Story of Sweta: Advocate, Comedian, and Unintentional Rebel

Published on: 17 Jul, 2023


Let’s meet Sweta; a dynamo who was struck with spina bifida; a locomotor disability at birth. Her life was set to be an uphill battle. Yet, Sweta, being the gritty firecracker she is, managed to light up this challenge with laughter.

Born to a woman with an infectious, ironclad optimism, Swetha lovingly describes her mom as “overly optimistic”. Convinced that her daughter could do anything she set her mind to, she pushed Sweta into the ring of challenges. Sweta would sometimes look at her mom's unyielding optimism with a blend of admiration and a pinch of exasperation. However, she also admits that it was her mom’s optimism that encouraged her to pursue her dreams even when it got rough!

Defying doctors' predictions, Sweta, aided by her mother's relentless training, was trotting around at home with crutches by the age of 5. Not one to be held back, she attended regular school, a brave choice made by her parents. But school life had its own set of complications. Imagine missing school because your helper called in sick.

Slowly but surely, Sweta began to crave independence. By third grade, she was itching to join her friends on the playground. It was then that she realized the harsh reality of her barriers. You'd think school was challenging enough without it suddenly turning into an obstacle course. These challenges, instead of discouraging her, sparked a little rebel within her. For the first time she saw the lack of accessibility and that shaped her life and work as an adult.

With school behind her (and a tearless farewell, much to the surprise of her teary-eyed classmates), she ventured into college; grudgingly! In a surprising turn of events, she ended up with an MBA in Public Relations, not something she really had an affinity for.

Job hunting, which she approached with as much enthusiasm as one would have for a root canal, surprisingly led her to a PR agency in Mumbai. Naturally her parents were against the idea of sending her out into the big bad world but with Sweta’s determination and a boss who managed to convince her skeptical parents, she began her new chapter in life or as she fondly calls it, "Liberation 2.0."

Mumbai was an eye-opening experience, literally. With slippery buildings and relentless monsoons, it felt like she was participating in a rather dangerous season of Dancing with the Stars. Accessibility was a real problem. Infact, unable to navigate the Mumbai monsoons coupled with an infrastructure just not safe for her, she has to cut her journey short.

Returning home to Pune, she ventured into writing. Turns out, the motive behind her first blog was a potential beau; a fellow writer. Well, she didn't get the guy, but her friends saw her potential in writing, which made up for it, I guess! But then again, society being society, had its own 'constructive criticism' to offer. Don't fall in love, they said. Who will marry you, they asked. As if dealing with societal pressure wasn't enough, she also had to navigate through psychological barriers and the lack of physical accessibility.

Sweta's personal experiences fueled her journey into advocacy. She even produced a short film on disability. However, the reviews was strewn with insensitivity. Once, at an Irani café, she pointed out the lack of accessibility, only to be advised by a stranger to "look at the positive side." Boy, that hit hard!

Ironically, this incident coincided with her budding interest in stand-up comedy. From performing at open mics to conducting corporate shows, her comic journey began to take flight. Comedy, it turns out, was an ideal platform for breaking psychological barriers and raising awareness about disability. But don't call it "inspirational". Sweta says, "Why should I be applauded for overcoming obstacles that shouldn't exist in the first place?"

Fame found her as she became a “disability inclusion enabler”. Despite her distaste for labels, she inadvertently became an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. Inclusion, she points out, shouldn't be an overused buzzword we pay lip service to. It should be as normal as breathing! 

Check out Sweta Mantrii's profile.

Atypical Advantage is India’s largest livelihood platform for Persons with Disabilities(PWD). Whether it is a singer looking for a show, a visual artist looking to sell their paintings, or job seekers with disabilities looking for career opportunities, it bridges the supply & demand side inefficiencies so that Persons with Disabilities can earn a dignified income. We have a large pool of 15,000+ talents with disabilities and have worked with 250+ corporates within a short span of 3 years. We were also featured on Shark Tank Season 2 and were declared the winner of the prestigious National Startup Award under the social impact category by the Union Government. For more information, visit our website here.

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