With the trailer of The Sky Is Pink out now Priyanka Chopra’s fans are rejoicing for her comeback to silver screen on home turf. But there is an even more special reason to celebrate this film, and that is Aisha Chaudhary, a motivational speaker, on whose life the film is based. Aisha was born with SCID (Severe Combined Immuno-Deficiency), a potentially fatal disease, and while she passed away in 2015, her journey continues to motivate millions of people, especially youngsters and women.
Priyanka is playing Aisha Chaudhary’s mother in The Sky is Pink. The film is written and directed by Shonali Bose, and actor Zaira Wasim plays the character of Aisha.
Who is Aisha Chaudhary and what’s her legacy?
Only six months into this world, Aisha was already fighting for her life. She underwent her first bone marrow transplant as an infant.
In an emotional conversation, Aisha’s mother Aditi Chaudhary shared her struggles with the life-threatening disease. “Aisha was diagnosed (with Severe Combined Immuno-Deficiency or SCID) when she was six months old. And she had a bone marrow transplant in the United Kingdom… Basically, these children are born without an immune system so any disease can kill them, even the common cold,” Aisha’s mother said at an INKtalk.
Aisha just had only one year to live unless she underwent a bone marrow transplant, and hence her parents opted for the procedure. But the transplant backfired and caused a disease called pulmonary fibrosis. It affects lung tissues which causes difficulty in breathing. Aisha was 13 when she was diagnosed with it in January 2010.
“Her lung capacity was only 35% and as a result, she had trouble walking and navigating staircases. She would tire very easily,” her mother Aditi Chaudhary explained to The Quint.
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A story that needed to be adapted to screen
Aisha challenged a threatening disease and was using portable oxygen from the age of 15. She had to drop out of the American Embassy School, but the difficulties couldn’t deter her resolve. Aisha decided to use her tenacity to become a motivational speaker at the age of 14.
I must do it because I think I can’t.- Aisha Chaudhary
“Aisha was using portable oxygen from the age of 15 and although she looks very well in both her talks, she was in fact very sick and the doctors had warned us that if she gets any upper respiratory tract infection, she may not survive. We never focused on the fear and took her all over the country for her talks and she travelled all over the world,” her mother said.
In the darkest days, friends are the ones who give you motivation to go on. In Aisha’s case, it was the exact opposite. “She was often not asked out by friends as she was getting slower and needed help with carrying heavy things. I think the more she suffered and the more she felt unaccepted by her peers, the more determined she became. I was blown away when she agreed to be a speaker at INK at the age of 14, but she said, “I must do it because I think I can’t,” Aditi recalls.
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Painting and writing to success
When she was bedridden, her mother gave her Hugh Prather’s book Notes to Myself, and a young writer was born. Aisha decided to write her own book and her thoughts created close to 5,000 words, typed out by her on her cell phone. The book is titled My Little Epiphanies, and also contains her doodles.
“So if death is the ultimate truth, what should really matter most in life? I felt the only thing that really matters to me is being happy. And happiness is a choice one makes. It’s simply an attitude…” – Aisha Chaudhary
“Now it’s not that by being miserable I’m going to get any better so I may as well choose to try and be happy and if I have to have pulmonary fibrosis, I choose to have a happy pulmonary fibrosis,” Aisha had said at a TEDx talk in Pune.
The young and bold girl delivered speeches with the intention of motivating or inspiring millennials. People were drawn to her story and how she coped with the most challenging times. Her father, Niren, told the Economic Times about the three lessons he learned from her— giving back to society, gratitude and not to be overwhelmed by difficulties. “Find the highest mountains to climb. Despite her disability she wanted to enjoy life—something I tell myself each time I am overwhelmed. She also taught me the power of dreaming and aiming for the moon.”
Her calm perspective on life’s challenges has changed and made many lives better.
Unfortunately, Aisha was only 18 when she breathed her last on January 24, 2015, hours after her book was launched at the Jaipur Literature Festival.
- Aisha loved painting and writing.
- Her favourite actor was Ranbir Kapoor.
- She was an animal lover. “Buy a dog when nothing else works,” she once said.
Feature Image Credit: StarsUnfolded