Khushi Ganatra, a para-athlete found her true calling in sports. This made her fulfilled and above the limitations presumably imposed by her diability.
People with disabilities are often marginalized, neglected, and discriminated against in society. The consequences of this exclusion are far-reaching, such as social isolation, poverty, and poor health. This segment of the population needs to fight harder for their rights, representations, and inclusion.
We need to empower and encourage people with disabilities. Society should be a safe place for them to accept themselves as they are and not think they’re any lesser human beings. There are many achievers, artists, sportsmen and women, writers, singers, and painters who deal directly or indirectly with disability. We need to put them out there so that people can see the strength in them and set the model for others like them.
Change happens slowly when a member of this community makes a headline and sometimes the limelight only stays for a limited period. After that, people forget how necessary it is to make the world disability-inclusive.
Khushi Ganatra: A Para-athlete
This is a story of Khushi Ganatra, a para-athlete finding her way through the hardships of her life. From childhood till today, she was discriminated against and sympathized with for being specially abled. Now, she found her true calling in sports.
It was and still is difficult to pursue sports as a para-athlete. However, Khushi manages to extract her daily motivation from the supportive people around her.
The Story of Khushi Ganatra
I was born with a disability called Spina Bifida. Due to this disability, my lower body (below the belly button) is paralyzed. I can’t control or feel any sensation in my lower body parts. Since childhood, my mother has handled and taken care of my needs.
My parents separated when I was barely 7 years old. It was difficult for my mother to raise two kids alone. However, she didn’t give up in the face of hard circumstances. My mother provided everything that we needed to live a safe and happy childhood.
When the time of my school admission came, mom tried to get me into a school. But each school declined, hinting at my disability as their excuse. Then, there was no awareness about disabilities and no school was disability-inclusive. I tried to learn from my younger brother’s books. My friends, neighbors, and private tutors also helped me with the process. Despite the effort, I couldn’t complete my proper schooling.
I still make a lot of grammatical mistakes. But, I have made up my mind to complete my studies and excel in them. So, probably someday, I will be writing without making any grammatical errors.
Disability in a Social Construct
There is a real problem in our society. It has always been partial to disabled people. We are treated differently with pity and some type of mercy, and that’s not what we need. We need equal treatment and inclusion. We need the opportunity to succeed without being labeled a misfit. Don’t pity us but accept us as ordinary human beings that enrich diversity. We do not demand special treatment. We demand equality!
My disability didn’t let me go out and meet people. But whoever came home pitied me. They commented that I was born with a disability because of my past sins. Their words and constant poking messed up my brain. But my mother and my brothers always supported me. Their support and love pulled me out of negativity.
A Para-athlete’s Journey Began
Starting para-athlete sports was a lifesaver for me. It changed the way I lived. It transformed me into a new human being. Previously, I used to watch a lot of sports videos on YouTube. Afterward, I got connected to Nisha Gupta. She was forming a para-athlete basketball team in Mumbai. After a conversation, we collaborated to form the team. Together, we assembled a group of para-athlete basketball enthusiasts. However, we didn’t stop there as we moved on to start an awareness program.
The main reason behind starting this program was the lack of accessibility in India. Most of the places, especially the grounds, are not accessible for wheelchairs. People didn’t let us practice in other areas. No coach agreed to train us.
Authorities criticize this behavior before but nothing changes. Even today, we still go through the same struggles. In the end, we started practicing wherever we found a place. The last Paralympics highlighted the para-athletes, but it was short-lived. The limelight was not enough for people like us playing in the internals. Therefore, I am planning to open a non-profit start-up. The organization will feature sports events for both disabled and non-disabled people. So that people could see that there’s no big difference in the matches. It’s only our perspective that makes the difference. The organization will also focus on kids and housemakers to help them stay fit and balanced.
Khushi Ganatra ‘s Life Today
Currently, it’s just a thought, but I am taking steps toward making it happen. I have also been working as a sports organizer for the past few years. Besides sports, I work as a video wedding editor in a firm. I have been working there for over eight years now.
My whole life revolves around sports. It’s something I am deeply passionate about. Sports have changed my life and have given me physical and mental strength. I received my family’s support but other people don’t get that. Hence, my goal is to make sports reach every section and every part of society, equally.
I would also like to represent India someday. That’s my dream.
I was born with a disability, but I’ve never allowed it to restrict me from achieving anything. I think that’s the lesson I have learned from life. One should be happy and satisfied with whatever one have. But one should also work hard in improving themselves without giving up. One day, the never-giving-up attitude will surely take you far to reach success.
Authored by Aashna Chawla
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