“I m not ashamed of my scars,” wrote 33-year-old fitness and yoga trainer Arpita Roy as she posted a video of doing a headstand without her prosthetic legs. The post was a response to all the trolls who said that she was “afraid to show herself without artificial limbs.”
As a young girl growing up in Barrackpore, West Bengal, Roy’s dreams came to a drastic halt when she lost both her legs in an accident. At that moment, Roy knew that her life had changed and it was up to her to make it better. “It is not easy to start a new life after losing parts of your body,” said Roy, who now helps her clients improve their physical fitness and mindfulness.
In April 2006, she met with an accident that almost killed her.
“I fell from the bike and a lorry coming from behind crushed my legs. I almost lost my life, but the doctors kept giving me blood, and my pulse came back.”
Due to the severity of the injury, doctors were left with no other option but to amputate her legs. Over the next four months, Roy remained confined to her hospital bed. “My recovery took time as 80 per cent of my body was affected with gangrene,” she said.
Eight months after the accident, Roy’s dreams of walking again got a shot in the arm after doctors provided her with prosthetic limbs. “When the accident happened, I accepted it completely,” she said.
While Roy tried to remain positive as she learnt to walk with prosthetic legs, it was the social stigma attached to being differently-abled that continued to play on her mind.
“It started affecting me when people stared at me. Initially, I ignored it, but things changed when I realised that people thought of me as a ‘disabled being’,” she said.
From blaming her ‘karma’ to calling her a burden, the discrimination faced by Roy began bothering her family as well. Though she tried to change their thinking by involving herself in different activities, but being an above-knee bilateral amputee, the struggle remained.
“I went through an emotional rollercoaster ride and slowly understood that it doesn’t matter how I am walking. What matters is with whom I am walking,” she said. Gradually, she began focussing on herself rather than what people said.
As she began accepting her new body, Roy realised that she was putting on weight and needed to improve her physical fitness.
“Being an amputee, we need to maintain our weight otherwise we face issues to fit in the artificial limbs,” she said. However, working out without her legs made almost every exercise difficult. “I faced issues whenever I tried training under any trainer as it is somewhat difficult for any able-bodied trainer to work with a bilateral above knee amputee,” she added.
Despite experimenting with different forms of workouts, Roy eventually found her calling in yoga. “It was physically and mentally relaxing,” she asserted.
From 2015, Roy began taking yoga classes and tried to adapt it to her physical condition.
“Some flows and asanas I had to customise. Then slowly I started learning about the different aspects of yoga-like asanas, Pranayama, meditation,” she said.
What began as a self-healing journey soon transformed Roy’s life, who understood that there was more to yoga than just “twists and turns”. While she continues to face challenges as she does not have control over her knee joints, Roy is overcoming these obstacles, one asanas at a time.
As she continued to strengthen her body and improve her posture, Roy felt self-assured to share her progress on social media. “I posted a picture and logged out from Instagram the whole day. I was surprised to check the responses and those were unbelievable,” she said.
The motivating messages and encouragement boosted Roy’s confidence. “It was amazing when I got appreciation from many renowned athletes. I started participating in contests and won twice from Puma India. Then I got featured on Yoga Journal, Amputee Coalition and a few other Instagram pages,” she added.
In future, Roy aims to collaborate with artificial limb centres where she can help other amputees find a new lease of life.
“Being a bilateral amputee, I suggest that differently-abled people should first accept and love themselves rather than think what others feel. I always believe tough times never last but tough people do.”