A tale of choices: In conversation with Shanti Raghavan

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(Image courtesy: EnAble India)

Has it ever happened to you — meeting the same person and talking about the same things only to be struck with a completely new thought, a different perspective? 

I recently had this experience while listening to Shanti Raghavan, Founder of EnAble India. Shanti has dedicated her life to positive transformation in the lives of people with disabilities. I’ve been working with her for over two years now and yet, every time we talk, I’m surprised by just how driven, energetic and funny she is. And, although I’ve heard her journey many times, during an Ashoka ASPIRe session, it suddenly dawned on me that Shanti’s life is a tale of choices. 

We all know life is all about making choices. From what to do and where to live to if or not to eat that last sweet for lunch. Some choices, of course, are harder to make than others. Some bigger, for us and than us. Shanti has made the right choices. Or, made choices and made them right. 

Shanti’s journey with disability is personal.  At 15, her brother became blind. In the process of rehabilitating him, she learnt to focus on his strengths. She started looking at every challenge as “normal”. What is normal anyway? In a world designed for a particular kind of people, expanding the definition of normal becomes even more important. Once Shanti chose to take this path,  solutions came to her automatically. Today, her brother is a Senior Manager at Amazon, a pillar of support for their parents, manages the household and lives life to the fullest. He is a valued member of society — exactly what Shanti works towards for every person with disabilities. 

How I see it, Shanti chose to turn a challenge into an opportunity, chose to question the status quo and chose to nurture inclusive spaces against all odds. EnAble India was born to enable economic independence and dignity for people with disabilities. In the last 20 years, they have impacted 3,00,000 people across 19 kinds of disabilities.

Shanti’s choices enable others to make choices. Having access to different choices and the power to make choices that serve us best are essential to living dignified, empowered lives. Over the years, choice has come to the forefront of EnAble India’s efforts. Their work isn’t simply about integrating people with disabilities into livelihoods, it’s about making real a world where everyone enjoys agency, dignity and choice. Click To Tweet

In the last 20 years, EnAble India has done incredible, inspiring work. As they chose to aim for scale, they found resonance with Societal Thinking to move ahead in a people-centric and empathetic way. For Shanti, Societal Thinking goes beyond a way to achieve their choice to scale, it lends her the vocabulary with which to think about change. It helps her articulate her vision and the path of co-creation with a vibrant ecosystem EnAble India chooses to tread. 

When we discussed this story with each other, Shanti and I both felt hopeful and positive. She was happy to share her tale of choices with the world. She went on to share her musings about choice. She says, “I see every failure as an opportunity, every opportunity as a choice, and every choice as a signal from the universe to choose to act. Choice is all about taking action. Instead of ‘Why has it happened?’, choice is about taking an approach of ‘What can I do?’. It is like flowing water. Flow with the challenges, find the opportunities and act.”

Shanti did not just stop at making the right choices or making a choice and making it right. She is enabling more and more choice among people with disabilities. She dreams of and works towards an inclusive, equitable world. 

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