Mumbai: Mark Dharmai and Bina Singh were offered wheelchairs for the 1.5-km Champions With Disability event, but the two freinds declined and walked together, chatting, nudging and teasing each other, as they had done on their way to Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus and from there to the start line.
Mr. Dharmai, who is 33 and 4’2” tall, and Ms. Singh, 49 and 3”, have known each other for five year from Little Giants, an organisation for people with dwarfism.
For Mr. Dharmai, it was his first time at the Mumbai Marathon, and he was there because Ms. Singh, who was doing her sixth, encouraged him to sign up. He comes from a fishing family in Chimbai, Bandra, and has won medals for India in para badminton. “There have been times when I was made to feel bad simply because of the way I was,” he says. “I had been bullied and made fun of because of my height. The children in my class told me that I would never be able to achieve anything.”
Ms. Singh in turn credits Mr. Dharmai with motivating her to participate in athletics meets for people with disabilities: “Mark told me to try and I went for the selection trials and got selected for the state.” Her events are short put and discus, and she has won a trophy in a national-level meet. She has also been a dance enthusiast for the last eight years.
They want other people with dwarfism to come out into the world rather than hide from the world.
“It does not make sense to keep ourselves hidden our entire lives because of a few seconds of curious glances,” Mr. Dharmai says.
Ms. Singh agrees: “It is okay to be different, and accepting yourself is the first step towards people accepting you.”