Defying disability: Gujarat's beacon of inspiration

Despite facing lifelong physical challenges, Ranjit Gohel’s journey from overcoming polio to excelling in sports and advocacy exemplifies resilience, inspiring countless others, writes Dilip Singh Kshatriya
Defying disability: Gujarat's beacon of inspiration

GUJARAT :At 57, Ranjit Pyara Saheb Gohel, a government official in the Rail Mail Service, stands as a testament to resilience and determination. Despite facing physical challenges since childhood, Ranjit has not only overcome his disabilities but has also excelled in sports, mountaineering, and social work. His journey is a beacon of inspiration, demonstrating that with grit and passion, one can turn adversity into opportunity.

Ranjit’s early years were marked by the adversity of polio, which paralysed his right leg at the tender age of three. Born into a modest Ahmedabad-based family, he had to step up early in life to support his household after completing ninth grade. This responsibility forged a sense of duty and resilience in him, setting the stage for his future endeavours.

The turning point in Ranjit’s life came three decades ago when he tragically lost a friend to drowning due to his inability to swim. Determined to never feel powerless again, Ranjit embarked on a journey to learn to swim—a decision that would redefine his capabilities and ambitions.

His path to becoming a swimmer was not without hurdles. Initially denied admission to a government swimming training institute due to his disability, Ranjit persisted, eventually securing a place through personal appeals. Overcoming the challenge of swimming with one functional leg, he not only mastered the sport but also developed his own unique backstroke technique. This dedication culminated in multiple medals at national and international swimming competitions, including a notable fifth-place finish at an international event in Queensland, Australia.

Beyond swimming, Ranjit’s adventurous spirit led him to conquer mountains, including the formidable Chandrakhani Pass and Sar Pass in the Himalayas. His feats in mountaineering underscored his indomitable will and physical prowess, earning him admiration and respect in sporting circles.

Cricket also became a platform for Ranjit to showcase his talent and determination. As a key player for the Gujarat team, he contributed significantly to their national championship victories in 1994 and 1996, subsequently earning a spot on the national team. Ranjit’s achievements in diverse sports highlight his versatility and commitment to excellence.

In 1989, Ranjit’s perseverance paid off when he secured a government job in the Railway Postal Service, a milestone that granted him financial independence and shattered stereotypes about disability at workplace.

Outside his professional endeavours, Ranjit remains deeply committed to serving his community. He has amassed an impressive collection of 185 medals in various sports, including 85 gold medals and 20 international gold medals. However, his greatest achievements lie in his altruism and advocacy for the physically handicapped.

Ranjit’s involvement with organizations like the Society for the Physically Handicapped and the Lions Club reflects his passion for supporting fellow individuals with disabilities. Through these platforms, he has spearheaded initiatives ranging from organizing blood donation camps to providing free coaching in sports like swimming, cricket, and badminton..

“Employment is the biggest challenge for the disabled,” Ranjit emphasizes, explaining his initiative to organize charity events that create job opportunities for the handicapped. His advocacy extends to legal assistance for disabled individuals facing challenges with government schemes, ensuring they receive the support they deserve.

Ranjit’s impact transcends his local community, reaching across 33 districts in Gujarat where he actively advocates for disability rights and conducts seminars on disability law. In reflecting on his journey, Ranjit remains humble yet determined. “It hurts when people see me only as poor and disabled,” he shares, acknowledging the prejudices that persist. However, through his actions and achievements, Ranjit has reshaped perceptions, proving that disability does not define one’s potential.

His life story is a testament to the power of perseverance. His achievements in sports and public service have not only broken barriers but have also inspired generations to redefine what is possible. As he continues to champion the cause of the disabled, Ranjit serves as a role model for all, reminding us that true greatness lies not in the absence of challenges, but in the courage to overcome them.

Beyond his accomplishments, Ranjit Gohel’s legacy extends into the realms of advocacy and community service. His impact on the lives of disabled individuals in Gujarat is profound, driven by his unwavering commitment to inclusivity and empowerment. Through his role in the Society for the Physically Handicapped in Ahmedabad, Ranjit has pioneered initiatives aimed at improving the lives of disabled individuals.

Lost a friend to drowning

The turning point in Ranjit’s life came three decades ago when he tragically lost a friend to drowning due to his inability to swim. Determined to never feel powerless again, Ranjit embarked on a journey to learn to swim—a decision that would redefine his capabilities and ambitions.

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