New beginnings!

Akash Dube. Photo: M. Karunakaran  

A new purpose

A high schooler in Sharjah, 18-year-old Akash was diagonised with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia or cancer of the white blood cells last January. Though it seemed like a spoke in the wheel in the journey towards his dream university (Stanford), he never gave up. Akash has been coming to Chennai regularly for his treatment. “During the treatment I needed blood transfusions and so we spread the message. The response we got was tremendous; people selflessly came forward to help me,” Akash had said in an interview to NXg last year.

With lot of support from family, friends and strangers, Akash didn't give in and is confidently fighting a winning battle. Giving his life a new purpose to is the Chennai Terry Fox Run that he has been organising from 2009 to raise funds for cancer research and also spread awareness about its importance.

Swimming against the tide

While the loss of limb might seem like the end of a childhood and the dream of becoming a sportsperson, it was not so for 28-year-old Prasanta Karmakar. Having lost his right arm at the age of seven in an accident, this Kolkata lad was dissuaded from taking up sports by his family. But not one to give up, Prasanta pursued swimming and now trains under Nihar Ameen in Bangalore. The journey has not been easy.

“For a physically challenged sportsman, it is very difficult to survive in our country — no job assurance, lack of opportunities; we have to fight to make a name for ourselves. Moreover, we need different training equipments and need sponsors. Plus, the government gives us financial support only after we achieve something. It's like promising a scholarship to a child if he comes first when he has no books to read in the first place,” said Prasanta while in Chennai to train for the Commonwealth Games last year.

Now Prasanta Karmakar is the very first Indian to win a medal in aquatics at the Commonwealth Games. He is also the first Indian ever to win a medal in aquatics at a major international competition since Khazan Singh. Ranked Asian no.3, Prasanta also won two bronze medals at the Guangzhou 2010 Asian Para Games. His grit, confidence, never-say-die attitude are an inspiration to all.

Back to school

While many children her age were in school, Jaganathan Shakthi was working in a fish shop breaking ice with her hands. It was a job that the six-year-old could not withstand physically, due to the cold and cuts and bruises she had to endure. Though she worked hard, her heart was set on playing football, which was definitely one of the motivations to go to school. But she had to drop out to make more money for her family. While her father could not find daily wage work regularly, her mother chipped in by working as a domestic help. Football, it seemed, would only remain a dream.

One day, Shakthi joined the Slum Children Sports Talent Education Development Society (SCSTEDS), a CRY partner where she got to play football every evening. Social workers from SCSTEDS and CRY convinced her parents to get re-admit her to the Corporation School.

Challenges seemed to chase her into school as well. “Many times the teachers snubbed me. ‘You are just a girl from the fish market. What can you achieve?' Beatings were considered normal. I decided from then on that I must study and show my mettle. My football master spoke to my teachers and set things right. Gradually, as my talent in football grew, all the bullying melted away.”

That was four years ago. Now 18-year-old Shakthi is a student of Dr. Ambedkar Government Arts College and plays football for the State team.

Taking on the world

Rajiv Rajan's resume runs to pages; four to be precise. That is not surprising; but what is, is the fact that he is a person with cerebral palsy — a condition that usually finds people wallowing in self-pity. Not him. With a B.Com from Loyola College and a post-graduate diploma in Human Rights from the Indian Institute of Human Rights, New Delhi, Rajiv became the first student with cerebral palsy in Tamil Nadu to successfully complete these exams.

Now Rajiv is a coordinator at Vidya Sagar and handles its legal issues. It puts a smile on your face to read his hobbies: ‘Like to travel. I have a collection of pictures on nature. Chess, watching and participating in quiz programmes.'

Downward spiral

After three years of being in a serious relationship and talks about marriage, one only expects a ‘happily ever after'. Never did Shekar expect things to take a drastic U-turn. Citing caste differences, the girl's family rejected him. Left with a broken heart and humiliated, Shekar went into severe depression, which saw him withdraw into a shell surrounded by negativity. This reflected severely in his personal and professional life. Self-doubts and questions became a part of everyday existence. Often suicide seemed like the only way out.

Ironically, the person who got him into the spiral in the first place was also responsible for getting him out of it, though indirectly. Almost after a year, the news of his ex-girlfriend's marriage to a guy of her parents' choosing was enough to trigger a feeling of anger. When she had moved on, why couldn't he?

The outcome of trying to get out of his depression led him to turn into a perfectionist, which requires a lot of time and concentration, thus keeping out thoughts about the ghosts from the past. “A perfectionist at work and gym could only be a good thing. But regaining belief in a relationship, that it can last, is the last step towards completely coming out of it, which he slowly has; and not without the support from family and friends when it mattered most,” says his now girlfriend. The relationship seems to be heading towards ‘happily ever after' after all.

Dream uninterrupted

In her second year of college, Sruthi's marriage was arranged. Though not forced, she was talked into it and reluctantly agreed, because it didn't look like a hindrance to her dream of becoming a police officer. Within a year, she was a mother. But the real problem was in her marriage. Quarrels, abusive phone calls and a decision to leave him later, she moved to her parents' home, with a baby and only a degree to support herself.

Putting plans of getting into a khaki uniform on hold, she focused on bringing up her son and also worked as a teacher in a school near home. Even then she trained religiously at a stadium near her home; running laps, long jump, 100m dash, shot put...she did everything. Now with her child in school and confident enough to give her dream a shot, she wrote the uniformed services exam. Sruthi, now 25, has joined the Women's Tamil Nadu Special Police Force — a dream come true.

“Don't cry over spilt milk. It will take you nowhere. Always think about the next practical step. It is important to face the problem, or at least learn how to face them,” is her advice.

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 6:50:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nxg/New-beginnings/article15612939.ece

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