A beautiful young girl, born in India and raised in US in a loving close knit family. Being the only child to her parents, she was the apple of their eyes and a star in making. From a very young age she set her heart on becoming a surgeon and was looking forward to a bright future ahead of her. But like they say, life had other plans.
After spending a relaxing holiday at India, her life took a turn , her body had contracted an infection and she was declared dead by the doctors and thereafter she went into coma for 23 days.
But the fighter that she is, she not only survived this tragic incident of her life, she even went on to win Miss India WheelChair, she is a huge star at QUORA with over 40,000+ followers and has been Quora Top Writer for two consecutive years , 2014 and 2015.
It was quite an overwhelming experience for me to talk to her.
Read on to know about her journey, story of her survival, how and with whom she fell in love , and what makes her the diva that she is:
Tell me about your childhood, what kind of environment you were raised in, what kind of a child you were while growing up.
Virali : I was raised in a loving, open minded yet reserved environment. My parents would always try to introduce Indian culture into my lifestyle. My dad and I were very straight forward in terms of discussing sex, relationships, love, and friendships. He was truly my best friend. Although my parents were also very reserved, they would always discourage relationships before marriage, kind of hypocritical if you ask me, because they had a love marriage! I suppose they were trying to shield me from the pain of a broken heart.
As a child I was quite the jokester, I would always be pulling pranks on my dad, we had that kind of relationship. My mom always had a short temper so I wouldn’t prank her, but we’d plan on pulling pranks on my dad. I was very studious, I always enjoyed learning and reading, that holds true till this date. I always brought home the highest marks in my class and I was the teacher’s pet, I’m not ashamed to admit it.
Share your dreams and your aspirations while growing up. What did you aim to become, back then?
Virali : Ever since a young age, I always knew that I wanted to help people. I wanted to be a surgeon, a heart surgeon to be exact. I remember my first toy medical kit that my father gifted me, I would always run around giving my parents checkups and injections. I read medical books, out of passion, for approximately nine years. In the US there was a channel called Discovery Health where they would often show surgeries and other medical miracles, and this channel intrigued me to no extent.
What happened medically that led to your paralysis. Who has been your biggest inspiration through out and how
Virali : I’ll try to make this short and sweet, if you’re interested in the full story you can click on this link – http://qr.ae/Rb8J4v. During a 23 day period, I was declared dead three times. Basically what happened is that I went to India during the monsoon season in 2006 and I forgot to take my anti-malarial medicines, which anyone who comes from abroad has to take. After coming back to America, I started getting the symptoms of Malaria. After going to the doctor and getting all the normal reports taken, he sent me home with medicines like Tylenol (Crocin in India) to combat the fever. When that didn’t work, I started limping and I couldn’t use the bathroom, I went back to the doctor who transferred me to a bigger hospital, and they did all the routine tests again, which came out normal. This time though, they did a lumbar puncture, afterwards I had a seizure, my blood pressure went high, I vomited – half of it went into my lungs, I went into respiratory arrest, which led to cardiac arrest. My body was lying on the testing table for seven minutes without oxygen or a pulse. The doctors had declared me dead, yet they still tried to revitalize me. After giving me three electric shocks, they sustained a steady pulse, put me on a ventilator, and transferred me to the ICU. I went into a coma the next day.
Twice during my stay in the ICU, the doctors declared me dead. One time my body temperature went below 90 degrees F; they put piles of blankets on me and surrounded my room with heated lamps, but it made no difference. After about an hour, they took off the blankets and unplugged the lights and my body temperature rose on its own. The doctors were astonished. The third time, I lost a lot of blood, so much that my hemoglobin went below 5. The normal is supposed to be 11-13 for women. They had to give me three units of blood, after that my hemoglobin came to normal. They still don’t know why I lost so much blood.
On September 21st, the doctors wanted to take me off of life support because there weren’t any significant improvements, but my mom begged them to keep me alive because my birthday was just around the corner. My doctors thought she was mad because she wanted to celebrate my 15th birthday. The doctors agreed but said that if there weren’t any changes in me by the 29th, they’d take me off of life support – she agreed. Well, she did just that. She called all of my family, had my room decorated, and my aunt catered for approximately 60-70 people. At 3:05pm – the exact time that I was born, my family started singing happy birthday and my dad took my hand to cut my cake and I opened my eyes, I was staring at the ceiling. Everyone screamed and cheered and the doctors rushed in, after a checkup they hugged my mom and congratulated her because I would make it.
