Our Paralympians Won Two Gold Medals, But We Still Failed Them

Posted on September 23, 2016 in Disability Rights, Sports, Staff Picks

By Nakul Gupta:

India’s Rio sojourn, has finally come to an end, which will be for reasons well-substantiated, a track and field event wherein the very hollow crux of the Indian society and it’s polity, stood for its best exposé. Irony, as it is, has been the biggest blot on the system’s upbringing; a system rooted in our very hearts, where quantity has been the best savior, while quality wept in the backyard, where the likes of orthodoxy has eroded our very rational selves, and wherein, against passionate speeches, actions have always been cold.

Mariyappan Thangavelu wasn’t a household name, against the likes of Olympians, who regularly featured in the documentaries in the run up to the event, or the day-long debates on what will be the tragedy of the bout that overtook the political discussions. But, then, as evident, he didn’t even require this paid advert, decided in the closed editorial meets, because these are small things when you’ve struggled against bigger hardships in life.

What is frightening over here, is the grave inequality with which Olympians and Paralympians, have been treated in India, while contemporary countries realise the significance of a Paralympic medal, as much as an Olympic one. Twitter was flooded even when any one of the 119-member strong Olympic contingent, advanced through a stage, but was relatively mum when it came to Paralympic success. I fail to understand, the extent to which Jhajharia’s gold added, has been under-estimated, when a silver at the Olympics is still doing rounds of conclaves, interviews, felicitations, and road-shows.

As far as ‘the’ Olympics was concerned, the sheer downfall of expectations led to the exaggeration of a few victories, and that is, in all justified circumstances, true for any human existence. However, what defines the whole mismatch of the system, is this very incomprehensible silence when, those who were left on their own, got the Indian National Anthem played, not once, but twice, even when they weren’t soothing for officials in terms of numbers.

There’s a popular demand in the market, much so in the market of scrupulous intentions and fabricated statements, for an equal sporting honor for the Paralympians, as was extended to nearly a quarter of the Olympic contingent which represented this very system-ridden nation. While polity’s governance will play its own cards, the very question of societal outlook towards the participant athletes in Paralympics 2016, is a demand we must struggle for, as these sporting honors have in the chaos of the bureaucracy, descended far from their esteemed positions to a matter people lobby hard for.

Mariyappan’s Rs. 30 lakh donation to his government school, of the official prize money, also reflects how education plays a role in building a resolute inner-self, while the system still denies them a equal say, by denying for a major segment, the accessibility to these resources.

It is true, for the self-defeated, to hide under the pretext that India is a comparably backward and traditional society, compared to the Western’s progressive ones. But, is this even a fair argument, while the comparison seems absolutely ridiculous? The question one must ask is what holds them back when even the very concept of ‘disabled‘ has been visualised as ‘divine‘ in PM Modi’s words.

The President of the International Paralympic Committee outlined the vision for which Paralympics stand, “Over the years, the Paralympic Games have developed a strong track record for changing and challenging deep-rooted views in society regarding disability,” and these will have to be for, India also, as for the world, the ultimate “catalyst to grow.”

There’s a committee in pipeline, to increase the quantum of medals India brings back home. But, as far as winning Paralympics is concerned, what’s needed is not a committee, but an amalgamation of passionate doctors and healthcare, an optimistic societal approach, and the pleasure in being born to achieve a dividend, and not to perish behind the curtains, and on the wheels, that wouldn’t strive for the freedom for a budding athlete, and for that matter, a professional, that the heart yearns to be.

Even, on this triumphant spree, there were heroes, who weren’t the usual discriminatory lot, and strived, in the face of societal tantrums, to make them realise the potential within themselves.

Let’s cheer for Mariyappan, Varun, Deepa and Devendra, and the 19-member strong team, who had a mission which surpassed the glitters of medal, on having accomplished their feat, of letting the Paralympic story reach the masses.