Ex-skipper of Indian wheelchair cricket team takes to manual labour for livelihood in Uttarakhand
Dhami has been training at least 19 specially-abled teenagers in various aspects of cricket including batting, bowling, fielding in the absence of government support.
DEHRADUN: The Captain of Uttrakhand Wheelchair Cricket Team Rajendra Singh Dhami (34) has resorted to manual labour for his livelihood in absence of any help from the state government, meanwhile building his own team.
Former captain of specially-abled Indian cricket team Dhami has been training at least 19 specially-abled teenagers in various aspects of cricket including batting, bowling, fielding.
"I have witnessed many 'Divyang' people taking their lives under stress and losing hope. I have been in the same dark area once but refused to give up. My efforts are focussed at giving them a purpose of life to which they could hold on forever and shine like a star, " says Dhami with firm resolve while he breaks down stones to be used in construction for a road under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
As COVID-19 epidemic has gripped the country and the world prompting lockdowns and other remedial measures. Dhami had to travel back to his native village Raikot in the border district of Pithoragarh from Rudrapur.
"I used to train Divyang children and practice myself to prepare for future tournaments but Covid pandemic halted everything," adds the postgraduate in History.
A B.Ed degree holder, he came to know about the specially-abled cricket team in the year 2014 through social media.
"It was more of a hobby than passion for the game in the beginning but as I got involved, the game became my life, " says Dhami who led the specially-abled Indian cricket team in 5 matches and played overseas in Kathmandu, Malaysia and Bangladesh.
Dhami's life paints a stark picture of struggles that most cannot even think of enduring and yet he refuses to give up. After contracting polio while he was just 2-years-old his legs were not strong enough to walk and play like his peers. His parents, farmers in the village which is plagued by migration, put in every effort they could till their eldest child was 12-years-old.
Mahendra Singh (65), father of Dhami says, "We took our son to stretches of India but there was no hope for a cure. At last, we decided to fight and motivate our son to not give up."
Dhami is the recipient of state award if Uttarakhand in 2015 from then Chief Minister Harish Rawat. The prize fetched him cash of Rs 5000, a certificate of appreciation and promises of job which have not been fulfilled till date. His home is a dilapidated structure that can come down anytime.
Recently, Dhami received financial assistance of Rs 11,000 from actor Sonu Sood who has assured further help in the future. With family income not exceeding Rs 3000 at the moment, he and his father work as manual laborers while his mother tends to a cow for some extra income by selling milk.
Dhami's education started later than his peers when he reached the age of 10. The hurdles, economic, physical and mental agony could not bog him down.
"I was resolved to not give up but my teachers and many others helped me a lot," says Dhami who was a civil services aspirant who qualified for the preliminary examination for Uttarakhand state provincial civil services in the year 2012. However, he could not continue to study further due to financial constraints.
Manoj Singh Pokhariyal, his teacher who taught Dhami maths in government school in class 10 recalls, "He has a lot of potential given proper opportunities. Raju was hard working and performed every task given to him with complete honesty."
Either Dhami's father used to carry him to his school, which was 10 kms from the place they resided, or he 'crawled' the distances with someone giving him lift on the way.
Dhami wants the government to provide basic amenities and infrastructure to the border areas so that some opportunities for employment are generated for people.
"No one leaves one's birthplace without pressing concerns which exceed emotional need to continue living where you are born. The majority do not have any employment and educational opportunities in my village and many others. The government should provide infrastructure and employment opportunities in border areas," said Dhami.