Picture this: September 2006, a young, bubbly teenager leading a normal life, suddenly slipped into a coma for 23 days. The doctors decided to pull the plug when medicines didn’t work. Just as they were cutting her birthday cake, moments before they were to pull the plug, she gave a miraculous comeback.
The undiagnosed illness left her paralysed from her neck downwards. Over the past ten years, this braveheart, VIRALI MODI has nursed herself back to partial mobility and won the Ms Wheelchair (runner-up) award. She has her eyes set to the skies and believes that there will come a day when she will walk again.
2016 – I am my own role model – Virali Modi.
Read on to know more about her inspirational journey:
Why did the doctors decide to pull the plug? How did you come back? Was it medicine or divine intervention? Do you have any memory of the same?
The doctors had exhausted their options. There were no improvements. That’s when the decision to pull the plug was taken. I believe that my mother’s steadfast faith in my comeback was the real cause of my miraculous return. Everyone, including my father, believed that my survival was impossible. I am alive today because of my mother’s faith and because my father fiercely protected her from any negative influence on her faith.
One day, I had a vivid dream of everything that was happening in real life, I dreamt that it was happening to me in my dream. It was crazy, to say the least.
Did you have a near-death experience, like most people report – seeing God etc.
I remember finding myself in a white and bright room. There were stairs in front of me and I decided to walk up. It was a long journey, and each step vanished when my foot left it. I climbed the stairs for what seemed like hours, and I suddenly reached a big wooden door with intricate detailing. I tried opening it, but there wasn’t a handle. I knocked twice, but no one opened the door. I knocked again, but the same thing. I turned around and the steps reappeared and I walked back down to the white room. I don’t remember what happened after that, but I felt as if God or some mighty being had rejected my death.
How did you nurse yourself back to health? Who supported you?
My parents supported me endlessly. I was paralysed from the neck down, my mom was firm in her love and made me independent. I remember one landmark instance:
I couldn’t sit properly and I needed support from all sides if I wanted to sit up.
I asked my mom if she could feed me my favourite cheese crackers.
She brought them out in four bowls and set them far away. I looked at her as if she was crazy and questioned her motives. I remember her telling me that she wasn’t going to feed me because she wasn’t my maid. She told me that she was tired of doing things for me and that if I wanted to eat, then I should feed myself.
I had tears in my eyes, I decided to accept her challenge.
I think that’s the best thing about me. When I’m hurt and angry, I want to prove myself, and I did just that.
It took me 40 minutes, but I pushed my body on top of my legs, I clawed at the carpet with my weak hands and tried to drag myself towards the bowls. When I finally reached a bowl, I tried to take a cracker out with my weak and shaking fingers. I put one cracker in my mouth and I felt an immense level of satisfaction.
I was incredibly satisfied that I fed myself without any help. That moment right there was my motivation and is still my motivation. From that point on, I tried doing everything by myself. It was incredibly difficult and it took me many tries, but I started gathering strength in my arms with by trying to do seemingly easy tasks, by myself.
Along with that, my dad became my cheerleader! He would encourage me, he’d buy me markers and crayons to colour in books. That helped me get strength in my fingers and I started doing things with ease. Of course, today, my upper body is even more strong than it was then, but it was still an accomplishment back then.
What role did your friends, family and relatives play?
They didn’t help at all. When my friends found out that I was on a wheelchair, they cut ties with me. They stopped talking to me, probably because it would’ve been a burden to bring me places and to do things for me. I don’t blame them, they were teenagers, and it happens. It isn’t a big deal anymore, but it was back then. I used to cry because I didn’t have any friends.
As for relatives, they started calling me fat and fatso behind my back. I remember that my family had arranged a cabin in the Rocky Mountains, Tennessee for my 16th birthday. I guess they forgot that I was on a wheelchair and they didn’t book an accessible cabin. The cabin had three levels, the basement, the living room, and the top level which were the bedrooms. The basement had a game room and a hot tub. The living room was mainly occupied by the elders.
My aunts told my cousins not to hang out with me because they might also become wheelchair bound by staying with me. I was like – HUH?? I wasn’t contagious!
So my cousins would go downstairs and play in the game room while I would be stuck upstairs listening to all the elderly people’s gossip. I asked my dad and uncles to take me downstairs and they had to carry me down. When I’d go downstairs, my cousins would come upstairs. This happened a couple of times and my uncles started calling me fat behind my back. The day of my birthday, no one wished me. I started crying, I felt like a stranger amongst my own family. It’s safe to say that I’ve cut ties with them.
What do you do for a living?
I’m a model, an aspiring actress (still waiting for my big break), a motivational speaker, a writer, and a disability rights activist. I’m currently working for Point of View as a writer about disability.
What kept you going through all the low phases of your life?
My parents, for sure. They’re the main reason I’m still alive. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I’d survive. It’s that, plus seeing all of these wonderful messages by people on Quora. I get so many messages by people saying that I’ve changed their lives and that makes me happy.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
Well, I wake up and after doing my morning routine, I leave for therapy. I travel from Malad to Nerul from Monday to Friday. I do therapy there for a couple of hours, I leave to come back to Malad. While in the car, I’ll usually do some work and reply to e-mails and maybe even sleep for a little bit. I’ll reach home and have my lunch and then leave for the gym. I’ll workout for about two hours, go home, change, and I’ll usually meet up with friends for dinner or for a party at a club or lounge. The partying doesn’t happen every day, but usually twice in a week. It’s a great way to let loose and to have fun.
Which is the best time of the day? What do you do at that time?
The best time is at night when everyone’s asleep. I think it’s the best time because no one can bother me. I’m alone with myself, I can do whatever I want without any disturbance. I may read, play games, reply to e-mails, and even watch a movie on Netflix. It’s my time to unwind.
Do you believe in God? What is your relationship with God?
This is a tricky question. I think there is a God, but he doesn’t control our lives. I don’t think God has any control of our lives. I think he’s just there. I believe in karma more than anything. I believe in doing good things. I’d rather spend rs. 100 on a child that does not have the resources to eat than give that INR 101 to a place of worship.
I’m grateful that I’m alive, I truly am. I thank God for that, but my life doesn’t revolve around praying and God. I like doing good things because they make me feel good. Going to pray and then coming out and being a bad person is just hypocritical, in my opinion.
Who is your role model? What qualities of your role model did you apply in your real life?
I don’t have a role model, believe it or not. I like to be my own role model. I want to make my life mine. I want to be the best person I can be by learning from my mistakes. I change myself constantly because of my past. My thoughts change, I become more educated by reading, and those qualities arise in me and make me a better person.
Whom do you turn to in times of adversities? Has it helped? How?
My mom. She’s always there for me and she always listens to my problems. She guides me and helps me through difficult situations by talking to me. She is definitely my best friend and someone whom I can rely on. I feel that talking things through to someone can help get a different perspective on the situation at hand.
What is your mantra of life?
Life, laugh, and love because life is incredibly too short! Let things go, forgive, and just love the life you have. Keep loving yourself and stop worrying about what everyone thinks! Do the things you love.
Is there something you would like to tell the readers?
I’d like to tell everyone that they need to believe in themselves. They need to find the courage and do the things they love. They need to fight for what they want. And they need to stop worrying about people that won’t matter 5 years down the line. Worry about yourself, because you are important.
—As told to Mayura Amarkant
Some videos about her:
This is the fifth interview in the #StayInspired series. Here are the rest:
- #StayInspired – 1: Dreams keep people alive
- #StayInspired: Marriage is a warm & intimate cocoon
- #StayInspired: Born today, 4 Inspiring people
- #StayInspired: When I was 13, my grandma wanted to marry me off