New Delhi: If you are a DC Comics fan, you must be aware of Batmobile, the fictional car driven by the superhero Batman. But, 34-year-old Pulkit Sharma, a Delhiite has his own Batmobile – a wheelchair on which he cannot stop dancing. Pulkit says, “A hero like Batman too struggles but also helps people. I, a physically disabled person, fight multiple challenges every day but continue to live and support people. While Batman has a Batmobile car, I have a chair which I flaunt and hence, I am the boy on Batmobile.”
Pulkit, the youngest of four siblings, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, affecting his ability to move and maintain balance. While growing up, Pulkit had to undergo multiple surgeries but still couldn’t walk and stand properly or “normally”. He says,
The doctor gave me two options – either stay in the hospital for life or get an education. I chose the latter. I remember my father’s words, “In society, there is a bigger disability than physical or mental disability and that is lack of education.” You can deal with a physical disability but not illiteracy. Corporeally I am already dependent on people but otherwise, I should be independent.
Growing up, Pulkit was reliant on an auto-rickshaw driver who would carry him in his arms from home to auto and then auto to his seat in the school. He says,
My parents would pay him double so that he drops me right on the school seat and pick me back from there.
Initially, Pulkit’s class was on the ground floor but later, when he changed the school, he got a class on the first floor. He adds,
The auto-rickshaw driver used to carry me on his back and I was a heavy child. Neither my school building had a lift, nor did I have a wheelchair back then. Since the washroom was on the ground floor, I would drink less water so that I don’t need to use the restroom for at least 7-8 hours when I am in the school.
Pulkit went on to pursue a Bachelor’s degree and additionally, undergo training in animation and graphic designing. But when it came to having a full-time job, Pulkit’s disability came in the way. He says,
Out of the 20 job calls I would get in a day, 18-19 would reject me saying, “Sorry sir, our office is on the first floor, you can’t come.” The concept of working from home or a hybrid model of working wasn’t prevalent until the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the pandemic has been challenging for a majority of people, it gave Pulkit “wings to fly”. In 2020, he started his podcast, “My Topicless Tapri” where he would interview people from different walks of life. One of the seasons of the podcast was dedicated to disability tales – Pulkit’s experiences and the requirements of persons with disabilities. This included a monologue on festivals and disability; the need for adaptive clothing; how accessible are public transport and restaurants for people with disability; mental health and disability.
In 2021, he was offered a weekly show by Radio Udaan, a disability community radio station that aims to promote the human rights of people with disabilities by providing a platform for them to share their experiences and ideas. He says,
Growing up, I was an introverted child. I wouldn’t enjoy going out and meeting people. TV and radio were the two mediums that would connect me to the outside world. When I got an offer to be an RJ, the entertainment bug in me was triggered. Talking is all I knew. So, I started with my weekly, Sunday, 10 pm show and would talk about anything and everything.
Today, Pulkit has become a content creator and goes by the name of “batboydanceonwheels”, on a photo and video-sharing app. He does everything – from scripting, shooting to editing – and posts his dance and comedy videos on Instagram. His three favourite gadgets are a laptop, Zoom recorder and headphones. Talking about his idea behind creating dance videos, he says,
I want to educate people about disability. There are so many people who don’t know the difference between sympathy and empathy. We need empathy in disability. Every time I post a dance video, I get a certain amount of hate. Once a user commented, “Itna bhi kya aalas karna? Khade ho kar dance kar lo” (Why be so lazy? Stand up and dance”. I try not to abuse people because that’s not my character. I reply to them their way. Somebody said, “He can do a moonwalk” and I replied to his comment via a reel and did a wheelchair moonwalk.
Pulkit often takes a dig at the abled people through his dance moves. One of his recent dance videos called out to people who use lifts and make disabled people wait. Watch here:
Pulkit is glad he purchased a digital or power wheelchair in 2011 which made him more able and helped him in coming out of his shell. Through his content, the bat boy who dances on wheels wants to create an inclusive society and a source of income for himself. He says,
Actor Diljit Dosanjh opened doors for turbaned actors in Bollywood. He has managed to make a dent, unlike others who preceded him. Similarly, I want to lead by example – a disabled person who is self-made and financially independent.
We leave you with one of his dance videos, aiming to prove to the world that there is capability even in disability:
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF)status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.