Her world collapsed in 2006 when she fell from the terrace and broke her spine. Shatabdi Avasthi was 21 then.
“I remember nothing of how I fell,” she mumbles. Twelve years down the line she is a celebrity in Jaipur.
Ahead of the Para Asian Games to be held in Jakarta next month, she reflects on her past even as she looks ahead with optimism.
Employed with State Bank of India in Jaipur, Shatabdi bristles with confidence with the smile on her face aptly reflecting her character.
Shot put was the discipline her coach Mahaveer Prasad Saini advised. She has a few national medals and some international – silver at World Para Athletic Grand Prix last year and a bronze in the same competition this year.
“There is recognition. There are financial awards. But there are also times when we are looked down upon for being disabled. I don’t seek sympathy but it hurts when you see discrimination. It is most pronounced when we struggle due to lack of accessibility to so many things,” Shatabdi puts her lament across.
It is no different for Sandeep Mann, a sprinter who competes with able bodied. He is a star with gold medals in international events held in 2017 and this year.
“I am not affected if someone taunts or mocks. There are more who shower affection and boost us to do well. I was good at sport since school and I am glad I chose sport over academics. I can earn from sports,” asserts the 25-year-old Mann.
He tried his luck with football and basketball before becoming an athlete.
Shatabdi knew nothing of sports before the injury. And then sport became her life. She won 50 lakh in Amitabh Bachchan’s popular TV show Kaun Banega Karorepati (KCB).
“I win awards. I actually fight my body to overcome my opponent. It’s tough. But I make my family happy and help them forget that dark day when I broke my spine. They take pride in my sporting excellence and tell the world they want a daughter like me. Sports has helped differently enabled to avoid being burden on their family,” Shatabdi says with a smile.
Sundar Singh Gurjar, a javelin thrower, keeps to himself. Shatabdi does the talking for him.
“He is hard working and dreams big. He will become big one day,” she is sure.
Gurjar missed a sure gold at Rio Olympics because he reported a minute late. Supported by Project Divyang, the athletes acknowledge their sponsors and add in unison that they like the “positive pressure to do well in sport and life.”
As Saini feels, they can do with better infrastructure like sports hostels.
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