To celebrate Women’s Day, I decided to interview Reshma Sharma, karate expert and winner of the Kalpana Chawla Award for Bravery. I called her on March 7th to interview her. After a few minutes she told me that her liver has completely failed and she is waiting for a liver transplant surgery. For the past 1.5 years she has been suffering due to a rare disease called the Wilson’s Disease . I said “I am sorry to hear that you are suffering”. And she said to me “Don’t be sorry, I don’t need your pity, I need you to pray for me”. Then I asked her about her Karate and she said “I am continuing to do all my activities like always”. Wow.
I wished her and then requested her to answer a couple of questions over email whenever she feels comfortable. Over the last few days she told me that she tried to respond to the email, but one time after typing out her responses, the computer crashed. I offered to take down notes over a call, if it was okay for her to speak to me. However, yesterday she sent me four scanned pages of handwritten notes.
Here are the snippets from her notes:
She has several degrees and diplomas – BACS, MA in Guidance Counseling, LLB, Diploma in Self Help Group Management. Even a a child, she was always an Outstanding Student who bagged a lot of prizes. From a very early age she was drawn to bravery and decided to choose Karate as her career option and is a student of famous Karate teacher Shihan Hussaini. Her first Karate teacher is Karate Mani, Hussaini is the 2nd teacher and then she got trained by Malaysian teacher Sunny Pope. She runs The Dojo Chakra, a karate school.
It is also very apparent that she possesses an extraordinary commitment to community service – she teaches people from financially disadvantaged communities, nuns, transgenders, people living with HIV/AIDS, sex workers, visually challenged and the specially abled. She has even trained Police Officers.
Reshma is famous was for popularizing amongst women, the use of the humble Chilli Powder for self-defense. I had asked her how she came up with this idea of the Chilli Powder and she says in her notes “It is an age-old technique used by Queens in historical times”. She also teaches women simple techniques like using a stone tied to the dupatta, hair pins and clips as weapons. In this day, when women’s safety is a big issue, we should try to teach all our women these simple techniques.
I am in total awe of Reshma Sharma’s indomitable will. Any one else with her condition, may not be able to stir out of the bed, but Reshma goes about her regular job as if nothing is wrong. She said that she attended the book release function of Dr Radhakrishnan Pillai’s new book Chanakya’s 7 Secrets of Leadership. There she met D.Sivanandan , the famous former commissioner of Mumbai who couldn’t believe that a liver transplant patient was attending an event.
Reshma, all of us are with you in your battle with the Wilson’s Disease. The noble soul that you are, you will come out successful.
I want to finish this post with an appeal from Reshma Sharma to all of you “Please take time from your busy schedule to pray for me”.
P.S. This series is featured inside Cognizant in the Cpecial newsletter Good Life Guide. If you want to nominate someone as a First Penguin, please write a comment or email me.