Meet Nishant Khade, a man with true grit, a source of inspiration for many despite a tragic accident that rendered him a quadriplegic. He is currently a director at DAS Offshore Engg Pvt. Ltd, a renowned construction company in India with expertise in fabrications, erections, and installations.
HatkeStory got an opportunity to interact with him at his office in Mumbai and we sure have a very motivating and touching life story to tell our readers.
Childhood: Like all wonderful dads out there, his father Datta Khade had a very big role in shaping his personality.
HatkeStory: What was your childhood like?
Nishant Khade: I was born and brought up in Mumbai. I was in class 6 and I wanted to buy a football. We owned a nursery back then and my dad asked me to sell a plant to buy a football with my take. I borrowed a kart from the local banana seller and started selling plants after school from 6.30-8.30 PM. Business made sense to me at an early age and that slowly made me a workaholic.
When I was 16 years old, I asked my father if I could drive his car. I was wondering why he immediately handed over the keys? The words that came out of his mouth next made complete sense then. He said – “There is a Stepney in the dickey (car boot/trunk). Change it and show it to me and you can drive the car”.
HatkeStory: What is your educational background?
Nishant Khade: I studied until class 12 in Mumbai.I then moved to Sangli district, Maharashtra for further studies in Mechanical Engineering. My father believed in practical education along with theory. He trained me in welding and gas cutting. My family established a factory that manufactured master springs (used for tractor trolleys) and I used to handle operations there during my college days.
HatkeStory: So you joined your family Business after college. Tell us about Das Offshore.
Nishant Khade: I come from a wonderful joint family. Three brothers (Datta, Ashok and Suresh) established DAS Offshore Engineering Pvt. Ltd as an engineering and construction company in 1992. I started working there. I remember I was 23, and I just finished working on an offshore ONGC oilrig and tragedy struck while I was going back to my hometown in 2001.
The Tragic Accident:
Nishant was travelling in a chauffeur driven Ambassador to his native place. The driver dozed off while driving on Karad highway and the car collided with a parked oil tanker. This unfortunate tragedy changed Nishant’s life forever. The driver survived with minute factures but Nishant suffered a severe spine injury.
HatkeStory: Did people come for help?
Nishant Khade: Yes, people did come to rescue me. However, while pulling me out of the wreckage, mismanagement and not following proper safety procedure led to permanent irreparable damage to my nerves.
Hospitalization: Nishant spent a total of 2 and half years in hospitals in Sangli, Kolhapur and finally Bombay. Due to carelessness of a doctor, he even had an oesophagus injury that took around 11 months to heal. He could not talk, walk, stand, sleep or properly breathe at times.
HatkeStory: Those 2 years would have been very tough.
Nishant Khade: Very tough I must say. I was completely bed ridden. Bedsores up to lumbar region were a common occurrence. Blood circulation was not proper and wounds did not heal properly. I could not eat or drink anything. In 2002, I visited a Rehab centre in Delhi. That is where I met Shivjit Singh Raghav (wheelchair bound himself) at the Indian Spinal Injury Centre (ISIC) who is a peer counsellor. He inspired me. I observed people there and learnt how to survive.
HatkeStory: How did your family help you?
Nishant Khade: In 2003, I came back home. I have a very loving family who took good care of me. However, superstitious beliefs of some of my family members took me down a path that further deteriorated my condition. In 2005, I went to visit my grandmother and stayed for one month. I was taken to a number of so-called god men/babas/saints, forced to sleep naked in a herd of sheep, made to drink raw milk of a Eunuch sheep, have all kinds of Ayurvedic medicines and oils, and wear animal parts on my neck and what not. My relatives were more concerned about my sexual libido than my condition.
Due to all this, my body was infected and I was hospitalized. I went into coma for 3 days. I was administered Xigris medicine as the last hope, which was the last resort to treat life-threatening infections. Once I regained consciousness, fed up with superstitious practices and babas, I decided to start working again.
HatkeStory: What role did friends play?
Nishant Khade: I met my best friend Arvind R Prabhoo through an NGO called Nina Foundation that works for people with spinal injuries. Arvind, who is wheelchair bound too, became my mentor and we decided to put behind our disabilities and travel the world. I must say we are fortunate to have the ability to afford these getaways.
HatkeStory: Can you tell us about your love story?
Nishant Khade: Thanks to insistence of my friends, I started looking for a life partner. I created profiles on online matrimonial portals. All the matches I was getting were of people with similar disability. I thought what we would do if both of us could not take care of ourselves.
I really liked one particular profile and sent a request. The Girl’s mother rejected the match and was not ready, considering my quadriplegic condition. I felt heartbroken that this is not going to work out. Friends came to my rescue again. They motivated me time and again. I tried contacting Sheetal (my wife) on Facebook and sent a friend request. She accepted after a few days that led to chatting and further conversation. We soon started dating. After a year, I proposed and she readily accepted. It has been 4 years and I am a happy family man.
Back in Business: Nishant joined his family business again in 2007. Being a wheelchair bound quadriplegic did not deter him from doing what he loved. He used to sit next to the security guard and interact with the people at his office. This helped him bond with his staff. There are more than 1600 employees and he knows 70% of them by name, their work profile and current salary. He says he learnt this quality of keeping people close from his uncle.
HatkeStory: Can you tell us about your Beyond Barriers Initiative?
Nishant Khade: Arvind and I came up with a thought of travelling throughout India by road on a mission. Most of the places in India lack proper infrastructure for disabled people. We made audit reports for all major tourist destinations where there was no infrastructure like ramps. We started making note of places, which could provide these features. We paired up with two strong willed women who are paraplegic and believed in our cause. The four of us started an 84-day pan India tour covering a distance of 19000 km that included 28 states and 44 major cities.
Nishant currently handles 5-6 portfolios (like admin, finance) in Das Offshore and is the Director of Access4All Social Foundation that is working towards removing barriers that restrict the mobility of people with disabilities.
Defying all odds, he fought back, emerged stronger and confident and took it as an opportunity to start over again. The power of passion and perseverance is often underestimated. We would like to conclude with a quote that justifies Nishant’s story.
A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him – David Brinkley