise my joint operations and so on.

Let’s call this man Dr M for the story…a connection seemed to be forming between Dr M and me and that made my approach toward him very optimistic. When he finally invited me to London, i jumped at the chance and asked him to send me a letter of sponsorship.
When i received the letter i was shocked to see that Dr M s age on his passport copy was much higher than what he had conveyed to me.
This took me by complete surprise but it is interesting to look back now and see how i justified all his lies and cover ups in my head. Maybe i was vulnerable at that point and wanted something to work out for me on the relationship front at any cost.

Several more lies emerged after this point and with each lie, my determination to travel to England grew exponentially. I applied and got my visa easily. My father was sure that i wouldn’t be able to secure a visa or travel by myself. However i had already started the ball rolling by sending Dr M about 300 GBP and so i decided to make the trip and seek some answers.
By this time,the funds had been transferred to Dr M who promptly went MIA (missing in action) soon after.
This is how i think, this is the attitude that makes me who i am….this attitude of never ever ever ever give up! I packed my bags for England with a determination to find this man, get to the bottom of his story and…if nothing worked, then just enjoy the trip and have the best holiday ever!!!

London eye, Big ben & Buckingham palace

I landed in London, dizzy with excitement and anticipation. I had received my very first stamp on my passport!
I had taken that first leap of faith and i was fine!
There was another person who i had also met online and he offered to host me in London.
So here i was, miles away from home with a stranger, in his home looking for another stranger who by now had vanished and was unreachable!
My friend, who we can call ‘Krishy’ who at the time was Lord Krishna Avatar for me came to fetch me at the airport and we drove to a supermarket where he purchased all sorts of food items for my consumption and offered his couch for me to sleep on.

You may think this was dangerous or foolhardy since i barely knew Krishy as well. However, let me tell you about a little thing called faith. Faith is that which makes you believe that anything is possible. Faith is what protects you from fear , from reason even and its this faith that made me stay on and accept the hospitality of a stranger. It was faith in a fellow human that made me believe that i would be safe here. It was faith in my God who i believe protects me that convinced me that there was nothing to be afraid of.
My first solo trip had begun and it promised to be interesting.

My karmic connection with Mr M was still unfinished and while i was enjoying sightseeing the beautiful city of London, i finally managed to connect and meet the man who had conned me.
We finally met for a brief period and by then his appearance did not surprise me. He was much much older than what he had said and nothing like the picture that was on his profile.
We spent an hour together and he confided in me that he was very short of money and that he needed whatever little i could spare. I still didn’t suspect anything, but this time i gave him much less than what i actually had.
He left, with a promise to come to India and meet my father to take things ahead.

He did make the trip to India eventually and he met my family. However, soon after he disappeared (MIA) again for good. It’s possible on that trip that Dr M realised that i wasn’t alone and couldn’t be conned any further.
Maybe he had expected me to be desperate and weak, since i was physically limited but he may have not known that strength doesn’t just come from outwardly appearances, strength is what we hold inside every cell of our brains.
Maybe he realised that i was a tough nut and he couldn’t fool me anymore. Whatever the reason, i never heard from that man ever again.

Hyde Park

When we place ourselves outside of our comfort zones, our survival instincts set in and we are able to think and act in ways that may have previously been unthinkable.

I learnt something about myself on this maiden trip of mine.

I learnt that i had been living in an extremely protected bubble and if i wanted to achieve any of my dreams, that would have to change that.

I learnt that sometimes you will meet people who take advantage of your feelings and your situation. While those kind of people exist, there are also random acts of kindness from veritable strangers which can make you believe again. Always believe!

I learnt that i was made of tough stuff and i would use my strength to forge my life’s path.

Lastly, i learnt that my country, India may not be perfect but i rather be surrounded by people, noise and chaos than anything ever!

Once i realised that i had had closure on this whole episode with the Dr, i spent the balance of my trip enjoying London city with my host and his son.

What an absolute roller coaster ride this whole episode had been! All the ups and downs had been life changing. If i hadn’t made the trip to London in search of the Dr, i would probably never had tasted freedom and independence like i have.

In a way, maybe what happened was the best thing ever.
The world was my oyster now and there was no looking back!
Bon Voyage was my new mantra😀

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