The photograph that won P. Saikrishnan the gold at the recently concluded National Abilympics (coined from Abilities and Olympics) at Jabalpur happens to be something that none of the other participants could offer — a magnificent aerial view of the venue, which this gutsy young man shot by painstakingly scrambling up a scaffolding just in front of the venue. This is no small feat, considering he has polio. “I think….I Can”, he says, with a grin.
The International Abilympics is the counterpart of the Olympic Games for the differently-abled. Chennai-based Saikrishnan's gold at Jabalpur makes him all set to represent India at the Eighth International Abilympics to be held in September at Seoul, Korea. In fact, Saikrishnan has already done the country proud by winning the silver medal in the photography contest in the Seventh International Abilympics, which is a first-of-its-kind achievement in the history of Indian Abilympics. Saikrishnan must be proud , as very few Indians have experienced the sheer thrill and honour of representing the country in successive Olympic Games — or the Abilympics, for that matter.
At the Abilympics, competitions are held in vocational skills such as photography and software programming. “The idea is to bring out the ability, rather than getting bogged down by disability”, says Saikrishnan, adding, “Abilympics also help differently-abled persons come face-to-face with the latest technology in job-oriented vocational skills. This could foster economic independence and integration with the mainstream society, with confidence and self-esteem”. And considering that 9.5 per cent of people suffer from some form of disability (World Health Organisation estimates), Abilympics is definitely a significant event.
Saikrishnan will be representing India in both outdoor and studio photography events at Korea. This calls for a great deal of shooting practice. These days, he is up at the crack of dawn to practice in different light settings, before he gets started on his regular job as a hardware engineer. Weekends are reserved for commuting in and out of the city to practice outdoor photography. His friends, Suresh and Kumaraswamy, have been pillars of support, with Kumaraswamy even converting a room in his house into a studio of sorts to enable Saikrishnan to practise studio photography. HCL Infosystems, the firm that Saikrishnan works for, has also been very supportive, financing gadgets for the champion. The National Abilympic Association of India will be chipping in with a month-long training session just before the meet, but the talented photographer requires much more professional training and funds to prepare himself to meet the standards required for international competitions. “Learning the nuances at a professional academy would empower me a great deal”, he says. “Differently-abled persons in developed countries get round-the-year, state-sponsored training and support, as do our sportspersons training for the regular Olympics,” points out Saikrishnan.
This unassuming young man had been affected by Polio as a three-year-old, but he has always held on to a never-say-die attitude and a ready smile that lights up his face. In fact, the first Abilympics that Saikrishnan attempted, the regional level events in 2007, was with a borrowed camera, as he did not own one then. But, regardless of the odds, you can always count on him to give his best shot.
Saikrishnan can be contacted at 9600064245.