"Being disabled should not mean being disqualified from having access to every aspect of life.”
Emma Thompson

Janak

Difficult beginnings

“I was born on July 2, 1992 in a small village called Charechan, near Jodhpur. When I was about 3 years old, I came down with fever and when the fever subsided I was told that both my knees were affected by polio.

My parents tell me that soon after I was stricken with polio, they took me to many hospitals all over India because they believed that I would be cured. After several years of goose-chasing, my parents realised that no cure would be found. My father said they were all devastated, especially my mother. I don’t think she has been the same since. However, my father was not one to give up. The only school in our village was quite far from where we lived but every morning my father would carry me to the school on his back.

Social exclusion

At school, life was not easy for me. Many children would make fun of me and play pranks on me. They would laugh whenever they saw me walking on my knees. I was never invited to join them in any group play or activity.

In my local community, things were in fact worse. My relatives never invited me to any ceremonial functions because they considered my presence to be a bad omen fearing that it would bring ill luck to them and their families.

Sporting ambitions…

I am very passionate about sports – all kinds of sports. In my village, I would watch cricket matches from the sidelines, often all by myself. At the end of a match, I would try to congratulate the players. Almost invariably, their response was to ignore my outstretched hand and many of them would be just plain rude and abusive. This left me feeling very bitter and angry and I would vouch never ever to attend these matches again. But my love for sports would always take me back to the playing fields.

But my life changed for the better a million-fold when I got admitted to SKSN. My father came to find out about SKSN through a relative of ours who lived in Jodhpur. Not only was he familiar with the range of facilities that SKSN provided but he was also aware of my passion for sports. Thus, at the age of 10 and 7 years after I contracted polio, I was admitted to SKSN. At SKSN, I was very happy from day one. I started seeing things differently because everyone here had some disability and many had disabilities far worse than mine. But still everyone welcomed each other and played hard. It was almost like we had a community of our own. And they helped me a lot because at first I was very homesick. I especially missed my mother and my brothers and sisters.

…realised

As time went by, I became more and more engrossed in sports. I started competing with senior boys in all kinds of events like santolia, kabbadi, wheelchair racing, and of course, cricket. Looking back, I think the turning point in my life was when I was in standard 4. I was selected to participate in mini Para Olympics held in England where I won 5 gold medals including one for cricket ball throw. When I was in standard 8th, IMAGE hosted its first ever games for the disabled. I was proud to be named the team captain and we won several gold medals.

Polio Children provides much-needed support

While SKSN gave me an opportunity to live my childhood like any able-bodied child, Polio Children is helping boys and girls like me become independent in adult life – like any other able-bodied adult. When I first came to SKSN, we had to crawl 50 yards across a stony path just to get to the toilets. Polio Children constructed sanitary facilities attached to our dorm rooms. It has also provided many other facilities including a computer lab, a prosthetics lab, and most importantly funding higher education through their University Education Fund and for a Vocational Training Centre. Without this help from Polio Children, most us would have had to return to our villages with no real prospects for work or for an independent life.

All these opportunities that I was given have had a dramatic effect on my life away from SKSN. Whereas previously I was not even acknowledged on the cricket field, I now captain my village cricket team. Most of my neighbors and relatives now welcome me into their homes and many of them encourage their children to spend time with me so that I could teach them how they too can accomplish what I have so far. Most importantly, to me, no one now looks at me with pity in their eyes.

Goals for the future

I will continue to work hard to achieve my life ambition of becoming a sports coach for physically challenged people. I want to help every disabled child achieve his/her maximum potential. Until then, I will continue to work hard on doing my best in the London Marathon 2011 where I hope to participate in wheelchair racing. No pity! Just wish me luck, please!”

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