Preethi Srinivasan was a national level swimmer and a former captain of the under-19 Tamil Nadu women’s cricket team.
Her life completely changed when she met with an accident at age 18 and unfortunately, since then she is bound to a wheelchair.
But this couldn’t stop Preethi Srinivasan from founding a charitable trust and becoming a writer.
Preethi Srinivasan was born on 5 September 1979 in Chennai.
She was her parent’s much beloved child as she was born nine long years after her parent’s marriage.
Preethi Srinivasan’s father, late N. Srinivasan was an electrical engineer and her mother is Vijayalakshmi Srinivasan.
Studying in many countries-
As N. Srinivasan was frequently getting transferred, Preethi Srinivasan too had to change many schools across three different continents.
She did her schooling from a total of nine schools in various places like Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Mumbai, Germany and the United States.
Becoming a swimmer-
At age 3, N. Srinivasan introduced her to swimming.
Later, Preethi Srinivasan became a national level swimmer at age 8 and subsequently won a gold in 50 m breaststroke and many silver in other events.
Love for cricket-
At age 4, Preethi Srinivasan became a huge fan of Viv Richards in the 1983 Cricket World Cup and developed a passion for cricket.
Soon, she started playing cricket and also started receiving cricket coaching.
At age 8, Preethi Srinivasan was the youngest cricketer to play in the Playing XI – Tamil Nadu women’s cricket team.
During that time, she was a good fielder and bowler but not a good batswoman thanks to her shortness.
In 1997, at age 17, Preethi Srinivasan captained the Tamil Nadu Under-19 Women team and led her team to victory in the national tournament.
She was one of the highest run getters and wicket takers.
At age 18, Preethi Srinivasan got selected into the South Zone women’s cricket team and she was expected to play for India in a year or two.
A bright student-
Apart from being a good sportswoman, Preethi Srinivasan was also a brilliant student.
After finishing her schooling in 1997 from Upper Merion Area High School with the distinguished honours, she was listed in “The Who’s Who amongst America’s Students” as she was amongst the America’s top 2 percent merit students.
Thanks to her achievement, Preethi Srinivasan could have easily gotten into any Ivy League school of her choice but she chose to return to India to represent India in cricket.
After returning to India, she became the captain of the Tamil Nadu Under-19 Women team.
A life crippling accident-
On July 11, 1998, Preethi Srinivasan along with her friends went on a college excursion to a Pondicherry beach.
In the afternoon, she and her friends were playing in the thigh deep water (water with two and a half feet depth) and she suddenly fell with her face forward and broke her neck after a receding wave swept the sand below her feet.
During that time Preethi Srinivasan suffered a C4 and C5 spinal cord injury.
She experienced a shock-like sensation traveling through her body and even after trying hard, she couldn’t stand up.
So, her friends pulled her out of the water.
Preethi Srinivasan neither hit any hard surface like a rock or ocean floor nor bled but she suffered a serious spinal cord injury and became quadriplegic.
Unfortunately, she became paralysed below her neck and at that time, she was just 18.
Dreams get shattered-
This injury shattered all her previous dreams.
Now, Preethi Srinivasan could neither go on to represent India in cricket nor continue her education.
As previously she excelled in academics and sports, she was seen as a role model but this accident made people pity her, which she didn’t like.
Preethi Srinivasan became depressed and used to get panic attacks and would struggle to breathe upon being noticed by people.
She suffered severe spasms and had a couple of near death experiences.
So, Preethi Srinivasan didn’t move out of her house for two long years altogether.
Healing with parents’ love-
Thankfully both Preethi Srinivasan’s parents’ loved her unconditionally even after the accident and this healed her.
Her father helped her to change her mindset from thinking about why she has to suffer to what she can do to best utilise the opportunity.
And Preethi Srinivasan started introspecting and developed a new hobby of mouth painting to express herself.
Thanks to this hobby and spirituality, she completely recovered from feeling sorrowful about herself.
During that time, Preethi Srinivasan and her family shifted to Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu and currently, she lives in this city.
Later, around 2001, Preethi Srinivasan wanted to study B.Sc in Psychology but she got rejected by the college authorities which cited the reasons for not having lifts and ramps for her.
Thanks to her persistence, in 2010 she was able to enroll into the University of Madras to study Bachelor of Science (BS) in Medical Sociology and in 2013 she graduated.
Later, Preethi Srinivasan experienced the same denials when she wanted to do MSc Psychology but she didn’t give up and studied MSc Psychology from the University of Madras.
In 2018, she pursued a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from Indian Institute of Technology Madras with A grade.
Losing her father-
In 2007, Preethi Srinivasan’s father passed away at the age of 57 due to heart attack.
Just four days later her mother also suffered a heart attack and was diagnosed with a heart problem.
Later, when her mother underwent a bypass surgery, Preethi Srinivasan became the key decision maker.
This shook her world and she realised that there was nobody to take care of her and they had no income sources.
Becoming a writer-
So, Preethi Srinivasan started working as a writer full-time for Moviebuff using a speech recognition software.
Thanks to this job, she was able to take care of her family.
Search for rehabilitation–
After the demise of her father and when her mother also fell ill, Preethi Srinivasan and her mother started searching for rehabilitation centres to accommodate her.
But she was disappointed upon knowing that there were only a handful of rehabilitation centres in India.
Then, her mother suggested to Preethi Srinivasan to start a rehabilitation centre on her own.
But as she wasn’t confident about herself, she didn’t start one.
Preethi Srinivasan was moved after learning that within a span of three months, two paraplegic girls were forced to commit suicide by their own family members in Tiruvannamalai.
Thanks to these incidents, she realised the plight of paraplegics.
So, Preethi Srinivasan decided to start a public charitable trust with the help of her mother to help people suffering from severe disabilities.
This trust was launched on 7 September 2013 and is located at Tiruvannamalai.
Soulfree works to create awareness about spinal-cord injuries and provide a livelihood to the affected ones.
Currently, Soulfree is supporting more than a thousand people and families.
Within a period of five years, Preethi Srinivasan through her trust has been able to provide hundreds of wheelchairs and monthly stipends to people.
She is also a disability-rights activist.
Becoming a motivational speaker-
Initially, Preethi Srinivasan was teaching spoken English and Tamil to foreigners in her city but soon, she started receiving invitations to deliver motivational speeches in schools, colleges and companies.
She spoke at many organisations like Goldman Sachs, Mindtree and Tata Consultancy Services and also many educational Institutions.
Thanks to Preethi Srinivasan’s appreciable contributions, she received many awards like-
- “Kalpana Chawla Award” for Courage and Daring Enterprise from The Government of Tamil Nadu.
- Envisage ability award 2014.
- “For the Sake of Honour Award” from The Rotary Club of Vellore.
- Femina Penn Shakti Award.
- Dhruva Award.
- The Agent of Change Award.
- The Karamveer Chakra award.
So, how are you inspired by the success story of Preethi Srinivasan?
Tell me in the comment section below.
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