Inspiring Stories

Laughing At Limitations: From Split Spine To Stand-Up, Sweta Mantrii’s Journey

36-year-old Sweta Mantrii uses comedy to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. She was born with Spina Bifida, a condition that affects the spine

Written By: | Edited By: | May 9, 2024

New Delhi: “If you feel awkward looking at my crutches, you can ignore them as your crush ignores you,” that’s Sweta Mantrii for you. A split spine could have been a hindrance, generally. But Sweta converted it into a muse, a rung. She makes jokes around her disability to convey the message of inclusivity.

While some of her jokes might come across as dark, they call out the ableist vision.

She says,

“My jokes help audiences laugh at subjects and issues that have otherwise been stigmatised and not talked about.”

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Sweta was born with a split spine or Spina Bifida which affected her left leg. At just four months old, Sweta underwent surgery and subsequent physiotherapy sessions, enabling her to walk with the assistance of a calliper and crutches.

“Doctors said I won’t survive for more than two months and if I do, I won’t be able to walk until the age of 10,” recalls Pune-based Sweta.

However, she began walking at five years and attending school with crutches at eight. She adds,

“Teachers would often ask me to sit on a bench near the class instead of playing. I realised something is wrong with me.”

But this differentiation never stopped Sweta from excelling. She finished post-graduation and picked up a job in Mumbai.

“With disability comes a disadvantage of inaccessibility. When I moved to Mumbai for work, it took me two months to find a hostel with a lift.”

The psychological and physical barriers worked as stepping stones pushing Sweta to become a disability rights advocate.

Sweta began by running awareness campaigns on social media. When approached for comedy gigs, her first question is not about money. It is whether or not the venue is accessible.

“I want to live in a world where inclusion is not an afterthought,” says Sweta.

Also Read: Once Ashamed Of His Blindness, He Provides Livelihood To People With Disabilities

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