On the special occasion of International Women’s Day, we bring to you a special person, who is struggling relentlessly to make the lives of children with special needs better. Dr. Gayathri Narasimhan, introduces herself as a homemaker, teacher, counselor, trained yoga therapist, social entrepreneur, author and above all a simple human being. She is the Founder-Director of Prakramika Institute, and Director at Emplusive Training Center, EmpACT and Muditha Kreative School, and author of the book INVAS. She has won several awards and accolades for her commendable contribution towards training and skill development of children and young adults with special needs.
She opens her heart on her journey from being a full-time homemaker to social entrepreneur, and how a passion can change not just one’s own life, but others too. Her story is both inspiring and touching.
Could you share your journey of finding what you call your life’s calling or purpose?
The search for an answer as to why I was not able to teach a child with autism led me to a new field, special education. It was a paradigm transformation from being a management professional and software engineer to a Special Educator, Inclusive Education Specialist, Vocational Trainer, and Counsellor. With more than a decade of experience in these fields, now I found Zen moment. I was never satisfied with any of my achievements in my earlier professions but today when I see my children (students) overcome their challenges and succeed in life, it gives me an immense sense of satisfaction.
The transition was indeed challenging. I had to constantly learn, unlearn, and relearn. I did my post-graduation in Psychology and Doctorate in Education (Special education) besides having specialization in Yoga as therapy, handwriting modification, sensory therapy, behaviour modifications, and related professional qualifications. As we are focusing on Inclusion in the workplace, I took up training as POSH Practitioner and Internal Committee Specialization, which gave me a great understanding of the Prevention of Sexual harassment at the workplace, which is highly important when we include the neuro-diverse at the workplace.
Recognizing the organizational reach, I founded Prakramika Institute in Chennai, India, in 2015 and Prakramika Vocational Institute in 2021 to work for the betterment of these children. We are involved in providing skill development courses online to hundreds of such children and young adults, and empowering them to work in various industries through collaborations with placement firms. All our work and initiatives are offered only as a service, without compromising on the quality. We also support special schools, vocational units, and inclusive schools in professionally educating the neurodiverse by providing training programs and felicitating an effective framework.
Does age have anything to do with pursuing one’s purpose in life? What is your opinion and personal experience?
You can transform at any age. All you need is Perseverance and Determination.
When I was just 19 years old, I had finished my degree and was pursuing my post-graduation. I was not a nerd, but I had an obsession to explore a variety of courses. By 21, I had a handful of qualifications including a PG diploma in software engineering, Journalism, and management. Of course, it opened up several job opportunities. I got married at the age of 21 and my life changed. I decided to stay at home. As years passed, I never knew where my educational certificates were. I was leading a happy life within the walls of my family. As years passed the world outside was rapidly changing, but I was least bothered. One fine day, seeing our colony children attached to me, my husband suggested that I must utilize my talent for working with children. This triggered my thoughts and I dusted my certificates again.
By then we had come to Muscat, a new place and I became dependent on my husband. One day, I decided to transform – got my driving license, started working, pursued higher education, and formed my own company. Now I am so happy that I found the opportunity to transform many lives. Of course, I encountered many challenges, failures and humiliations; but I could overcome all of them with perseverance, determination and focus to transform. Need to add the total support given by my husband, he never allowed me to fall. I had always given top priority in building my foundation, which is my family.
In life, due to our own mistakes or other factors, we happen to slide down. Whether to remain in the same pit is our decision. With Determination and grit, one can achieve anything. We will never lose anything in our life if we have the right attitude. We must evolve from every failure. Decide a goal, focus, and work on it continuously until we succeed. Age is just a number. I found the purpose of my life at the age of 36. However, today when I am 49, I am managing four organizations, training scores of neurodiverse across the world, and training many schools and my progress continues. The day one finds their true passion, is the turning point in one’s life. I am a homemaker – taking care of my family, a teacher – training students and professionals, a counselor – helping people to combat challenges, a social entrepreneur – bringing positive changes in society, an Author – penning and passing on my knowledge, a motivational speaker – Inspiring people to start their journey and finally I am Gayatri – a simple human being.
