I met Sujina S. Babu in Akshaya Patra, our role model site for Vizag. A friend introduced us, and I extended my hand to shake hers. I looked down and realised that she has an orthopaedic disability.
Noticing my fleeting expression of shock, which I tried to quickly cover with an extra wide smile, she grinned.
She’s a 20-year-old B.Tech student from Kollam, Kerala, who’s loving Jagriti Yatra, as it reaches its middle milestone. She’s always been interested in sports and has had a focus on athletics. In fact, she’s also competed at the state level in shot put, javelin, discus throw, and volleyball.
“I was born like this. I don’t even notice it anymore. It doesn’t stop me from doing anything I really want to do,” the 20-year-old commented.
In fact, she’s always wanted to be a guitarist. And a cyclist.
When she first demanded a cycle in the fifth standard, her parents were a little doubtful. Overriding her mother’s concerns, however, her father got her a cycle and adjusted it for her special needs.
“I don’t even need to hold the handles now, not even with one hand, I’m so accomplished,” she says proudly.
Her confidence was born when her PE teacher, Mr. John Titus, took a special interest in her and made sure she got involved in sports. While other kids in her school would shun her and would refuse to play with her, he asked Sujina to try out a sport.
“At first, I thought he was joking. I was sceptical and refused. But he kept encouraging me. ‘You are, you can, you have the potential,’ he would tell me. When I was still hesitant, he spoke to my parents. My parents were very supportive: they told me, ‘whatever you want, you can do it’.”
“On the first day, some of my very close friends laughed, and made fun of me. The comments I overheard were discouraging, but I took it as motivation to work harder, to be better. The day I stood first in shot put at the sub-district level and second in discus throw, I knew I’d proved them wrong,” she finishes with a smile, and blushes when I compliment her courage.
She’s finishing her studies at the moment and wants to pursue a career in sports. It’s amazing the clarity and maturity she has at this age.
Jagriti Yatra brings almost 500 such individuals together, who have beautiful stories of courage, sheer grit, and the will to conquer the impossible, handpicked from the 28 states of India, as well as 47 other countries, on a unique train journey across the length and breadth of India. Our mission is to build India through enterprise, and we do this by visiting 8 role models like Aravinda Eye Care, Goonj, Akshaya Patra, Kalkeri Sangeet Vidyalaya, and SELCO, among others.