On October 5th I went into surgery for a tracheotomy (transferring the breathing tube from my mouth to my throat), after the anesthesia wore off, I came out of my coma. The doctors were afraid that I’d be mentally ill; I would either have lost all my memory, I’d probably be aggressive, or that I’d be crazy/mad. That didn’t happen. My memory was intact, I was normal, and everything was fine, except for the fact that I was paralyzed from the neck down. The doctors still don’t know what’s caused all of this and there isn’t a 100% diagnosis, but they think I have Transverse Myelitis.
I personally know that you are hugely popular at QUORA, your answers inspire countless readers across the globe, but where do you find such positivity and that captivating energy of yours
Virali : I think my experiences in life have showed me that there always is something positive about a negative situation. I’ve found those positive aspects and I merely help people realize that their problems aren’t as big and major as they think. I think everyone needs a different and unbiased opinion in their life and Quora is a wonderful platform for that.
If I’m being honest though, my parents are the source for my inspiration. They’ve been living apart for the past 9-10 years because of my health. They’re very much in love. My father is in America all alone working, while my mom is in India with me. There isn’t a day that goes by when we don’t speak to each other. I don’t know what’s harder, living in different countries away from your soulmate, or living apart from your best friend, your father. Of course we visit each other all the time, but it’s still difficult. My parents’ situation always makes me stronger. I always think, “If my mom and dad can sacrifice their life for me and still be happily living apart from each other, I can do anything.” Thinking this helps me through each and every situation, no matter the difficulty.
Your and Dhyaan’s love story !!!!! do you believe that you’ve found your soulmate ( Virali has been dating Dhyaan for sometime now, she’s in a long distance relationship and her love story is quite like a bollywood movie 😀 )
Virali :. Dhyaan and I met online, on the famous Shaadi.com. Our love story is a bit funny to be honest. Dhyaan aka Don, expressed an interest on Shaadi and when I looked at his profile, I declined him. First of all, he’s from Africa – born and brought up there, secondly he’s a non-vegetarian, and thirdly his pictures online weren’t that great. Or course, online dating is really all about vanity and first impressions based on looks, even if that isn’t who I am in real life. Well, I declined him and totally forgot that he ever sent me an interest. A couple of days later, he adds me on Facebook and messages me. I couldn’t quite place him, because his pictures on Facebook were so great! I mean, he was really, really handsome. Well, I messaged him back saying that I didn’t recognize him and he, ever so gratefully, reminded me that I declined him on Shaadi. I swear, I couldn’t have been in a more awkward situation. Eventually, we both got over that and started talking. On November 13th, 2013, he confessed that he wanted to start a relationship with me, and I agreed. Well, the rest in history. We’re in a long distance relationship which is working out quite nicely. I visited him in Africa in May of 2015 for his sister’s wedding and he came to India in July of 2015 where he met my father as well.
Soulmates? I don’t really believe in soulmates, but after seeing my parents’ relationship, I can’t help but to say that they were truly made for each other. As for Dhyaan and I, we’re quite compatible, we make a great match, he’s the funny one and I’m the straight forward one, he’s the calm one and I’m the short tempered one. We’re good for each other. As for soulmates, I guess time will tell.
How was your experience of participating and winning second position at Miss India Wheelchair Pageant 2014.
Virali: IT WAS FREAKING AMAZING
Back in July of 2014, I submitted a video as my entry into the competition. This was just so I could be selected as a participant, and then they’d shortlist me later if they thought I was good.
After a couple weeks, I got an e-mail confirmation saying that I was shortlisted into the grand finals. I was chosen as a grand finalist out of thousands of girls in India!I’m sure you can understand my excitement. I was elated and ecstatic! I couldn’t contain my happiness.
A couple days before my pageant, I went through a lot of pain, like physical pain. Do you know how freakin’ painful a facial is? Yeah, I know, I thought it would be soothing and relaxing. Everything’s fine until the lady takes out her torture device aka the black head remover! That hurts like hell, and I’m not even joking here. I mean, I was almost in tears! I think waxing is more bearable, even threading, and getting your eyebrows threaded requires a lot of will power, I’m serious.