What are your key strengths? How do we identify our strengths or passions that were not identified earlier in life, and mold ourselves?
There could be various reasons why we quit and forget our strengths or passions. As I had shared in the previous question, the reason could be ourselves, family needs, or the environment. Whatever has gone is always gone, we can never bring that time back. Once we accept this reality, our attitude should be ‘what next?’ See where your passion lies. Once you identify that, work on a process to bring a balance between family and passion. Find a way to achieve. You may encounter failures and challenges and sometimes it may be very disheartening. Whenever you face a failure, make an analysis of all the possible reasons for that failure, work on your betterment, and keep repeating this process and there is no doubt, you will succeed. When you succeed, you will never remember the pains endured. The failures are just a way for your evolvement, your transformation into a better version of yourself.
Many educated women feel lost and depressed about not being able to work or pursue a passion. What would be your advice to them?
Butterflies do not go by ‘caterpillar’ forever. Every stage of our life needs to be enjoyed and lived thoroughly. Keeping aside the challenges and setbacks we may face, life has to be lived to its fullest. My life journey had been full of contrast and when I look back, I feel every stage was satisfying.
Stage 1 – Student life – I was never a bright student but a very hardworking one. I loved to explore a variety of courses; that seems to be a golden period for acquiring knowledge.
Stage 2 – Homemaker life – After a busy student life despite being highly qualified, I decided to be a homemaker. Motherhood is an important segment of anybody’s life. Admiring every milestone of children, and helping them grow with good character, ethics, and values are vital in parenting. I still cherish every moment of taking care of my family, which is the foundation.
Stage 3 – An Employee – Bumped into a child with special needs and I wished to utilize my education to support children with special needs and here my journey as an employee began. Worked in many organizations, learnt a lot from my colleagues, and equipped myself in many ways and polished my skills like planning, coordinating, adapting, collaborating etc. It was indeed a great learning experience.
Stage 4 – An Entrepreneur – With all the acquired skills and to serve better, I started my Entrepreneur journey. Today I have three companies and we are trying to reach the maximum number of people with special needs across the world to empower them. Entrepreneur life demands requirements like investment, satisfying the stakeholders, handling crises, risk management, planning for the next 10 years, dynamic approach etc. Agreed the risk is maximum, but the reward will be maximum satisfaction.
Every stage has its positive side and every stage had been beautiful for me. My Entrepreneur journey is successful because I was successful in Stages 1,2 and 3. My quest for learning led me to gain a wide variety of knowledge, which is the biggest component of special education. Successful homemaker life is essential as it builds the foundation of life. If the foundation is strong, we can easily build skyscrapers. Working as an Employee has given me the required understanding of the challenges faced at the lower level which I could manage as an Entrepreneur.
Every stage of life is beautiful and has its importance; we must never compare one stage with the others. There is no reason to be depressed that you could not pursue your passion. You can start anytime. But to be successful, live every moment of life. You are evolving into a beautiful butterfly.
If you feel there is something everyone can do in subtle ways to make life better for neurodiverse people, what would that be?
First accept them as they are, please do not treat them differently. Find ways to include and not exclude. The parents of neurodiverse go through various challenges and disappointments, let us not add to it by treating them differently. If we are not able to help, the least we can do is not to disturb them. As the neurodiverse percentage is increasing globally, let us put a little effort into acquiring knowledge so that we would be able to support in the smallest way possible.
Communities need to put efforts; infrastructure and services in banks can be modified to make banking comfortable for neurodiverse. Parks and playgrounds can be designed for inclusive models. Schools and institutions must put more effort into effective inclusive practices. Let each one of us be the carrier of the inclusion message to make the world a better place to live. The world is replete with many success stories where neurodiverse have overcome challenges and become successful.
To the women who are reading this article, let me conclude by saying that you might have missed a few years but remember you must never miss your life. Women have the power to change the world. Recognize your power, nurture it, and use it for the benefit of the world. The only way to get back your passion is to press the START BUTTON. Just start, and success will follow.
Wishing each and every one a Happy Women’s Day!