Once in a while we come across fascinating narratives of grit and determination, which inspire us to endure challenges in life and spur us towards our goals. One such story is of Gayatri Gawade of Belagavi, who, despite numerous health challenges at a young age, has succeeded in attaining her goal.

Gayatri was born in the family of Phaydes in the picturesque coastal city of Karwar in Karnataka. Shri. Mahesh and Smt. Shubhalakshmi Phayde were blessed with a girl child on 14th of July, 1977. They were happy to have a daughter after their first son Gourish and she was lovingly pampered by her parents. However, calamity struck from the blue on the unsuspecting Phaydes. The baby had hernia when she was only six months old. Then the parents shifted young Gayatri to her aunt, the Kalghatgi's, in Belagavi in North Karnataka, as the city offered better prospects of treatment. Gayatri responded favorably to the treatment and recovered soon. She did her schooling in Herwardkar School for a year and later went back to Karwar in St. Michael's Convent School. She completed her degree at Divekar college. She spent a memorable time among her siblings and friends, leading an otherwise uneventful childhood.

On the 1st of December, 1999, Gayatri was married to Shri. Yatin Gawade. The Gawades of Belagavi are a well-to-do family of businessmen with interests in hardware retail and wholesale, having a properous line in the main market area of the city. They are a traditional family living together with parents and grandparents. Gayatri enjoyed a blessed year of connubial life with her caring and loving husband and his family.

She had lived her conjugal life happily for just one year, when one day, suddenly and unexpectedly, woe befell Gayatri in the form of a rare malady. She went to bed as usual one night and when she got up the next day, she discovered that she was unable to walk! She suffered from a debilitating weakness which worsened quickly over days. She approached her uncle, Dr. Nitin Shetye, who, after preliminary examination, referred her to Dr. Wali, a well-known, accomplished physician. Dr. Wali diagnosed her as suffering from GB Syndrome.

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare neurological disorder in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks part of the peripheral nervous system—the network of nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord. The exact cause of GBS is not known. Researchers do not know why it strikes some people and not others. There is no known cure for Guillain-Barré syndrome.

GBS can range from a very mild case with brief weakness to nearly devastating paralysis, leaving one unable to breathe independently. GBS can increase in intensity over a period of hours, days, or weeks until certain muscles cannot be used at all and, when severe, the person is almost totally paralyzed. In these cases, the disorder is life- threatening—potentially interfering with breathing and, at times, with blood pressure or heart rate.

Not able to as much as stand on her own feet, Gayatri was admitted to KLE Hospital on Dr. Wali's advice. Even in that renowned hospital, this happened to be the sole rare case of GBS at that time. For days and weeks on end, Gayatri fought for her life on the hospital bed in ICU. Unable to breathe normally, she was put on ventilator. One day, her condition became very serious. To prepare her husband Yatin's mind for the eventuality, Dr. Wali confided in him that she may not see through the day. Fearing for her life, Yatin hurriedly requested Gayatri's mother and father to come over to Belagavi. At 12 o'clock noon, she was asked to change her clothes and taken to the diagnostic centre. She was put on shock treatment, but to no avail. By evening 7.00 that day she had almost collapsed. Arriving from Karwar, her parents sat close to her bed, weeping uncontrollably, uttering, ''Gayatri, Gayatri!''

On that very day, in far off Kolhapur, a family acquaintance, Desai mama, a believer in God and spiritual energy, was in deep meditation. He received vibes which made him realize that Gayatri was in trouble. He rode all the way from Kolhapur on a two-wheeler and reached KLE hospital by midnight. He saw Gayatri and blessed her with the words, ''Nothing untoward will happen to you, dear. You are destined to undertake great work in this life.'' Having uttered these words, he left back for Kolhapur.

Even in her listless state his words penetrated Gayatri's mind and soul. A new resolve arose within her, a resolve to overcome the malady and do something worthwhile in life. Then, miraculously, her recovery began within a week. She was shifted from the hospital to Dr. Shetye's house. After remaining there for some time, her parents took her with them to Karwar She was well-cared after with a strict regimen of diet and regular massage. Her Daya mavshi, Niteen uncle, Neni all took care of her. Slowly she became independent.

