"I Was Dead For 8 Minutes And Then Realized A Crucial Thing About Life"
Sometime back Tamil Nadu wheelchair racing champion Manoj Kumar approached Soulfree, a public charitable trust that helps people with severely disability, as he couldn't find a way to get a special paralympic wheelchair for upcoming national and international level championships. Despite having confidence in his abilities he was losing heart as nobody came forward to assist him. With Soulfree's help he was able to get the wheelchair just two weeks ahead of national championship. He poured his heart and soul into the tournament and emerged with a gold medal!
Manoj is one among hundreds of people who cannot stop thanking Soulfree's founder Preethi Srinivasan for her help and support. A former national-level cricketer, swimmer, and bright student, she now remains paralyzed from neck down for over two decades after being hurt in a freak accident at the age of 18. After spending 11 years in complete isolation from the world she decided to focus on what she can do instead of what her body cannot.
On a usual day, Preeti wakes up at 8.30 am, spends an hour-and-a-half to perform her morning ablutions with the help of her caregiver. By 10 am this wheelchair warrior is on her voice-enabled laptop ready to spread motivation and sunshine in people's lives who have resigned to fate. It is impossible to listen to this woman talk and not be blown away by her positive attitude, simplicity and infectious belief in scheme of things.
“I started playing cricket when I was four. I was the only girl among 300 boys who took coaching. I was eight when I played for the senior state team and it’s a record that is yet to be broken and I am waiting for someone to break that record," she tells KenFolios in an exclusive interview.
Life after two near death experiences
Today, she is known for her motivational speeches that bring about 360° change in people's perspective to look at struggles of life. Her organization is also a ray of hope as it works extensively with people having limited mobility.
#Soulfree has given away more than 100 wheelchairs, including specially crafted lite-weight aluminium ones, for improved mobility for paraplegics. For quadriplegics they provide a reclining wheelchair for enhanced comfort, for special cases they provide retrofitted scooters too. They also provide a stipend of Rs 1,000 to around 20 severely disabled every month who are so poor they can't even afford two square meals for themselves.
"All you require is a little boost. And the person who motivates them also gains from it, right? Nobody should be made to feel lesser than others just because they are taking somebody's help. In a way, we all are dependent on someone or the other. But if we do it with a sense interconnectedness life becomes beautiful," says Preethi.
Image below: An old photograph of Preethi with her father.
Talking about the meaning of life Preethi shares that she has undergone two near death experiences. "I have been dead twice and for the second time I was gone for eight minutes. Before this happened I would fret and be full of fear. I would wonder why am I here, why am I even alive. But when I actually sensed my body dying all my fears went away. I now believe that I am being kept alive by a greater force to fulfil a purpose. All I have to do is be happy in here and now and do that work wholeheartedly. That's it."
Free your soul
One would assume that nothing is difficult for a changemaker like Preethi and she is a storehouse of energy, which she most certainly is. But the matter of fact is that her strength, her extraordinary achievements, and her unending motivation comes from knowledge and understanding of human limitations and their infinite potential. For Preethi, being dependent on someone else for your own needs and feeling helpless are two difficult things in life. And when you look at her work it becomes clear that she is doing all she can to empower others and instil them with a sense of independence.
Preethi has been working tirelessly to support Soulfree by funding it through delivering motivational speeches and raising personal and corporate funding. She not only inspires others to break mental shackles and come out flying but also empowers them by providing services like vocational training, job placement assistance and any other aide.
One day, Preethi came across a person whose lower body was dysfunctional. This man lived in a hut and was reeling under extreme poverty. He would live of meagre earnings of his elderly mother and was severely depressed with his life. He would spend most of his day lying on cot. Preethi spoke to the man and made him break his mental barriers. She told him to focus on what can he do instead of what he cannot. The man expressed that all he knew was farming. So, Soulfree arranged a piece of land for him on lease and inspired him to start working on it. In an year's time he had produced over 100 sacs of rice and earned over a lakh rupees! It is absolutely inspiring and heartwarming to know about these transformation.
"I have never gone and asked anyone for money. I think when you dearly want to do something with a pure intent, things happen on their own effortlessly. It is important to surrender yourself to God and be honest toward your work. That's all," Preethi signs off.
The interview finished at around 8 pm. Now Preethi would spend an hour or two talking to her friends, socializing, listening to music or watching a good game of cricket on television.
#Changemaker #PreethiSrinivasan #InspireMe
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