Swasti Mehta, 27, was born with down syndrome. “Growing up with Swati was very simple”, her brother, Arsh recollects. “We shared a regular sibling bond until I was old enough to understand what Down syndrome meant.”
Now 30, Arsh says that the family is still trying to understand the implications of raising a child with Down Syndrome. “Our parents did whatever they could to provide Swasti with the best opportunities. We changed our house just so that Swati could attend one of the best special schools in town. Our parents consulted many doctors in India as well as abroad; her medicines would come in from Dubai.” As time passed, newer challenges cropped up. “Just yesterday, I was trying to find out about the laws around Down Syndrome in India.”
But if you ask Swasti how it feels to be a special child, she retorts, “I am as normal as anybody!” And that’s the spirit she has been raised with. At 16, she was admitted to Abhilasha, a special school in Mumbai where she was trained in arts and crafts, cooking and other related skills. Within a couple of years, she had filled her house with all kinds of paintings and would gift them to her friends and family.
But in 2020, when the pandemic hit, she had to stop going to Abhilasha. “I’d have to sit at home all day and it was really boring”, Swasti recollects. “I really wanted to do something and get back on my feet.”
One of those days, after dinner, as Swasti’s mom was serving her famous pudina-lime juice, it occurred to Swasti, “What if I package this juice and began selling it to everyone?” Eureka! With Arsh’s help, Swati made the first batch with her Mom and sent it out to relatives–everyone loved it; the feedback was overwhelming. So, they decided to scale!
“I was out of job at that time, so my parents and I decided to help Swasti”, Arsh recollects. “Pappa is retired, so at one point, Swati was the only earning member in the family!”, he says proudly.
They called the drink ‘Pudina Punch’ and started spreading the word on social media. The business picked up quickly and within a couple of months, they had around 350 orders in a month which was a lot more than what they had expected. The entire family would wake up early in the morning and work until 9pm– Swasti and her Mom would prepare the drink and pack it, Arsh handled the marketing and Pappa took care of accounting and shipping. “The purpose of this business was to give Swasti a motive; something she could look forward to doing every morning…..but no one expected the business to become such a huge success!” It also brought the family a lot closer to each other– “We were literally spending all day with each other and reconnected like never before! The pandemic, in a way, proved to be a boon for us”, says Arsh.
When we asked Swasti if she bought something with her first salary, she said smilingly, “I’m still learning how to count…once I do, I’ll buy a nice gift for my Mom.”
So, what are Swasti’s future plans? “I don’t think about tomorrow! I’m just going to have dinner, watch Tarak Mehta kaultachashma and then shoot a reel with Arsh!”, she quips.
Swasti believes in living in the moment; her eyes sparkle when she smiles. Her journey from idling away at home to become a self-reliant entrepreneur is one that could inspire anybody. She has side-stepped typical perceptions of individuals with disabilities–So what if Swati doesn’t know how to count! Swati Mehta has gone a mile further to show that you just need the determination to do something good–everything else will automatically fall into place!”