Dhanya Ravi – Made to make a difference

YourStory

Spontaneous, witty, friendly, kind and an absolute delight. These are some of the adjectives that popped into my mind when I spoke to none other than Dhanya Ravi.

Dhanya is born with a rare genetic disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI). Yet, she has overpowered all obstacles life has thrown her way with a smile on her face. 

She is a recipient of both the State and National award. She is also a TEDx and JoshTalk speaker. She has personally inspired many differently-abled people and continues to do so. During this lockdown period, she has been part of many webinars for college students and cooperates, and has spoken on topics like inclusivity, mental health, social responsibility etc.

She is currently active in mobilization and sensitization for OI, rare diseases and disability community individually and collaboration with different non-profit organizations (NGOs) in India and the USA. She advocates for a more inclusive society and strives to raise awareness about rare genetic conditions. Dhanya is also, one of the founder trustees of Aasmaan Foundation Trust and volunteer’s audio reading for persons with visual impairments.

She can spread happiness and a sense of positivity with just a smile and sparkling eyes. I had a great time talking with Dhanya, and hopefully, you will do too.

  1. I read that you decided to stop taking painkillers at the age of 10. I am really curious to know what led such a young girl to take this brave decision.

I don’t think it is a brave decision, but it is one of my choices. Generally, as a child, we always listen to our parents; they know better with experience, but my condition’s character is that until teenage, the bones break pretty often, so I had number of fractures now and then. Probably one or two fractures in a month, was for sure. So at the age of 10, I just started reflecting on my condition more. So I began to ask my parents what the medicine was for. So generally, whenever I would cry and tell them that my hand or leg or rib was fractured, they would try to soothe me and give me the medicine. But I started noticing that I didn’t find any difference; of course, the medicine kind of helped in reducing the pain I felt, but ultimately it didn’t cause a quick fix and helped to rejoin the bones quickly, and I had to go through the pain for more than three weeks. So when I noticed this, I thought, why should I take more painkillers and harm other organs of my body. The only painkiller I take now is when I have a headache, but I stopped taking painkillers for fractures a long time ago and also, I got used to the pain due to bone fractures to some extent.

  1. Your smile is infectious, and knowing that you smile through the pain is what makes you a role model for many. From where do you draw this level of strength and positive attitude towards life?

I would say I derive it from the people I meet throughout the years, starting from my teachers. As I could not do mainstream schooling, I had this one teacher who came home and taught me every day. I remember her; she was a very bubbly person and had a happy face. She always carried joy within her. She had been through many personal issues, but nothing stopped her from doing what she wanted to do. She used to find every minute a blessing. So whatever kind of people I met, I was able to learn many things from them. So for me, learning is something that happens not only through books; it happens through people and experiences. This has helped me to be a better person, and I am still developing myself every day. I think one must learn from their setbacks and know how to keep up with the time, even if they are going through various issues. No one will be problem-free from anything until the last breath, which is a fact, so one thing I realised is that the more you reflect on yourself, the more gratitude you have for the choices you make, and you start loving yourself more. Everything around will seem like a miracle then.

  1. If you were to pick, what is the one memory or experience that brings a smile to your face?

There have not been many people who have taken personal effort to be with me, but there are like one or two friends of mine, or maybe a relative of mine who kind of takes an effort to spend time with me. So each time when they choose to spend time with me, I feel so valued. I am grateful to the Divine for making me such a valuable piece (laughing) and including me in their lives. So this kind of very personal things, like when people come to talk to me or be with me or prefer to have me in their life journey, always brings a smile to my face and this is something I will always cherish.

Possiabilities Dhanya Ravi - India's Glass Woman
  1. You love music. I read in an interview that music is like an elixir for you. You even got to meet your two favourite singers Sri Yesudas and Sri Chitra. Can you please share your experience?

Music is my healer. My doctor should not read this because music has healed me more than any medicine (laughing). I still remember during my treatment days or whenever I am sick, and I’d be in the hospital, my only demand is that the phone will remain with me in the room or ICU or wherever you name it because I want to listen to music. For the first time, I had to fight for it, and eventually, they obliged (laughing). Music is my true love. Whenever I meet Das uncle, I become very emotional, and I tell him that I don’t know whether it is you or your voice, but it was your songs that helped me connect to my spiritual side, and that is something I am grateful for. I have a beautiful memory with Chitra aunty. I have met Chitra aunty a few times before this incident, but it was always in a group, and I was always a silent person who never shared what was on my mind. Then one day, I was part of a social event, and I knew Chitra aunty was one of the chief guests. I went ahead and told her on a very personal note that if you are entirely comfortable, there is one song, ‘Malargal Kaettaen’, that is very close to my heart which is from the movie OK Kanmani. If you could sing a few lines, I would love to see you sing the song on stage or personally. I told her this on the morning of the event. She very politely said she would get back to me, and then we both got busy with the work of the particular event. Then in the evening, she walked on the stage as the chief guest, and the first thing she said was that Dhanya is here and she has requested me to sing a song, and she sang it for me. I always cherish this experience. It is not just Yesudas and Chitra. I have some great friends from the music industry who are very kind, humble and beautiful singers who sing for me when I call them up or send them a message. 

Dhanya Ravi - a 'divine design' | Woman | Manorama English
  1. Writing is your forte. You are a freelance content writer as well. Do you think writing helps you to express yourself on a deeper level?

