I have cheated death three times in my life. In case you’re wondering, I’m only 14. Soon after I was born, I slipped into a coma for almost three weeks after developing a high fever. My Dad tells me that the medical team then had almost given up on my chances of survival. When I was 5, I fell into a narrow borewell and was almost crushed by a machine during the rescue operation. Another time, I suffered an electric shock when I touched a live wire at home and lost consciousness.
My family calls me ‘The Miracle Child’ and survivor.
Growing up, I attended a mainstream school as my parents did not realise that I had an intellectual disability accompanied by dyslexia. Because of my poor grades, a teacher recommended that I be sent to a private school for children with intellectual disabilities. It broke my Dad’s heart. I remember him crying bitterly at the time, refusing to accept the news that I was different from other children.
It was difficult for my family as they could not afford the fees for a private special education school. My Dad works as a head constable with the Haryana Police Force, while my mum runs a small home business sewing outfits for family and friends. I have an older brother, who is now 16. My Dad sought the help of friends and family, and finally, through a contact, managed to get the fees subsidized.
Changing schools transformed my life. Through my school, I learnt about the Special Olympics movement in India, and was introduced to sports. I remember seeing a group of girls skating, and was inspired by how graceful yet strong they looked when they were in the rink. I wanted to prove to the world that I could be powerful too.
With the encouragement of my Dad, I picked up skating, swimming and cycling. I am thankful that he has been beside me, holding my hand, and cheering me on throughout this entire journey. In the beginning, I was fearful to train with strangers, but Dad was always there to help me overcome my fear.
Neighbours and friends used to say to Dad, “She can’t even walk properly. How do you expect her to skate competitively? What can this girl do?” But he has always believed in me. Apart from my training with Special Olympics, he also engaged private coaches, despite my family’s limited means, so that I can live my dream. Over the past four years, Dad has been taking me to a private skating rink every weekend where I train for up to five hours at a time.
I have since taken part in several inter-school competitions and won medals. Recently, the biggest honour came when I was selected to represent India in short track speed skating at the Special Olympics Invitational Games 2020 held in Sweden. It was my first time on a plane and competing on an international stage.
All I could think of while I was in the rink was winning the gold medal for Dad. I gave it my all and eventually took home two silver medals.
I was so excited I called home immediately to share the news with my family. Through a video call, my mum saw snow for the very first time. I’m proud that in some small way, I’m achieving little miracles and helping my family live their dreams too.
I may walk, learn, and look a little different from others. But in all honesty, are we really that different?