Disability is not an inability is once again proved by the multi-faceted wheelchair warrior Sai Kaustuv Dasgupta, the winner of DISHARI, All India #WheelchairWanderlust Competition and CAVINKARE ABILITY MASTERY AWARD 2017, a self-taught International Graphic designer, a Singer & Composer, the author of ‘My Life, My Love, My Dear Swami’ a book that has been translated into several Indian languages & a Motivational Speaker who has inspired millions worldwide through his natural smile. As a Happiness Coach, his mission is to bring back the purity of heart and genuine happiness which people lost in today’s course of life.
Suffering from Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Kaustuv has already gone through more than 50 fractures. He does international designs with just two fingers of his left hand but thousands of hands are getting benefit from his inspiring designs. He might be in an Electric wheelchair today but he turned his disability into his greatest gift. Being a 90% disable, Sai Kaustuv is a global icon with leadership traits acknowledged by millions around the world. He’s someone who’s in the league of Helen Keller, Stephen Hawking & Srikanth Bolla. He has inspired millions of people, especially students & young professionals, with live & online sessions of his pep talks. He is working on accessibility and he hopes to bring awareness to transform India to an accessible country.
Network Capital got a chance to learn more about his vision, mission and inspiration through this interview.
What do you do? What drives you? What is your vision?
I was a dancer. I used to imitate all the steps just by witnessing the dance forms. It used to come from the heart. Then one day doctor suggested my parents that dance is not my cup of tea. So I come to know for the first time that I am different. I was very immature to understand that I am having a very rare disease which is going to restrict me from leading a normal life. My first fractured happened when I was just 3 and half months old. It was in my right hand and I was continuously crying. I was suffering but was not able to dictate my suffering. Today after 26 years, when I look back to all these unpleasant memories, I feel my birth itself was very special and unique. In 2009 I was totally confined into my room and no body parts were working. It was not exactly like a trauma as all my body joints were already de-formative because of multiple fractures. But I was seeing darkness all around as there was no option for me to move from my small bed where I used to sit and lay down. During that period I saw the most crucial period of my life where I was striving for light while drowning into darkness.
I have suffered more than 50 fractures till date, due to a rare bone disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as ‘brittle bone disease’. Physically I am unable to do anything on my own. But I have proved that disability affected my body not the mind. My mind is strong enough to fly high. From my childhood itself, my belief used to travel beyond all boundaries and that belief became my main strength to fight against all odds. Life taught me how to smile after confining into a room for 6 years! I used to feel terribly down in depression. But slowly I started realising that if I break down like this, then what about the other differently abled people who are also struggling to break the barriers. How will they get motivated? Then I started developing a desire to change the situation fully. I made myself a Wheelchair Warrior who defeated all the obstacles and came out of the room to show the world the power of positivity. So my positivity is my most motivational factor which is helping me to achieve all extraordinary feats. I set a goal to inspire all abled and specially abled people in this world through my journey which went through tremendous turmoil but ultimately won the race.
After I restricted myself from dancing, I thought to do something by staying in a safe zone as I was realizing that my bones are so frezile just like glass. Then I started singing. Upon being inspired by my mother, who was also my first teacher as a trained classical singer herself, & someone who knew the issues that I was facing with dancing, I took singing as a platform to express my emotions. I won the ‘Dishari Award’ for the ‘Best Child Singer of West Bengal’ in 1999-2000. I also got opportunities to showcase my talent, before accomplished artistes such as Manna Dey, Ustad Rashid Khan, Anup Jalota, Anuradha Poudwal to name a few. Not just this, later I went on composing more than 150 songs and has already released several music albums.
Originally belongs from Siliguri, West Bengal, my nature was creative by default. My family shifted to Andhra Pradesh for the bette treatment of my health in 2004. When I got confined into a room in 2009, I thought to re discover my life and started designing. Now I’ve become an international graphic designer. I do designs by operating a mouse with my left hand and that too with two fingers only. My hands can’t reach the keyboard, but I can type quite fast by using a virtual keyboard. Being unable to do all the regular works, I have taught myself to do such works, which all able bodies are unable to do.
Beside singing and graphic designing, I love to give motivational speeches. My wish is to become a top Motivational Speaker whose own life is a living inspiration. I have already inspired millions of people, especially students & youths, with live & online sessions of my pep talks. I have conducted motivational sessions for PhD scholars of various institutes in different states of India, as well as those in countries like the US, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia & Nepal to name a few.