I am a trained writer. Writing is something I found myself doing, but I don’t know whether I would call it my forte (laughing). I started to train myself in writing from the time I understood that I could write. So apart from the content writing I do for my clients, writing has helped me to express myself and also helped me heal to some extent. Especially the last few months, I have been able to put all my emotions out and heal whenever I sit to write on a personal level. I have an Instagram page called ‘Matter of Thoughts’ where I like to write my thoughts depending on my mood, and it is a true reflection of my thoughts. So writing has really helped me connect with myself on a deeper level, as you said. I just had a discussion with one of my relative a few days ago that each of us has so many issues we go through in life that it puts us under immense psychological pressure, but what keeps us sane and moving is our resilient mind-set. According to me, when we find a way to express it through any art form, it is a better way of healing. We see that people under a lot of stress usually tend to start drinking or something, but if we can channel our emotion and express it through an art form, it is a much better way for healing and may even open up more possibilities. I love writing. I write based on my experiences, stories that I hear or the conversations that I have, which is meaningful.

  1. Are you an avid reader? What kind books appeals to you?

I am not an avid reader, but I love to read books. I read books usually on self-help. Fantasy fiction is not my go-to genre, but I would not mind reading a fictional book. I read almost every genre of books but not political or history. My book choices are mostly realistic life stories or spiritual, or I read books that my friends recommend or when I need to do some research. When breath becomes air by Paul Kalanithi and life is what you make it by Preethi Shenoy are one of my favourites. 

Dhanya Ravi - a 'divine design' | Woman | Manorama English
  1. You are associated with Amrithavarshini, and you have been doing a lot to raise awareness on brittle bone disease. Do you think people are more aware and informed nowadays about genetic disorders?

Amrithavarshini has made an enormous impact on me. Amrithavrshini started with me being instrumental for it. I was so moved when the founder Latha Nair wanted to start an organisation that works for people suffering from my condition, Osteogenesis imperfecta. This was something no one has done. I wanted to contribute in whichever way possible. So I started to be part of the events and create awareness. I am a person who likes to be in my room and not in the spotlight, but here I was, being vulnerable in public primarily to create awareness about genetic diseases. It has been a beautiful journey with Arithavarshini. I was part of it for 10-12 years. Later I wanted to be part of the disabled community and not just with people with similar conditions. Now I carry beautiful connections with the NGO team.I am now primarily focused on mental health and giving people meaningful experiences. I and my friends have started an in-house NGO called Aasman foundation trust, where we are coming up with various workshop programmes and unique events that will help us spread the message that life matters and there is a greater meaning for existence. We conducted a fashion show for the differently-abled in 2019 and even came up with an inclusive album called ‘Olangal’ on Ilaiyaraaja Sir’s youtube channel. Recently on March 2021, at Cochin Taj hotel, we were able to conduct an event focused on single parenting with disabled children. We did a survey and picked a few families, and honoured people from the LGBTQ+ community. All these people have challenged themselves and moved out of their comfort zone. That was a very emotional moment. 

  1. You are a strong advocate of detecting genetic disorders at an early stage (in the womb) in India. This topic has been part of so many discussions and debate. Do you see a positive change happening in this regard?

Change is happening. There are some private hospitals where they do genetic tests, but it has not become mandatory. That has to change. A national-level policy could be the solution. This is one significant change I think should happen in the healthcare sector. This is where we need to work on. Genetic tests are something we never had 5-10 years before, but this test’s importance still needs to be understood. I feel that mandatory genetic test and an early detection policy should come up very soon. Let us all be responsible by understanding the importance of genetic tests for both the parents and babies. If these tests are conducted early, there is a more extensive way of tackling the possibility of giving birth to a child with a disability. Life is very precious, and we need to take responsibility for our lives and future generations.

  1. You have been impacting so many lives that it can’t be put in words, and you have rightfully received the award from the Central government under the Role Model category. What was your reaction when you heard about it?

It’s was a happy moment. Happy as in not ‘Yaay I got a national award’, but it was more about being accepted by the nation and the people. More than all that, it is a great responsibility (laughing), and it definitely encourages me as well. It has also helped me to reach out to more audience. It is a beautiful feeling because this honour or any recognition is a symbol of possibilities we can look into life. Little did I or anyone around me know that a girl who was inside the four walls can be identified one day, and I am very grateful to the Divine for giving me these experiences. Maybe these experiences help me understand the purpose of my life.

എന്നും ചിരിക്കുന്ന പെണ്‍കുട്ടിയുടെ യാത്രാകഥ | Travel Experiences By Danya  Ravi
  1. Lastly, what is the one piece of advice you would like to share with our readers?

Life is EXTREMELY precious, and we need to be grateful for each day. Learn to balance professional and personal life because professional growth and personal development will help us stay centred on our values and build healthy relationships with family and friends and give us a vision or purpose of life. Nowadays, a lot of people are facing abusive relationships, tiresome work experiences, feeling lost. We could all learn to live our life to the fullest and build a beautiful story with our lives. Rather than having someone write our story, we could take control of our lives and give it the beauty and colour it needs. Being in love with ourselves helps us to create a life the way we wanted and also determines the quality of your life.

On behalf of the Shesight team, we extend our sincere thanks and gratitude for her time and effort. We wish Dhanya Ravi the very best on both personal as well as professional front.

Written By-

Anita R Nair
Associate Editor

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