Aamir Khan’s latest release Dangal, though a biographical sport drama based on the life of former wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat and the struggle of his two wrestler daughters, confronting the patriarchal society and gender oppression, is all pervasively pigmented with lifelikeness.
When I saw it, I could immediately relate to it. I had such kind of relation with my father too. On one side he was my teacher, my guru, my guide. And on the other he was the most loving and the most affectionate father whose heart bled at my slightest pain.
He was no less than Mahavir Phogat, who taught me to wrestle with the adverse conditions which my destiny had put me into. He was the one who guided me on how hurdles are buckled and knuckled down. His only dream was to see me emerging as unbeaten and undefeated.
His upbringing never made me feel “disabled”.
He was the toughest teacher when I refused to cooperate during my rigorous rehabilitation process. Despite my obstinacy and defiance he made me do painful, tedious and exhausting physical therapies. As a young girl, I found it repulsive to wear iron leg braces with ugly and heavy boots attached to them. I wanted to wear designer sandals and slippers like other girls, but all such demands of aesthetics were turned down because they were not for me. I was there to achieve some other goal in life and that was the goal of surviving against odds. He taught me how to swim against the flow.
My father prepared me for a different kind of fight and turned me into an eager combatant. Others my age and friends did not have disabilities. I lived in a bubble completely different from other girls whose lives were completely different from mine; all carefree and fun loving. All I got trained in was how to lose, how to shun the fear of making mistakes and, above all, how to win. His upbringing never made me feel “disabled”.
He made me walk with those ‘ugly heavy boots’ attached to the cage-like callipers everyday counting each and every step that I took. It was like mandatory to drink fruit juice after every hour of walking and that too in the neighbourhood park where everyone turned their heads around to see me as someone who was from a different planet wearing iron callipers attached to Milwaukee brace till my neck. Sometimes I used to hate him for that. To me it was nothing less than ‘cruelty’. He used to massage my legs with pig oil irrespective of its nauseating odour. I even used to misbehave with him many times which I now regret.
He made me a ‘karmyogi’ in this ‘akhara’ (gymnasium) of life and taught me all the ‘daanv-pench’ (tactics) of how to win every brawl, even in the worst of conditions. I became almost a skilled wrestler, ready to fight every situation coming my way. He knew I was physically weak and so 24×7 he diligently worked on making me mentally strong. I was like his only ‘project’.
I was disciplined in all possible ways, however hard that may have been to do. When he saw me tired, both physically and mentally, he used to tell me the stories of brave soldiers and how they managed to hammer away their foes, rather than telling me fairy tales.
He connected me with my inner self.
He was the one who educated me to take my disability as a unique experience rather than considering it as a scary experience. My ‘guru’… my mentor… my father was the one who coached me in overcoming the awkwardness that I used to feel because of my disability. He connected me with my inner self. Soon I realised all the contributions I could make in the lives of others, after coming to terms with my own reality and by incorporating disability into my life. I mastered the art of smiling at people and made them understand what life is all about. I developed an openness to take part in any kind of conversation more spontaneously. I could make myself emotionally and physically available to have interactions on issues relating to my disability without any apprehension or hesitation. He infused resilience in me. Each and every cell of my body began effusing self esteem.
Though he is no longer with me, I find myself adept enough to bounce back whenever I am bogged down by life. His practical philosophy keeps on echoing in my heart, in my mind and in my spirit.
I have not won any gold medal, but I realise that I am at least successful in conditioning myself to fight any battle all alone and this is nothing less than a victory… And the ‘dangal’ of my life still continues…