Varanasi based Shweta Maurya has lost count on the number of bone breakages she has had over 35 years of her life and is uncertain how long before her body gives up.
Shweta was born with a genetic and incurable disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a health condition that affects bones, causing deformities and making them fragile.
“I have had multiple rod surgeries to keep me alive. My bones lose their density and get porous due to the disorder with each passing day. It also causes heart complications,” she tells The Better India.
At six years old, her left leg suffered multiple fractures. “The bones got stuck underneath the stomach, and I had to undergo emergency surgery. I suffered excruciating pain for three months and found it difficult even to drink water and breathe comfortably. The incident left me bedridden and confined to my room for life,” she says, adding, “The doctors informed my family that my life would be limited.”
But despite all odds, Shweta has dedicated her life to the service of the voiceless. So far, she has helped hundreds of injured, physically abused, and sick dogs find a safe home.
A Voice For The Voiceless
After completing her school education, Shweta decided to become a doctor. “My condition was a constant reminder of being helpless and wanting to contribute to medical science for the sake of humanity. I wanted to become a doctor who did not make their patients realise that they were about to die. But my health did not allow me to become eligible for any medical streams,” she says.
In 2010, Shweta failed to qualify for homoeopathy. “It was my final attempt in the medical field, and the board members conducting the counselling round rejected my application as I appeared for it on a stretcher. They doubted how I could treat ill patients,” she recalls.
But Shweta says she and her mother always lived an ostracised life. “People around us cursed my mother, did not even accept biscuits given by her. The treatment made me feel terrible and question my existence. But I chose to continue studies from distance learning,” she says.
The incident pushed her into depression. “I spent three years recovering from the depression, and my health deteriorated further. But she persevered and changed her focus to graphic designing. “I completed my academic qualifications and started working as a freelancer,” she says.
It was only in 2012 when her brother opened a Facebook account for her that she came across the ‘Adopt a Pet’ page. “A post where a dog was beaten inhumanly by a security guard at a university caught my attention. The poor animal was bleeding profusely and needed help. I was shocked by the atrocities done to the animal and decided to help. I connected to other groups on Facebook and arranged for medical help and treatment,” she says.
The incident inspired her to become the voice for the voiceless. “It was my first time coming across such brutality and so I decided to take up the cause for the animals,” she says.
Shweta then spent more time joining multiple groups across India. “I became a part of close to 100 groups and pages related to animal rescue. I started boosting posts and getting attention for people who needed help,” she says.
She explains, “The social media feed always shows the recent posts at the top. But the constant updates push the older posts below, and the user has to struggle and scroll down to access them. Moreover, not all users find it productive to do so. So, I hunted for such posts that received less attention and reposted them. I tried to tag and connect people who could potentially help the users.”
Shweta worked to coordinate with NGOs, shared contact details, arranged rescues and connected volunteers to rescue dogs, donkeys, cattle and more.
In 2016, however, she suffered from ascites that accumulated body fluid, thereby causing swelling.
“I got disconnected from social media for two years while recovering from a health condition. My liver had stopped functioning efficiently and I was put on artificial breathing for a few days,” she says.
A Fighter Spirit
Shweta soon recovered and immediately resumed work for her cause. But this time, she launched Astha Loving Kindness and Compassion (ALKC) Foundation NGO that works for animal rescue and welfare.
“I decided to keep my focus limited and concentrate on rescue missions in Varanasi. Besides my brothers, I hired two volunteers to assist me with the job. They feed animals and do the legwork for rescue missions. The NGO requires an expenditure of about Rs 6,000 a month. But I receive donations of about Rs 3,000. The rest is taken from my earnings as a graphic designer,” she notes.
So far, Shweta has been able to help 300 animals. “I have helped them be rescued and even find caring parents through adoptions,” she says, adding she has coordinated to help people even from Saharanpur, Delhi, Pune and Mumbai.
Minakshi Singh, an animal lover from Varanasi, says Shweta is always on her toes to assist distressed animals. “Shweta has helped me on multiple occasions to rescue a cow, dog, donkey, and other animals found abandoned on the street. At times the animal needs treatment, and Shweta takes all the efforts to do the necessary and resolve the issue,” she says.
Shweta describes herself as a fighter which is evident in her resolve to help these animals. “The doctors had given up on me long ago, but I am fighting every day to survive. My entire life, I have been living like a prisoner, but I am not complaining. I want to dedicate my life to serving the needy whose suffering and pain goes unseen and unheard,” she says.
Now, she wants to extend her cause to help orphans, abandoned elderly persons and the homeless on the streets by providing them with the required help.
To help Shweta, call Shweta at 7355919818
Edited by Yoshita Rao