Bhushan Kasekar, one of the
participants in the event
against all odds, two Mumbaikars, both afflicted with polio, will
be competing in the 2012 London Paralympics.
The duo - Prakash Nadar, 35, and Bhushan Kasekar, 34, - will take
part in the discus throw and powerlifting events.
Both hail from modest economic backgrounds and have struggled all
their lives to finally achieve selection for the Paralympics,
which will begin simultaneously with the Olympics Aug 29, 2012.
Born and living in a slum in Worli in southcentral Mumbai, Nadar
runs a small stall, aptly named 'Swabhiman Communication Centre,'
outside Mumbai's Regional Passport Office to support his family -
mother M. Balasundari, wife Satya, son Hariharan (6, a student of
Don Bosco School, Matunga) and daughter Varshini (4, student of
Girls Convent High School, Dadar).
Kasekar, a graphic designer, has made international waves in the
powerlifting 175 kg category and has bagged several medals at the
national and international levels.
Polio has affected Nadar in both his legs, making him dependent on
crutches or a wheelchar, while polio has affected Kasekar's left
Both were thrilled last week when they received a confirmatory
e-mail from the Paralympics Committee of India after the national
selection trials in Bangalore.
Nadar is particularly happy as it would enable him to add to his
medal tally of 81 golds, 29 silvers and 27 bronzes so far, besides
several other awards and honours.
Nadar is also a national swimming champion who mastered the
discipline in the grimy, stinking gutter waters flowing into the
Arabian Sea near the Worli Seaface, which gets regularly flushed
out by the tidal waters.
"I took part in an event in Mumbai several years ago when a senior
police officer, Balasaheb Gadge (now an Assistant Commissioner of
Police) noticed my swimming abilities. He made great efforts to
get me trained at the professionally-run swimming pool in the
Police Camp, Worli," Nadar told IANS.
Besides swimming, Nadar also trained himself in discus throw, the
event for which he has been finally selected from 350 other
hopefuls, along with Kasekar, in Bangalore Dec 16.
"Now, we shall be coached by the government and sent to
participate in the London Paralympics-2012. We are confident that
we shall bring honours to our country," said Nadar, who was forced
to drop out of school after Class 6 due to financial constraints.
Engaged in a host of social activities, including giving jobs to
four handicapped persons in his own stall, organizing blood
donation camps in which over 16,000 bottles have been collected in
the past few years, Nadar laments the "near total absence" of
encouragement for any sports barring cricket in the country.
Nadar said that his first inspiration for swimming came from the
legendary Mumbaikar, Rajaram Ghag, who became the second
handicapped person in the world to swim the treacherous English
Channel several years ago.
"He had come to the SEC Dayschool for Crippled for a programme.
After seeing him and listening to his experiences, he became my
idol and I decided to emulate him," Nadar said.
"However, many years later, a small gesture by ACP Gadge Sir
helped me hone my swimming skills and enabled me win gold medals
in national events. Why cannot the authorities encourage other
sports equally? There are 2.20 crore physically handicapped
people, men and women, in India as per 2001 Census, but where are
the opportunities?" he asked.
Nadar pointed out that as an individual with little or no official
backing, financial support, sponsorship and professional grooming
he managed to get selected for the world's top international
"The handicapped in our country can do wonders with a little
support instead of mere sympathy, and understanding by the
officialdom and the general people at large. They can start with
ordinary things, like making all public toilets in the city
handicapped-friendly," he said.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)