by Florine Roche
Mar 13 : Shreya Sen to Shreya Srivastav – It was a terrific journey for Shreya after her life altering tragedyIt took just a few years and loads of determination and courage for 22 year old promising architecture student Shreya Sen to grapple with life’s unforeseen circumstances. Rather than get affected by such sudden turn of events at a young age Shreya has shown her indomitable fighting spirit to come out of the tragedy to emerge as a go-getter to succeed and that too with flying colours. In doing so she has inspired countless people like her who encounter sudden disability to carry on with life with renewed vigor.
On the positive side she was lucky to survive the dreadful train tragedy that killed 148 passengers of the Mumbai bound Jnaneshwar Express train accident in May 2018. The train first derailed between Khemashuli and Sardhia stations in the West Midnapore District of West Bengal after the tracks were damaged by Maoists. Soon after the derailment the compartment she was travelling was hit by a speeding goods train. Shreya who was returning to Mumbai from Bengal along with her mother and younger brother after attending her cousin’s wedding in Kolkotta lost her right arm in the accident apart from receiving serious injuries. Shreya who was sleeping in the upper berth was thrown out of her bogie following the accident.
With her right arm smashed she found herself thrown out onn the open track in the debris and muck. Even in that condition she could see the strewn bodies of the dead and injured and could feel the smell of the fresh blood. Despite cries for help by her and her young brother Saurabh to pull out his sister from the debris, help did not come to her in time. She recalls how the public saw her and returned without for the fear of the Naxals. “Looking at me I was almost taken for dead” she recalls. Her 15 year old brother Saurabh showed extraordinary presence of mind and finally came with an army officer who pulled her out from the debris and was moved to the corner of the railway platform using railway a blanket as a stretcher.
For the next seven hours Shreya lay there waiting for help and by then her mutilated hand was infected with gangrene. The delay resulted in her losing her hand. When doctors told her that her hand needs to be amputated she listened patiently without any emotions. By then reality had dawned on her that she will have to spend the rest of her life with only one hand. It wasn’t easy for a young girl like Shreya who was on the threshold of completing her course and was known in Bhausaheb Hire Collect of Architecture in Mumbai for her hand drawings and was dreaming of a career as an architect to accept the new reality of her life. But she did accept it as she felt there was no point to feel despondent and grieve over the tragedy that had befallen on her.
Not the one to give up easily, she decided to take stock of her life and not become a burden on anyone for the rest of her life. She had only two choices – to simply accept the reality and let go everything or to face the reality with a resolute approach and work towards her goals. That is when she accepted losing her hand with a positive mind and that acceptance gave her the required tenacity to rebuild her shackled life. She recalls the support she got from her family in her struggle to come to terms with her life. She fondly recalls her younger brother Saurabh who, despite his young age tried everything he could to extricate her from the debris she was in following the accident.
Shreya spent nearly two months in the hospital recuperating from the four surgeries she had to undergo following her amputation. During the recuperation period itself she developed positive attitude and trained her mind believe that she can do with her left hand what she has been doing all along in the right hand. It was her willpower that helped Shreya to afloat and swim to the shore with flying colours. Being a student of architecture she had to draw sketches and many a time she doubted her own ability to overcome her limitations. Some even suggested she give up architecture and opt for something else. But for Shreya Architecture was her passion and she could not even think of giving it up. By now she had made up her mind and decided to d to take the bull by the horn. Slowly she began to draw and write in the left hand and also began to use her foot to draw. Crowd funding with the help of her friends and college mates helped her have a prosthetic hand that helped overcome the psychological aspect of the tragedy to some extent.
The fruits of her hard work earned her the desired reward Her unbridled determinate on saw her topping the University giving a big boost to her confidence. Though she loved her long mane she had to cut it short to enable her manage it. She had to forego wearing most her favorite clothes as she could not use them in her changed condition. However, such frivolous matters did not come in the way of her pursuit to excel in whatever she did. Whenever she felt low and depressed she turned to music and being a trained musician she found solace in the therapeutic power of music.
Thanks to her dogged efforts today Shreya is able to do everything from travelling, teaching, conducting workshops and even gives motivational talks to inspire others facing situations similar to hers.
Like every other young and successful woman Shreya is leading a normal life and she has found her soul mate in Prateek Srivastav , who like her is an IITian. While Shreya had topped IIT Roorkie Prateek was a topper from IIT Chennai. In 2013 they were both selected from their respective institutions for an Indo-German exchanged programme for their Master’s research. Cupid struck and despite braving several odds and several ups and downs the couple was married in 2018. Shreya says Prateek has been a pillar of strength as he supports her without reminding her of her limitations. Gone are the fears of constant uncertainties that plagued her despite her stupendous success. Now she has the support and encouragement of Prateek to face any challenge that comes her way. She says Prateek has given her the much needed stability by driving out her fears and anxiety.
A confident Shreya says she doesn’t have to chop her locks anymore as husband Prateek has been helping her tie them stylishly, just like the way she used to before the 2010 incident. “I love my long hair and cutting it short was quite painful. Now I don’t have to undergo that ordeal any more”, she declares. As she says this she cannot escape the smile that say a thousand words. Shreya’s true life story has been the inspiration behind the Marathi film “Dhyaneshwari Express” which chronicles her struggle and final success.
The journey from Shreya Sen to Shreya Srivastas was strenuous yet fulfilling one for Shreya and also her family. Her struggle and success will act as an inspiration for all those whose life takes a vicious turn or all those who face life altering experiences.
Hi Florine, thank you for such a beautifully written article, however could you please correct the spelling of my surname, it's not " Shreya Srivastas", its Shreya Shrivastava.
I am currently based out of Chennai and working on Tensegrity Structures with applications in the field ranging from the design of a biomimetic Tensegrity arm to development extraplanetary habitation for Mars, with a recent seminar on this topic for ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization, Lucknow) .
It will be lovely if you may add this to the post.