CHENNAI: After his semester holidays two years ago, V Arul Augustus took an overnight bus from his hometown Natham in Dindigul district to Chennai. The bus in which he was travelling collided with a parked lorry, resulting in him losing his left leg.
Now, with a prosthetic leg, Augustus says though he regrets not being able to dance like he used to, basketball has given him a fresh lease of life. He was participating in of a workshop conducted by the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI) and the International Committee of the Red Cross recently. Speaking to City Express, the 20-year-old civil engineering student, who is now part of Chennai Eagles, a city based wheelchair basketball team, said that his dream-come-true moment would be to represent India in the Paralympics games.
While the Paralympics Committee of India is yet to recognise a team sport, WBFI representatives told CE that they are pushing hard to make their case. Above all, the message ought to be one of social inclusion of the differently abled. “Still, most stadiums in India remain inaccessible to the wheelchair bound. But, people ought to know that we do not clamour for sympathy. What the able-bodied person does, we can do as well,” said P Madhavi Latha, WBFI president, a former national Paralympic swimmer herself.
However, it needs a lot more than just funding and provision of wheelchairs for the aspiring talent. For instance, take the case of Aram Voerman, a former wheelchair basketball player who has represented the Netherlands. Voerman, who was born in Kolkata and abandoned by his biological parents when he was two years after learning he had contracted polio, was adopted by a Dutch couple at the age of five from a Delhi orphanage. Voerman, who is now a professional trainer, recollects how the Dutch government’s rehabilitation programme helped him overcome his physical limitations. He says that the absence of inclusive mindset is a major obstacle in India.
The ambit of such sports workshops extends beyond putting together a competitive team, said Malvika Iyer, a junior research fellow at the Madras School of Social Work. Iyer, who lost both her hands in an accident, said, “Not only do the workshops encourage people maimed by accidents to move on with life, but also push able-bodied persons to realise the proverbial gift that they possess.”