Life went on normally until that fateful night on May 2, 1981 when suddenly the bus Sudha was travelling in collided with a truck, killing the bus driver on the spot. Sitting two seats behind the driver, her legs became trapped and the rescuers had to struggle for a long time to pull her out.
Her right leg critically injured, Sudha was immediately rushed to the hospital where the doctor treating her injuries made the serious mistake of plastering the leg. Few days later, she noticed the colour of her skin was changing and upon inspection, it was noted that gangrene had set in. The doctors had no choice but to amputate her leg in order to save her life.
This drastic change left Sudha completely shattered and heartbroken – she could no longer pursue the passion of her life, the dance she cherished above all else. She was unable to sleep, became restless and remained in a state of shock for some time.
After this short low point in her life, Sudha’s confidence started returning. Determined to grow stronger, she refused the assistance of a wheelchair, choosing to practice walking instead with the help of a wooden leg and crutches.
Six months after the amputation, Sudha read an article about Dr. Sethi of Jaipur who had started manufacturing artificial legs of such quality that the amputee could work on an agricultural farm and even climb a tree. Dr. Sethi, recipient of Raman Magasassay Award and artificial limb specialist, examined Sudha and assured her that she will be able to walk normally again. When asked whether she will be able to dance again, the doctor replied, “Yes, why not? When using this, a farmer can work in wet soil and climb a tree, then why can’t you dance?”
Taking up the challenge to fulfil Sudha’s dream of dancing, Dr. Sethi had an easily rotatable aluminum foot manufactured for her. Excited with this new challenge, Sudha was able to easily learn to walk on the new leg however dancing on it was quite different altogether. The artificial leg would need constant changes to compete with the challenges of the dance steps but that did not reduce the problem. Her leg would often bleed as the movements became faster and faster, increasing the severity of the pain.
Initially disappointed, Sudha visited Dr. Sethi with her dance teacher. Highly impressed with her will power, Dr. Sethi carefully took note of each and every dance step and had a new leg rebuilt. Sudha continued practising again, and mastered all the dance step despite the pain and bleeding that were constant companions. She eagerly awaited an opportunity to perform on stage once again.
The opportunity came on January 28, 1984. Initially extremely nervous, Sudha’s passion for dance overshadowing her disability on stage, she danced so proficiently that it left the audience mesmerised. At the end of her performance, the hall echoed with sounds of thunderous claps.
Sudha had become a star overnight! Every newspaper and magazine splattered her story across India. Ramoji Rao, the famous Telegu film producer was so impressed by her that he decided to produce a film based on her life and insisted on giving her the casting role. Nervous at first, Sudha finally agreed to take on the role since it was based on her own life story. Conveying a message of perseverance against all adversity the film touched many hearts, bringing people to tears. It was a super hit!
On seeing the outstanding success of the film, its producer made the film in Hindi as well, titled “Nache Mayuri”. Sudha’s talent had spread throughout the entire nation. The film easily crossed borders and was watched and appreciated in several countries.
Marrying the man of her dream, Ravi, she also continued her studies and received a post-graduation degree. Sudha continued to work as an actor both in movies and in TV serials.
Through sheer determination and will power, Sudha has proven to the world that despite a disability, one can touch the peak of success. She continues to be an inspirational source to many who face similar challenges in their lives.