Harkirat Singh Paras went from barely speaking to anyone for the first 18 years of his life to talking to hundreds of clients and colleagues all over India. This Smile Train patient from Amritsar, India is breaking the stigma associated with clefts and providing this community with the help, support, and guidance that they need to thrive. His life story reminds us to never stop dreaming, and that no matter the adversities, there is always something to smile about!
Actions speak louder than words, and I believe that God chose us, children born with clefts, to prove this. I am an entrepreneur, engineer, YouTuber, Google-certified digital marketer, and brand photographer, and I was born with a cleft. Like all other parents, mine were unsure about where to go and how to get medical attention. However, they were optimistic and were determined to get me the best treatment as soon as possible. I underwent six surgeries at Smile Train partner hospitals.
I hardly spoke to anyone until I was 18. The reasons included people advising me to talk less, five consecutive surgeries, and classmates bullying me for my voice. As I got older, the bullying got worse. I even got rejected in a job interview just because of my cleft. This made me self-conscious, so I kept my focus on my academics and health in preparation for each upcoming surgery.
High school graduation was the turning point of my life. When I started college, I used the opportunity to leave my introverted nature and fear of public speaking behind. While studying for my Bachelor of Technology in mechanical engineering, I started to do research on fossil fuels. I published my various research papers on biodiesel and one of them won the Best Paper Presentation Award in a conference sponsored by the Government of India. I was elected as Student Head of the college and won the Best Student Award by the ISTE Student Chapter. I was the college’s first full-time student to be officially promoted to a part-time role as Social Media Manager.
Most of my friends and even my relatives don’t know that I can sing. Yes, you read it right. I have a cleft and I can sing. I have completed a five-year vocal course from Pracheen Kala Kendra, which is equivalent to a Master of Arts in music, and have chanted in the world-famous Golden Temple. Currently, I am pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration and am the founder and director of a company that does business in industrial hardware and digital services.
The world bows in front of those who believe in their dreams. I chose to stand up and work to change how people think about me and others like me with clefts. Today, I proudly say that I talk to hundreds of clients and colleagues and do business all over India. Thousands ask me for guidance, motivation, help, and support.
Currently, I am undergoing orthodontics treatment and speech therapy at my local Smile Train partner hospitals. I can feel the worries of the parents of the other children, who ask my mother about me during my checkups. When she tells them about my achievements, their million-dollar smiles and reassured expressions make my heart swell with pride. I still remember that emotional day when a father who was visiting the hospital for the first time asked me for my guidance on how to raise his son.
Today, I adore my brave parents, the doctors who have helped me get to where I am today, and, most especially, Smile Train. You all have collectively given me the most beautiful smile on this earth. Thank you.
Thanks to Smile Train, Harkirat has been able to pursue not only his dreams but also help others to pursue theirs! Don’t forget to share his story to keep spreading love and support for this great cause and to help others thrive just like Harkirat!
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