HYDERABAD: The year was 1984. Umendra, a young jawan undergoing training at the Artillery Centre here, was looking forward to the day he would serve his country on the battlefield. Fate, though, had other plans for him. He met with a road accident and was left paralysed chest under. Today Umendra is 48 years old and is dependent on a wheelchair. But like many of his kind, he’s seen the brighter side of disability. He represents India at the Paralympic games and is a member of the Paralympic Rugby team.
He has participated in national and international events and is full of zest for his new life. A game, which even able-bodied men are reluctant to pursue fearing injury, has been conquered by a 48-year-old man, differently-abled in the world’s eye, but uniquely-abled in his own right. “It wasn’t so easy initially. But now I have got used to it. I enjoy rugby and am looking forward to the new wheelchairs which will arrive soon before the start of the next tournament in Bangalore which has been specifically designed for paralympic sports,” he said with dreamy eyes.
Umendra’s case is just one among many inspiring stories that ex-jawans, cut short in their love to defend the sovereignty of India due to various bodily injuries, have to share. And on Thursday, hundreds of such motivational souls travelled from places as far as Pune and Vishakaptnam to be part of the Disabled Soldiers Rally held at the Artillery Centre here.
Conducted in connection with the celebrations of “Year of the Disabled Soldiers-2011,” the event sought to provide alternate career avenues for injured and bed-ridden jawans through interactive sessions and camps for rehabilitation, guidance, education, medical and health issues. Stalls had also been set up by the AP Viklangula Cooperative Society, Incredible India, QMTI Pune, SBI & Indusind Bank and FPO among others for the same.
Many of the participants also included war heroes, especially those who had fought in the Kargil war. Most were in their early 30s or 40s, but each radiated the youthful joy of being a vital part of India’s security. One such ex-sepoy, GV Rao, 31, had fallen 500 feet off a cliff during the Kargil war, which has left him paralysed. But he has no regrets. “I did it for my country,” he said with full of pride.
Chief Guest for the ceremony, Major general CA Krishnan, GOC, Andhra Sub-Area, in his inaugural address perfectly summed up the moment, “These soldiers continue to smile despite having sacrificed their body parts for their country. Through a life of dignity and honour, they have converted their disability into ability.” As part of the ceremony, wheelchairs were donated to a few selected jawans.