Okay, let’s get to the juicy part; the actual pageant. I had to reach the venue a couple hours early to start getting ready. I met with my hair and makeup artists, who by the way, did an amazing job. I started getting ready and it was time for the first round, which was the casual round/introduce yourself. I wore dark blue skinny jeans and a black sequined shirt. Everything went in alphabetical order, so I was the last contestant out of seven to come on stage. The crowd went nuts! It was exhilarating to say the least. I introduced myself, I was nervous. Everyone was talking for so long, and I didn’t even think about what I was going to say. I ended up just putting some words together and I spoke about my family, my struggles, my life.
The next round was a music round, they started playing some music that was significant to the contestant and would ask a question about the song. When it was my turn, they played “1 2 3 4 Get On The Dance Floor” – Chennai Express. They asked me “What does dancing on a wheelchair mean to you?” I spoke about how I was a dancer before and after becoming wheelchair bound, I thought I’d never be able to dance again. I mentioned how my parents really helped me overcome those negative thoughts and showed me I could do anything I wanted. It was a bit emotional for me because I went back to 2006-2008 where I was lost. I didn’t look emotional, but it was a beautiful feeling.
We were then ushered back into the changing rooms to get ready for the formal round. I decided to wear a teal and black, tight fitting anarkali dress. It was absolutely gorgeous. Okay, backstage was a horror scene! Everyone was running (err, wheeling) around trying to get ready because we only had 20 minutes. We were informed that we had 45 minutes prior to the pageant so I wasn’t worried, but once I found out about the time limit, I was a lunatic. Eventually, I got ready, but I was a couple minutes late to reach the stage. I was so embarrassed! Everyone cheered for me though, so it made me feel much better.
We were then asked one question each. I was asked, “Do you think it’s important to have a mentor in life? Why or why not?” Honestly, I had a brain fart. I couldn’t think on the spot, but I did my best. I said, “I do think it’s important to have a mentor, but I think it’s necessary to be your own mentor in life. You cannot rely on anyone to guide you and help you, you need to be there for yourself.” I had an amazing response from the crowd and I let out the oxygen I was holding.
The judges were deliberating and marking up the scores, while the organizer/founder of Miss Wheelchair India called up our mothers on stage. Our mom’s were asked questions about us and it was hilariously cute to see my mom stumble over her words because of stage fright. To be honest, she didn’t do a great job in explaining herself, but I’m extremely proud that she overcame her fear and came on stage to support me.
At last, it was time for the announcement. The previous Miss Wheelchair India came on stage and gave a little speech, which was boring to be honest, because I was so anxious and nervous. The founder announced the second runner up, and then he looked at me. I was thinking, “Oh please, don’t let me be second, pretty, pretty please!” And, he announced my name. I had an “Oh Shit” moment! I didn’t know what to do except smile. One of the judges crowned me and told me I was beautiful, which made me a bit happy. Finally, he announced the winner, and it was Dr. Rajyalakshmi from Chennai. I think she deserved it, she’s pretty, smart, and she had some good answers.
The best part though was the fact that even though I came second, I was given more attention than the first place winner. A lady came up to me and told me that she wanted to interview me for a coverage of my story, which we’ll be recording soon. It’s for the radio. My doctor, Dr. Alok Sharma, offered me a position as a motivational speaker at his hospital, which we still have to discuss. Another doctor asked me to be on his television show, which we still need to discuss. Finally, Nagesh Kuknoor, the director was there and we exchanged numbers. I’m sure you know what’s coming next.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience. Something that I’m really proud of, and I’d do it again if I could. I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to be a participant, and I think all the girls looked absolutely gorgeous. Everyone was a rockstar that night.
What are your future plans .
Virali : I want to continue writing and I want to help people, no matter what. Along with that, I want to become an actress because I want to represent all the young men and women that are disabled, I want them to know that they can do anything despite any situation and/or circumstance. I want to represent women and tell them that they are strong enough to achieve every dream they’ve dreamt of. I want to inspire and motivate, and by being in the industry and being in front of the media, I’ll be able to reach a larger crowd than just Quora.
Any message you would like to give to all the readers
Virali : No matter the difficulty of the situation, no matter the stress you’re under, even if the whole world is against you – don’t give up. Keep strong and fight on! Keep smiling through the hard times, it’ll make the days go faster. Try appreciating everything you normally don’t acknowledge, like the air your breathe, be thankful for it and for everyone – no matter the caste, race, age, gender, and/or sexuality.
Virali has a contagious energy to say the least. She has been inspiring countless people with her story of strength and survival. She didn’t let anything defeat her . She continuous to fight and anticipates what future has in store for her with utmost zeal and positivity.
You can follow her on her facebook page: VIRALI MODI