When I was four, I was almost killed by my own mother. I remember the ordeal vividly. We were on a bus. Before we got to our destination, my mum alighted.
Out of the blue, she carried me and smashed my head against a rock. Fortunately, she was stopped by passers-by before any further damage was done. She was arrested and sent to a hospital for people with mental disorders soon after.
I have never met my father and don’t know where he is. I was sent to an orphanage after my mother’s arrest. I understand that she wasn’t herself that day, but I cannot help but resent her. The trauma still haunts me to this day.
When I was a bit older, the orphanage enrolled me in a boarding school for children with intellectual disabilities. I felt abandoned and unwanted. I was angry all the time at everything and everyone. I had trouble adjusting and often rebelled. I struggled to get along with others. I beat up a few of my teachers and left them locked up in rooms. Because of my violent behavior, I was expelled time and again. In four years, I went to four different schools.
The turning point came when I was 14. I was then a student at the Anugraha Special School, Kottakkapuram, in Kerala. It was there that I met Ms Shilaja Chandran, a teacher at the school and a volunteer coach with Special Olympics in India. She was patient with me despite my nasty attitude. I was rude to her like I was to my other teachers in my previous schools. But she never lost her temper at me, or gave up on me.
Ms Shilaja encouraged me to take part in sports. Over the past six years, I have trained in volleyball, handball, and badminton. All these sports are fun, but my favourite is cycling. I feel free and empowered when I’m going fast on my bike. I’ve recently also discovered my love for dance.
I had to drop out of school a few years ago as I couldn’t cope with my studies. I felt sad and sorry for myself then. Sports became my solace. It helped me forget my worries. Whenever I went for training, I felt good about myself.
The biggest prize came when I was chosen to represent India in cycling at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi. It was the first time I had ever been out of the country. I gave it my all and returned with two bronze medals in the 1,000km and 500km races.
I came back to Kerala a hero. I have met so many different people since my return from the Games, congratulating me and telling me that I did well. The feeling has been unbelievable.
I even met officials from the local government at a reception held to recognize my achievements. The government has awarded me prize money that will help me fulfil my dream of continuing my education. I understand that Special Olympics is also working with the District Medical Office to certify that I’m fit for employment so that I can get a job after I graduate and be independent.
Although I have lost my biological family, I found peace through my relationship with Ms Shilaja and Ms Nailamma, who is in charge of the orphanage. Ms Nailamma loves me like a daughter. She teaches me right from wrong and encourages me to do better in life. At the orphanage, I have learnt to do simple jobs. I volunteer to run errands whenever I can and try to be a big sister to the younger residents.
All my dreams are now coming true, thanks to the love, patience, and acceptance of my friends at the orphanage and at Special Olympics. I turn 21 soon, and I’m ready to take on the world.