He is disabled, but an adept in karate

Dhanaraju giving a public performance.  

His hard work and perseverance won him medals, awards and accolades from the people besides helping him earn a few quick bucks to keep the fire burning. A keen enthusiast in bodybuilding and karate since childhood, he did not let his handicap come in the way of pursuing his dream.

He bagged a gold medal in the 400 metres race at the State-level Sports for Disabled Persons held in Hyderabad in December 1997. "When others (normal persons) can learn karate, why can't I? I used to ask myself," he recalls.

Meet Gaddupalli Dhanaraju, 26, who was afflicted with polio in both legs, when he was seven months old. His right leg has been totally paralysed but his left is partially working. His father had retired as a worker in the Dock Labour Board and his two brothers - one had done the hotel management course after his B.A. and was employed with the tourism department and the other had done Std. X - are employed and well settled and his sister was also married.

Though Dhanaraju had also completed Std. X, his handicap came in the way of getting a job, but he was not disheartened. Not willing to be a burden on his parents, he obtained a loan under PMRY and set up a pan shop-cum-STD booth at MVP Colony.

However, some of the local youth took undue advantage of his handicap and never used to pay for the goods taken from him on credit. Before long, he wound up the pan shop business and retained the public telephone booth alone. "In the beginning there were not many booths and I used to be comfortable earning about Rs.100 a day. But with the mushrooming of STD booths, of late, I am hardly able to make Rs.60 per day.

"The Karate Master, B. Nookaraju, popularly known as `Ukku Nookaraju' is my first guru. Subsequently, a Karate trainer of MVP Colony, Pola Rao, encouraged me a lot. I used to go on my tricycle to learn karate from Nookaraju at Shanti Ashramam every day. Subsequently, he had shifted to Ukkunagaram and Pola Rao became my guru," he recalls.

Dhanaraju gave his first public performance in karate and gymastics at the Swarna Bharati indoor stadium in 1999 and there was no looking back for him ever since. He performed at Kalabharati thrice and at Anakapalle last month. His stage performances are helping him to overcome the fall in revenue from the STD booth to some extent.

However, the business is preventing him from learning new techniques and honing his skills in karate. "One needs to practise at least for a few days before giving a stage performance. I open the booth at 6.30 a.m. and close it around 10.30 p.m., which gives me hardly any time for practice," he says.

He hopes to get some `9 to 5' job in any Government Department or a private company so that he could utilise the spare time to sharpen his karate skills. He is sore at the indifference of the district administration towards his plight. He hopes that at least some private company would give him a suitable job and come to his aid. He can be contacted on phone numbers 542071 or 544897.

Dhanaraju can pedal his tricycle with his feet up in the air. He has practised non-stop cycling for 24 hours at a stretch. He is yet to give a public performance in this regard. "My aim is to enter the Guinness Book for riding non-stop for 24 hours," he says and has plans to walk down the steps of Kailasagiri hill on his arms with his legs up in the air.