It's been a busy few weeks for Rajlakshmi SJ.
The 31-year-old from Bengaluru has been juggling her professions as a dental specialist and consulting orthodontist and an assistant professor, along with also having to follow a strict diet, workout, skin and hair care plan.
After all, Rajlakshmi is all set to represent India at Miss Wheelchair World which will be held in Poland on October 7. This is three years after she won Miss Wheelchair India in 2014.
"It has been hectic, but it is worth it," she says as she readies to leave for the European country next week.
Of the several passions Rajlakshmi has in life, modelling is one of them, and it is something she truly enjoys and has worked hard to achieve.
"But being on a wheelchair and getting into modelling remains a question mark," she states.
A life changing incident
It was sometime in 2007 that Rajlakshmi, having just excelled in her BDS examination, had been invited to Chennai to present a paper at the National Conference.
On her way, she met with an accident.
"The driver had slept off. The accident left me with a spinal injury," she says.
Her lower limbs were paralysed and Rajlakshmi found herself struggling to deal with the magnitude of the situation.
"It was a whole new body I had to deal with. I was a whole new person physically," she recollects.
Instead of giving up though, the dentist decided to focus her energy on following her interests and passions. She pursued courses on psychology and fashion, and also did her MDS. "I had been wanting to do all these," she adds.
During this time, she came across information about the Miss Wheelchair India on the internet and decided to apply. And when she won the 2014 pageant, it was a "dream come true" moment for her.
When it comes to infrastructure, India is not disability friendly, Rajlakshmi says. "You do not have free mobility. And this is something that senior citizens face as well. On the other hand, people are always ready to help. If I have to cross a road, or go up the stairs, people come to help without me even asking for it," she states.
However, she does not appreciate the look of sympathy that persons with disabilities often get.
"My disability is physical and so it is visible. But there many who have disabilities that are not visible. Disability can be of many kinds. Be it behavioural, physical, mental or intellectual. But you cannot define a person based on their disabilities," she says.
(A Miss Popularity Wheelchair World 2017 online poll is on going and you can vote for Rajlakshmi here.)