During the weeks of illness and recovery, as she lay on the bed, Gayatri's mind was busy thinking about her condition. She realized that she was lucky that she was afflicted only physically, her mind was clear and strong. What must be the state of those who suffer mental illness as well as physical, she thought. Gayatri decided that once fully recovered, she would do something to help those children who are mentally challenged.

At the time of onset of GBS, she was pregnant. However, the pregnancy had to be terminated, for the numerous medicines she had consumed would have affected the foetus adversely. Over a period of time Gayatri recovered fully and returned to Belagavi to her normal life. Within a few months she was pregnant again.

Just then she was confronted with another challenge. Her mother was diagnosed with a tumour and had to undergo surgery. Gayatri stayed for some time in Karwar taking care of her mom and dad. Luckily, her mother recovered fully. Gayatri then returned to Belagavi. Her father accompanied her and resolved to stay by her side as Gayatri needed care and supervision during her pregnancy. Her father purchased a flat in Pranali apartments, right opposite the Gawade residence for this purpose.

On the 12th of December, 2002 Gayatri gave birth to a baby boy. The arrival of this fair and cute angel brought immense happiness to both the families. In a festive ceremony the child was named Manas. Gayatri's in-laws performed her 'mother shower' function. She was adorned with flowers for two full days. In due course of time Gayatri returned to the Gawade home. Those were glorious days for both the families.

After the ceremony Gayatri's father left for Karwar and her mother stayed on alone at the flat in Belagavi. Gayatri could not concentrate at home as her mother was all alone for a week. Gayatri saw her standing at Pranali apartment gate. That was the last time she saw her. Her mother was admitted in the hospital. Gayatri could not sleep for the whole night, thinking about her mother. Next morning news arrived that her mother was no more. This was a big blow to Gayatri.

But life waits for no one, it keeps on flowing. As Manas grew up, Gayatri busied herself with Event Management activity with her friend Sonal. After a year had elapsed, Gayatri's husband Yatin opened a showroom for her to keep busy. Although Gayatri attended to it, she was not content. She wanted to spend her time in some worthwhile activity. The thoughts of helping challenged children that she had during her illness, recurred.

At that stage yet another health challenge presented itself. Gayatri had trouble with her eyesight. She had to stay at Bangalore for a month and get cornea transplant. After she returned to Belagavi, she resumed the event management activity. It was at this juncture that her second son Prashil was born. After his birth, she had to give up event management and attend to the showroom again. Yet, she was restless within. Somehow, the problem with her eyes worsened as she had used expired contact lenses. She had to go back to Bangalore with Prashil.

When she returned, a long awaited opportunity presented itself. Assisted by her husband's close friend, Prasad Nungatti and her husband Yatin she decided to open a school for special children. This was an activity close to her heart. A brotherly bond developed with Prasad as they worked on the project. Although she still had problem with her right eye which was closed with glue, the involvement with Anker school for special children kept her going. One day Gayatri happened to visit a swimming camp for disabled children organized by the Rotary Club. When she saw blind children performing there, she realized that she was lucky to have one eye intact.

However, health issues were not over for her. She had to undergo endoscopy for urine stone and then for a cyst in her stomach. To top it all she had an accident in 2016. Although Gayatri's life has been full of health issues and severe ups and downs, her determination and involvement in the work of her liking has kept her going strong and steady. She is grateful to the almighty for the opportunity offered to work with Ankur school. Every day she resolves to make herself more capable and overcome her shortcomings to shower love on the little angels in her care.

Time and again, challenging problems of running a school for special children emerge and she has to seek solutions for them. Every day she has to confront new situations and tackle them. Problems of administration, of staff shortage, difference with colleagues do surface. Sometimes she feels exhausted and worries about her shortcomings in handling them. But at the end of the day she remains undaunted in the face of difficulties and keeps pursuing her goal. With the help of meditation, yoga, and exercises she keeps herself fit.

Gayatri's story is an eye-opener to those of us who grumble about the small inconveniences in life. She has shown that with determination and dedication to a cause one can overcome physical limitations and attain a fulfilling life worth living.