The four Indian medalists in the Rio 2016 Paralympics games have come up with a loud and defining message for the Indians at large. If we can do this, so can you
Mariyappan Thangavelu was five years old when his right leg had to be amputated. He was on his way to school in his village Periavadagampatti, 50 km from Salem in Tamil Nadu, when he was crushed by a bus. The driver, it’s said was drunk. Thangavelu’s right leg has got stunted and has ceased to grow or heal after that. Finances made the healing process longer—both literally and emotionally. In fact, just when he was on the road to Rio, his family was still paying off the loan they took for his treatment after the incident. But he turned this adversity into an advantage. And the result is now eternally embedded all over the wall. Devendra Jhajharia was eight years old, when he got an electric shock. He was climbing a tree in his village in Churu district of Rajasthan, when he accidentally touched a live wire—an 11,000 volt cable. The accident was so severe, that even after his left hand was amputated right away—nobody including his surgeon was hopeful that he would be able to recover from it. He recovered. He never gave up. He saw his silver lining in his right hand. And, his passion for sports gave his life a new meaning. The road ahead like always was not easy. When he took serious sports as his career, there were hurdles all along the way. People used to mock him after seeing him entering sporting arena—they felt that he was there because of ‘jugad’ or recommendation. But the moment they saw him throwing javelin, they had to often take their words back. After winning the district championship and gaining strength from there, Jhajharia is today a living legend in Indian sports.
Belonging to an army background helped me. Army teaches you to be prepared for any eventuality and situation. On the lighter side, I always say, as a child I had greater fascination for wheels than sports. Perhaps, God said, Go and lead the rest of your life on wheels only -Deepa Malik, (Shot Putt)
Deepa Malik has got heart of a lioness. When she was in early thirties, after battling multiple surgeries through her childhood, she was given seven days to celebrate her last days of walking. Lesser mortals would have slipped into endless bouts of depression or even worse. But not Deepa. She utilised those days to create an amenable environment around her. And more importantly, to prepare herself for what she saw a fresh innings in her life. Deepa as she says now; ‘utilised these days to get a head start on her physical training to power through her impending paralysis’. Deepa a paraplegic, paralysed from waist down, mother of two and wife of an army officer has created history. She is the first ever Indian woman to win a medal in paralympics. She is a
living and walking motivational speaker par excellence today.
Varun Singh Bhati was diagnosed with Polio at a very young age. One of his legs got deformed. Despite all this, 21-year-old from Uttar Pradesh is now a proud Paralympics medal winner. His huge cut outs and banners adorn the heart of Greater Noida. “These four Indian medal winners in the Rio Paralympics games have come up with a loud and defining message for the Indians at large. If we can do this, so can you. Come, walk the talk with us”, says Suranjan Sinha, a leading sociologist of the country. Despite all the handicaps and setbacks in their journey called
life- they saw a dream. More
importantly, they embarked the journey to fulfill this dream with a vengeance. These warriors have ignited the thought process in the remotest villages of the country. “They are the ideal role
models, the real heroes in the country like ours. We are from the country where challenges are many. But if we show steely resolve like them, no one can stop us from reaching our destination”, says Viveka Jha, an educationist living in a remote village in Jharkhand.
India today may be celebrating the success of these four paralympic
warriors but one fundamental aspect needs to be delved deeper. What is ‘the factor’ which motivates Mariyappan Thangavelu, Devendra Jhajharia, Deepa Malik and Varun Singh Bhati to move ahead in their lives, undeterred inspite of setbacks, disadvantages and road locks? And more importantly, will their phenomenal feats, be able to change the society’s perception about them? For both these answers, we will have to travel far distant to Ballarat in Australia and know the life and understand the observations of Angela Moore. There could be a few better examples of
overcoming adversity and embracing life- than Angela. The Courier of Australia recounts her life with these words, “A medical mishap leaves a
perfectly healthy baby with a life-long disability. The child learns to live with her disability and embraces it, only to be struck down by cancer later in life. This is not a dreamt-up premise for the latest film to come out of Hollywood. For Ballarat’s Angela Moore—this is her reality. But Angela’s story doesn’t end there. Her film builds a crescendo of triumph over adversity. The current scene; a smiling, happy woman excited by what the future holds. Her closing
credits now seem a long way off.”
In an article titled ‘A Medical Mishap’ by Angela Moore, which appeared in the internationally
respected journal, Angela calls for a greater understanding from the
populace for the people with a disability and places an emphasis on people living with a disability to embrace their condition and look beyond it. She further writes, ‘Having an acquired physical disability is a small part of the person I am. The manner in which I acquired a severe physical disability is what I have come to value along with the fact that I have done well in many areas of life while having such a severe condition”. Writer cum journalist Abhiranjan Kumar hits the nail on the head when he says, “This holds truth with not only Angela Moore, there is a varying degree of Angela not only in these four Indian paralympians who triumphed in Rio, but in most of those who were part of the Indian contingent. And those who are emerging triumphant in various fields of life.” As Deepa Malik says, “Whenever I realised that life is
getting out of my hand, it came up with the lesson of living life in much better way.” And they do find a mechanism to do so in their own
chosen manner. Deepa further says, “Belonging to an army background helped me. Army teaches you to be prepared for any eventuality and fight it out from any situation. On the lighter side, I always say, as a child I had greater fascination for wheels than sports. Perhaps, God said, Go and lead the rest of your life on wheels only”. (And she starts laughing).
While for them embracing their condition and looking beyond was the sole mantra, the unfortunate part is that the larger part of our populace lacks proper understanding for the disabled. In fact they are mocked and dissuaded at every stage. Deepa says, “There were many sarcastic comments. They used to inquire if my marriage is getting off well and if I am feeding and growing up my child properly and so on and so forth. But I am a fighter. Whoever
questions or doubts my ability, I love proving them wrong. And when some of them sympathetically said that Deepa happened to be of outdoor nature, love swimming and driving, I made it a point that I do all these things all over again.’ It’s here that a major course correction is required. What they are calling for is not any type of special treatment, but for an environment where they are accepted as they are. After Rio Paralympics and the success of Deepa, Varun, Thangavelu and Devendra- the onus will be on the populace at large. Somewhere a beginning has to be made. Let this dawn happen after Rio.
(The writer is a senior Sports Journalist)