Soaring on the wings of will power ‘Wheelchair & I’ Pammu has seen 59 countries
Kozhikode: “I don’t know how to smile; uproarious laughter is my style”, reveals Parvinder Chawla, who has visited 59 countries, despite a wheelchair-bound constraint. Her words radiate the indomitable spirit of the will, which makes light of limitations. She is the embodiment of how, not just every New Year, but each moment is pregnant with possibilities. Pammu, to friends and relatives, is thrilled at having surpassed her target of being to 50 countries by the age of fifty.
The Ludhiana-born, who grew up in Dilli and Mumbai, was struck with rheumatoid arthritis at fifteen. She yearned to travel in spite of being confined to a wheelchair. Bhumika, her sister, fulfilled this desire by taking her to Dubai. That was the beginning.
“I became the queen of world travel snuggling in the comfort of my automatic wheelchair. My ambition is for my passport to be stamped with the emblem of all countries. With the blessings of the Almighty I will achieve it,” says Pammu enjoying a two-day stay at the traveller’s hostel in Gujarathi Street run by Design Ashram, a community space for creative people.
She believes in immersing herself in the culture of the place; with her own interests taking a back seat. Pammu is happy to spend New Year’s Eve on the soil of the fabled Malabar Coast, where Vasco da Gama set foot in search of spices.
Nothing has ever come in the way of Parvinder. Though Covid-19 pandemic made travel well nigh impossible, she braved it in her automatic single car with Maharashtra registration, venturing forth on her version of discovery of India. She experienced places as diverse as Badrinath, Jaipur, Kanyakumari, Kedarnath, Madurai, Mengaluru, Ooty, Puri, Rameswaram and Ujjain. She found time to indulge in her favourite pursuits of badminton, dancing, skating, skiing, swimming and trekking; even paragliding, which she had earlier done in Taiwan. She is headed to Alappuzha in the morning of the New Year.
The youngest of the five children of the late Darshan Singh and Amrit Kaur is still a child at heart. Pammu’s eyes glitter, when she confides that with the right alchemy of happiness, energy and eagerness, life will be as festive as Holi.
The pain caused by her affliction is hellish. Had she succumbed to it, Pammu would never have left her bed. What gives her strength is the 20-minutes of prayer that precedes any journey. Rural India is a perennial fascination. Switzerland is another bewitching destination.
The B. Com. graduate from Mumbai University has worked as a hotel receptionist and in a call centre, apart from a magazine. But for the past fifteen years, her sole identity is that of an inveterate traveller under the rubric of ‘Wheelchair & I’. What fuels her voyages is trust in the kindness of strangers and innate human good.