When Virat Kohli steps out of his Audi, an ocean of frenzied fans are always ready to pose for a selfie with the test captain or with the earnest desire was to get an autograph of him yet players like Mariyappan Thangavelu or Devendra Jhajharia are not even known to a quarter of India’s population.
Yes, they are Paralympic medal winners, world record holders, but above all they are dedicated fighters, warriors who have battled past all odds and ends.
They not only have had to combat with poverty, physical and mental disabilities but also against this society which is nothing short of a cliche in their tough stride towards success. While Maryippan Thangavelu won gold for India in high jump, Devendra Jhajharia won another gold medal yet, after 2004 Athens Paralympics only to break his own world record, which he created 12 years back.
They have got somewhat recognition and help form the state governments after their astonishing feat yet it’s people like us who choose to ignore the tales of these heroes. It is us who are more concerned with the looks of a player and fashion statement rather than appreciating the efforts of these champions.
Deepa Malik won laurels for our country when she bagged the silver in Shot put in this year’s Paralympics. Just like Dipa Karmakar who stole billions of hearts, Deepa Malik is worthy enough to earn equal or even more appreciation and support from her countrymen. If P.V Sindhu gets Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award then why not Devendra? He has not only won the gold once but twice, and even if we overlook the colour of his medal , the fact that he has come over so much difficulties to reach at such a stage , is it not enough to bring him loads of awards and felicitation?
If Sakshi Mallik has won bronze then so has Varun Bhati, in the t-42 category of high jump. When the Indian cricket team won the world cup in 2011, it was a great achievement , no offense meant but isn’t it such a great feeling for these athletes too. But do they get such recognition even after fighting their hearts out for a little bit of support and appreciation from their fellow countrymen?
The answer is a plain simple no even if we deny to accept it! Don’t these soldiers deserve a little spark of happiness from us, just enough recognition and support to keep them going on, motivating them further in their work field. They are our true supermen and superwomen who are still a long way from getting popular and famous. And it’s us Indians who can make them feel at home, who can make them feel special.
So, the initiative needs to be taken from now on, yes there is still a long way to go but those little steps forward matter a lot. And, whether we have truly changed will be the thing to notice when the next Paralympics come. Good luck till then!
By Ahana Chattopadhyay
Coordinator, Class X, Gokhale Memorial Girls’ School