“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” – Christopher Reeve.
Bhavina Patel and Avni Lakhera demonstrated — yet again — that a physical handicap is scarcely a stumbling block for a determined person. When they stunned everyone with their triumph in the recent Paralympics, the table tennis champ and the ace shooter surely spawned that familiar sentiment of empathy in Raj Bandhara, Ved Patel, Manak Patel and Rachna Shah in Ahmedabad.
If Raj, 24, with cerebral palsy, has picked silver and bronze medals in skating at the 2019 Abu Dhabi Special Olympics and aspires to compete at the normal games, 28-year-old Rachna, who is deaf, holds a driving licence, has completed her Arangetram, holds a Bachelors in Technology and a doctorate on the theme of “extraordinary abilities of differently-abled.”
Raj and Rachna are not only special because of their achievements, but also for they were brought up and inspired by single mothers.
Raj’ lost his father at a young age. Since school, he was a hard-training athlete in skating, a sport his mother Bhavna made him learn despite several hurdles she had to face.
“I made him do skating because his school coach suggested that his balance will improve by doing so. Everyone told me that he can’t do anything in life but I took that as a challenge and took an oath that I will teach him to walk not just on the ground but also on roller skates,” says Bhavna. Raj has consistently won medals at the Khel Mahakumbh for the past 12 years. He is an animation aspirant who loves DC comics and wishes to work with them, he teaches skating to his colony kids. His mother & his younger sister are hoping that he might get enrolled in a government job soon so his future can be secured.
Rachna was born 100% deaf. Her disability shook her household, even forcing her parents to separate, but her mother Dr. Gyaneshwari Shah never gave up on her. She believed that rather than making a big deal of her daughter’s disability if she treated her like a normal child, she can get through this. Her inspiration was Miss America 1994. “She was deaf and still won the title. I was inspired by that, I have conveyed this to her as well that you are my inspiration. I thought if she can do it so can Rachna,” said Gyaneshwari.
Rachna’s mother & her family took the help of the John Tracy Clinic in California to take guidance for her situation. The clinic conducted a great correspondence treatment and is still in touch with them. “She has also done a diploma certification course in fashion designing. She’s an extraordinary girl who loves to publish her own books on poems & fashion, does charity stage shows, but she is also an ordinary girl who seeks a normal life,” says Rachan’s mother.
Manak Patel, a 15-year-old autistic boy, is beyond exceptional. He has won a participation medal in an open-sea swimming competition held in Goa in 2019, he completed the 2 Km trench in 42 minutes 40 seconds. Manak was the only special child who competed in that tournament. He was 2 years old when he was diagnosed with autism and ever since then his parents began OT & Speech therapy as he did not have a clear speech when he was very young. This mental disability of Manak came as a shock to his parents but despite the hurdles, they decided to begin all the necessary treatments for him immediately. To assess his condition, his parents took him for diagnosis because Manak was a very hyper child, his father Dr Bipin Patel being an anaesthetic doctor decided that to burn out the energy they needed to make him do extreme physical exercise.
They began with taking him on an 8km walk regularly, they made him swim despite his phobia of water in the beginning. “He was very scared of the water in the beginning but after a while, he got used to it and started excelling. Doctors told me in the beginning that he can’t be normal. I used to make him do academic work so once I noticed that if I want to make him understand something he has a very good grasping power so I decided to make him learn as much as I could,” says his mother Bina. The accurate and timely decision taken by his parents proved to be a boon as today Manak is in better shape than where he began, he loves to swim, cycle and leads life just like a normal teenager. His parents seek a future of him swimming, they are hoping that since he dislikes academics he might excel in swimming.
Ved Patel is a 15-year-old ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) boy. He is a sports enthusiast who loves to play cricket and swimming. He has won a participation medal in the swimathon 2020 where he completed the lag of 2 km swimming. He does his schooling at a special school called Anura. Ved was extremely hyper as a child, he had been told to leave normal schooling by the school authorities due to his abnormal behaviour, that’s when the alarm bell started ringing for his parents. They got his diagnosis done and admitted him into special schooling, various types of therapies, counselling, activities etc. His parents took inspiration from an American swimmer for their son’s journey. “Michel Phelps also has ADHD, we thought if he can do it so can our son. We make him play cricket as well since it’s a collective game & it gives him a nice exposure to be with other children,” says Ashok Patel, Ved’s father. His parents have faced a lot of societal pressure and humiliation due to Ved’s condition but they never gave up on him and continued with his therapies & activities. Currently, his swimming coach Mr Amal Upadhyaya is training him for an upcoming international swimming competition which will happen next year.