Xtraspecial: Learning to face & overcome challenges, she marches ahead!

Bharati Pawaskar | OCTOBER 10, 2023, 12:57 AM IST
Xtraspecial: Learning to face & overcome challenges, she marches ahead!

Natasha and Benny along with their daughter Sasha.

Natasha Maria Geraldina Gomes Alemao, who works as an LDC in the Goa government’s Public Works Department (PWD), has no complaints about life, even though her cerebral palsy restricts her in multiple ways. She may have difficulty with mobility, walking, holding objects in her hand, writing effortlessly, and even with her speech. Nevertheless, her deep faith in God has helped her cope with every challenge that life has thrown at her.

“Religious priests and their preaching have helped me sustain and survive. I share my sorrows, hardships, and happiness with God,” Natasha expressed gratefully. Now 50 years old, she is married to Benny Alemao and is a mother to a teenage daughter named Sasha. Benny and Sasha are her great supporters, both at home and outside.

Natasha works at the Public Works Department (PWD) in South Goa. Originally from Navelim, she now lives in Fatorda with her family, as it is closer to her office, making commuting easier and faster.

“My husband drops me off at the office and picks me up every day. Daughter Sasha helps with household errands. My husband, a chef by profession, quit his job to take care of me. He manages cooking at home, along with most kitchen work and outside tasks, such as picking and dropping me off at the office and our daughter at school, without complaint. I am blessed to have a husband like him and a daughter like Sasha, both of whom are so understanding,” Natasha stated.

Recalling her childhood days as the eldest of three siblings, Natasha says she took her first step at the age of four. Her two younger brothers are normal. She attended a regular school, Perpetual Succour Convent High School in Navelim, until SSC.

“I had wonderful principals, Mother Jane and Sr. Bernadine, and teachers who treated me like a normal child. I was encouraged and motivated throughout my school life. I participated in events and won certificates. My physical education teacher, Estella, encouraged me to participate in mass drills,” Natasha expressed with gratitude.

In her home, she was treated as a normal child. It was a challenging phase in her life as she recalls, “I wondered why nobody showed any sympathy towards me. But that’s how I learned to be self-reliant. My main drawback was my speech problem. At times, people misunderstood my words. I couldn’t express my feelings clearly to others. Ultimately, I placed myself in God’s hands,” she said.

As the only disabled student in her school, Natasha graduated SSC without taking advantage of extra time, as she wasn’t even aware of this facility. Wanting to continue her studies, Natasha joined Rosary Higher Secondary School. She learned to manage on her own, handle her speech problem, and overcome her life’s challenges. Independent in life, she enrolled in a B.Com programme. However, in the third year, she failed in one subject. Studying wasn’t a problem, but writing was. Holding a pen to write caused her excruciating pain. Nonetheless, she learned typing and took a computer course in search of employment.

“My good neighbor encouraged me to start a business,” Natasha recalled.

She opened a payphone on August 15, 1996, in Navelim under the Prime Minister Rojgar Yojna for educated unemployed individuals. The payphone kiosk kept her busy for 12 years, giving her confidence to interact with people. She paid off her loan, expanded her knowledge, and grew her circle of friends. She eventually secured a job in PWD as a work assistant under the reserved post for physically disabled individuals. It was at the PCO (payphone kiosk) that she met her future husband, Benny, a chef. They got married in 2010.

With a supportive husband by her side and loving and considerate in-laws who respected and showered her with affection, Natasha began to smile in the truest sense. Soon, the couple was blessed with a baby girl. As Natasha could not manage household work, her job, and the child simultaneously, her husband sacrificed his job and took on the responsibility of the home, allowing Natasha to focus on her work. Natasha said, “I wanted to prove to myself that I can live like any other girl or woman.”

“Life has its ups and downs, but when I see people more disabled than me, I feel truly blessed. Struggles and problems are part of our lives, but God’s presence gives us the courage to face life. We must recognize that we are all God’s creations, whether normal or disabled. We must help each other and make this world a friendly place for everyone to live joyfully,” Natasha concluded.

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