Ahmedabad: Her family might be struggling to make ends meet, but that did not stop Maya Devipujak from following her dream of wielding the hockey stick on ice despite being bracketed among those with with Mild Intelligence Quotient. Maya is the only girl from Gujarat in the Indian Floor Hockey team which would paticipate in the World Winter Games (Special Olympics) which will be held in PyeongChang, South Korea, from January 29 to February 5. Hailing from the economically backward Devipujak community, the 19-year-old is the first person from her community to scale such heights, her mother Kamu Devipujak, a vegetable vendor, says proudly.
"I have not even gone to Ahmedabad...It is for the first time that someone from our community is flying in a aeroplane.
I am very happy...she has brought our community a good name," Kamu said. Maya's father suffers from a mental disorder and is unable to go to work and earn for the family, Kamu said, adding they live in a slum near Mehsana railway station, 77km from here. Maya was enrolled in a special school for mentally-challenged children run by Khodiyar Education Trust (KET), the trust's project co-coordinator, Vishnu Chaudhary, said.
After completing Class VII, she helped her mother in running the home for one year. That's when KET enrolled her again and started giving her vocational training in making handicrafts. However, what caught the eye of sports teachers at KET was her performance in the district and state tournaments organised by them, Chaudhary said, adding, she had pace and her control over the puck (ball) was good. She was then selected for the national camps and from then on, she has not looked back. The teenager attended national camps in Delhi, Shimla, Chandigarh and Bilaspur before being shortlisted for the national side.
However, there arose a small hurdle - to get a passport. The joy of being selected for the Indian Floor Hockey team soon gave way to disappointment when her application was rejected as she didn't have a permanent residential address. Belonging to a below poverty line (BPL) family, she lived in a slum built on Government land and did not have an electricity bill, Chaudhary said. Other mandatory residential documentary proofs were also not there and that's when JR Mothaliya, Superintendent of Police, Mehsana, intervened and issued a bonafide certificate so that Maya could get the travel document and fulfil her dream of participating in the Games.
Mothaliya said "without a permanent address, it was difficult for the family to get a passport for the girl. So, I issued a bonafide so that the girl could fulfil her dreams of participating in the Special Olympics". Floor hockey belongs to the family of indoor games, usually in the style of ice hockey, that are played on flat floor surfaces such as a basketball court. As in other hockey codes, players on each team attempt to shoot a ball or puck into a goal using sticks, usually with a curved end. There are six players - a goalkeeper, two defenders and three forwards.