Main mission of my life is to simply making people happy through my designing works and talks. I would like to bring back the purity of heart and genuine happiness which people lost in today’s course of life. They forgot how to smile selflessly. So I want to help people to regain their true nature and wholehearted smile. Thats why I’m a Happiness Coach too. And my vision is to see all differently abled people are happy with their lives. I want to make India a wheelchair friendly country because we, the disable community is very much talented and skilled to perform well. But we need a platform to explore ourselves. I wish to make that platform through which all specially abled people can contribute their bits which will benefit the whole society. I’ve turned my disability into my super ability. I want all to believe like me and lead a barrier free purposeful life.
If you were to reflect upon your careers, what would be some of the most defining moments that have shaped your professional journey?
After completing my intermediate, I was thinking what should I do now as my health deteriorated so much that I was not able to sit for B.A. Exam. I was fully confined into my cot. Just imagine, a student who used to be a topper in his class and school was forced to discontinue studies only because of health issues. Life was laughing at me as it always laugh at our typical situation. Because life wants us to learn from our failures. Our difficulties in our life are the life lines to get solutions.
So somehow I managed to did my diploma course in computers and was trying to do a basic graphic designing course. But life’s tough testings were my daily routine. It was so difficult to find a solution of learning designing from home. So after trying day & night, I got one brother who was agreed to come and teach me designing. After 7 days of basic training when I just picked up the tools, he took his fees and left. He just introduced me with the designing and I was totally helpless. I was thinking how to make a design with such little knowledge? As I asked him that, he told me about self help. I was not able to go out a bit and there I was supposed to help myself in graphics! So without any options left, I had started self study and took net connection to learn tutorials online. It was most difficult period to learn everything without any guidance while coping with health issues.
With knowledge thus gained, I started making wallpapers for my desktop. I used to make Desktop Wallpapers for each and every occasion and used to post them in social medias. Thus time flew. In 2012 I sent my first wallpaper to a non profitable organisation here in Puttaparthi where I presently live. They liked it very much and I joined this organisation named Radiosai as a volunteer to design graphics for their official facebook page. Slowly I started doing their Website graphics and Musing series. I’ve learnt so much in all these years and each day I have evolved to reach more heights in my confined career. Finally my work started flying abroad through different companies and clients. Today I’ve become an international designer, presently working for Ascend – a pan asian company based on US. My dream of becoming a professional designer got fulfilled and I get work not because of my disability but for my creativity. I also started my education and currently pursuing B.Com.
Who are your mentors? How have they helped you?
So many people guided me through out my journey and I got affection from millions. In my life I got unique mentors who always helped me time to time and solve my difficulties. First of all, my most wonderful mentors are my parents. Through out my life till now, my main supporters are my parents Kausik Dasgupta and Shila Dasgupta. They are like living angels for me. From morning to night they assist me in each and everything. Without their help, I can’t move an inch too. In all my success they are the main pillars and in all my sorrows they are my main consoles. They have sacrificed a lot for my well-being and happiness. They were very supportive from the time I was diagnosed with this disease. They never broke down or complained about their fate. They took me as a blessing and encouraged me to do the best possible in my critical condition. My parents inspired me always to choose what I love to do and it is their greatness which made me see the world in my own way. Whenever I have decided to do something new, they always motivated me to go ahead for it. Because of them today’s Sai Kaustuv has come a long way and got millions of people’s love. I could never repay what they have done for me. They are my ideals.
Apart from them, people from my work place, people who guided me in my career were great mentors in my life. And I also learnt from many motivational speakers, talked with them and got to know about the hidden art of great public speaking. They also played the roles of mentors. One of them is Simerjeet Singh. Actually I believe there is no end of learning and as we grow up, we come across so many people who plays the role of our mentors and teach the lessons of leading a purposeful life. We should respect all of them.
If you were to give your 18 year old self some advice, what would it be? Will the advice be different to your 30 year old self? If yes, what?
This is a quite interesting question. I really would love to go back to my 18 years old time and wish I could change many things. Regarding advice, I am not sure what I would love to say to my own 18 years old self as when people are young, they don’t try to listen to elders. It’s crazy but it’s a fact. Still I would love to advice my 18 years old self to have more patience. As without patience no one can progress in this world. Also I would love to sit with 18 years old Sai Kaustuv and advice him about will power and determination. As 18 years Sai Kaustuv had tremendous depression because of confining into a bed. During those moments I was not finding a good source of inspiration to come out of depression. So I would like to inspire that self and help him to think better. Also I would like to show the scopes and opportunities which that self did not received during that time. So I’ll try my best to assure that whatever knowledge or experiences I have at present, will forward them to that 18 years old self so that he can cope up with the difficult situations.
It will definitely not the same advice for my future self, which I can give to my past. As whatever I’m today, will not remain same after some years. I’ll be more mature and more confident. My attitude and vision also will grow with me. So then I’ll advice that 30 years self to be more humble than before. I would also like to convey that self to be more perfect about every steps as thats a crucial age to take important decisions of life. It will be wonderful if that self learn from past and not repeat the failures again. Specially in the field of career that 30 years self will have more opportunities but I will advice him to think twice and then go ahead. As knowledge and wisdom grows with the age but ego should not takes a place in between. So I will convey to that self to avoid any such situation where your ego boast up and make you a looser. Ego should not be entertained ever as its the only factor which make you down from your winning track. So let that 30 years old self takes right decisions according to situations and act smartly. That will help him to achieve his dreams more faster and stronger way!
What is the next big personal/professional ambition/target for you?
My next personal target is to reach more people through my designing and talks. I would like to work with more organisations where I can give some great inputs and help them to work more practically with more experiences. Actually for us, who are wheelchair bound, accessibility plays a vital role. I too am very concern about it. I have started doing research on Accessibility and how to improve it slowly. I would love to work on Accessible Travelling so the problems I faced during my trips to Goa, Chennai, Bangalore and few other places can be avoided in future. From professional perception, I would like to enter into corporate world and would love to give inspiring dose to innovative companies who are progressing with positive attitude. I would like to meet young leaders and employees for recharging them with passion to enjoy their daily works. It would be so great for me to visit some big companies to explore their works and to experience inclusive platforms.
I wish to work with concerned authorities to check out the scopes and exposures available for accessibility. I would really would like to meet our Prime Minister Narendra Modi Ji and discuss some great ideas through which we can not only make the metro cities accessible, but small towns also wheelchair friendly. I would love to conduct more awareness programme and educate people to come forward. I need more support and strength to spread the light of hope to all those people who has confined themselves due to lack of accessibility in their places. Together we can make this planet accessible and a better place to live for whole differently abled community.
What advice would you like to give to students and young professionals?
Today’s students and young professionals are so energetic and full of life. They are ready to do anything for their future. I really love the enthusiasm and positive attitude in them to complete any tasks. They are performing so well. They are the future of our nation. I would like to tell them, “We all are gifted with so many abilities. Please have faith that you too could fly high on the wings of self confidence and courage. Have strong determination and have clear idea about your destination. Life is too short to celebrate it fully. So give value to your every moment. Know who you are and know that you are worthy of reaching your dreams. It is never too late to start creating that life which you have always dreamt of. Find a balance in your professional and personal life. Do every work with patience. Do not compare yourself ever with others. No two individuals are same. You are special and you are unique. Be positive, be inspirational and no matter who you are, what you are, how much capable or incapable you think you are. Just get up, throw your weakness and work towards something which you really good at. Put your trust on yourself. Find your creative career skills and capabilities. Explore more to express your true self. If I can smile after all these life threatening hurdles, then you too can march forward with more broad smile. Achieve your goals by starting baby steps towards it. You are the winner and you are the creator of your own destiny. ”
Today, I do designs with just two fingers of my left hand but thousands of hands are getting benefits from my designs. I might be in an Electric wheelchair to move around but I have destroyed all the barriers and soars high on the wings of will power and determination. Being a 90% disable guy, I became the fourth global icon worldwide after Helen Keller, Stephen Hawking and Srikanth Bolla on the basis of my leadership quality which has acknowledged by millions in this world. All people ask me, how it is possible to smile after so much sufferings? How I motivate myself? My biggest strength is my smile. I always love to smile in every situation as I believe smile is the signature line of positivity and purity. And through so many adverse situations of my life, I have learnt to smile as it helps me to overcome the situations and gives me satisfaction of winning over it. I use my positive energy and will power to motivate myself and these are my strength to show the world that how extent a differently abled young guy can reach to prove his unique capabilities. When I look back to all my worth to cherish moments, I feel my birth itself was very special and unique. Today, I have come to know the purpose of my life and I have turned my disability into my driving force to access all the abilities.