My Story: "Disability Is A Matter Of Perception, It Should Not Stop One From Dreaming, Achieving Goals"

Manish Pandey, a 29-year-old para-athlete from Raipur, Chhattisgarh never believed disability can stop anyone from pursuing their dreams. After losing his leg in a train accident, Manish started everything from scratch. He learnt how to walk with the prosthetic leg and went on to win silver and bronze in the IPC Athletics Grand Prix in 2014. The hardcore cricket fan who is currently pursuing masters in global sports management wants to work for the betterment of specially-abled people in India and across the world, especially in sports.

Chhattisgarh   |   23 Feb 2021 2:05 PM GMT / Updated : 2021-02-23T19:49:56+05:30
Writer : Rakshitha R | Editor : Shubhendu Deshmukh | Creatives : Abhishek M
My Story: Disability Is A Matter Of Perception, It Should Not Stop One From Dreaming, Achieving Goals

Until April 2, 2011, everything in my life was perfect. I was sitting tight like every other cricket fan in the country to watch India lift the world cup. But this day turned my life upside down and changed every segment of it permanently.

I used to take a bus to reach home from my college every day, but on that day, I took the train to reach home early to watch the match. I caught the crowded train but got pushed out by other passengers. Next moment I found myself on the railway track with my right leg injured and bleeding profusely.

I did not feel pain at that moment, as I think anything that comes about abruptly in life gives us no pain, as we take time to digest the 'reality'. I happened to pick up my phone and call my parents who immediately made it to the spot and took me to a hospital in Raipur.

As soon as I regained consciousness at the hospital, my first question to the doctor was whether India won the world cup or not? The doctor replied, "yes, we did." And my happiness knew no bounds.

But the doctor also had sad news for me. He said I should forgo half of my right leg for various medical reasons. My leg was amputated, later.

I have always been a sports person since my childhood. I was always out on the ground most of the time than in class during my school and college days. I always dreamt of becoming a renowned sportsman one day. But after this, I was in despair as I thought I can never become a sportsperson ever.

While I was prescribed bed rest, my father, who has been a strong pillar beside me always, got me a Jaipur leg. He was happy that I was at least alive. I started walking with the help of crutches and soon picked up walking with the Jaipur leg within a week or two.

I was under bed rest for about five months after the amputation. When I was searching for jobs on the internet, I learnt about the Paralympics in India. And I realised that I can become a sportsman one day.

But this came with a lot of disappointments. When I went to Bangalore for long jump trails, although I was good at it, they told me I would need a blade prosthetic to pursue athletics professionally. That would cost me ₹3 to 4 lakhs and it was difficult for a man who came from a middle-class family to spend so much.

After this, I spent a year looking for funds and approached various prosthetic companies. To my luck in 2013, I found the Dakshin Rehabilitation Centre in Hyderabad that changed my life. I got in touch with them and its founder helped me get the blade.

After I got the blade, I began practising for marathons. I started off with 2 to 5 km runs and excelled at it within no time. Thereafter, I began taking my career in sports seriously and dreamt of representing India in Paralympics one day.

I got selected for my first International tour to Tunisia for the IPC Athletics Grand Prix in 2014. I won two medals, a silver in 200m and a bronze medal in 100m. I missed the gold by 0.25 second and the silver by 0.02 second.

It was my first international competition and I was happy with the medals I won. It also helped me qualify for the Asian Paralympics later in South Korea.

I decided to pursue a sports education after establishing myself as a para-athlete. I did a one-year sports management course in South Korea in 2015, after which I enrolled for a bachelor's degree in Manipal University at Jaipur in 2017. I graduated in 2020.

But this did not happen easily. After I came back to India from South Korea to pursue my bachelor's degree in sports, I went to take admission in one of the top universities in physical education and sports. When I went there, they gave me a prospectus where it was clearly stated that a "physically challenged candidate is not eligible to get admission". I was dejected and thought why can't a specially-abled person like me study sports.

I thought when a specially-abled person like Arunima Sinha can climb Mt Everest, and Deepa Malik can become the first female to win a medal in Paralympics, why can't we 'study' sports.

And that's when I thought I should break the barriers and complete my bachelor's degree at any cost. Manipal University gave me that opportunity to accomplish that. I am currently pursuing my masters in global sports management in South Korea.

My journey so far has been incredible and I would like to thank my friends and family members who stood by me the whole time.

I am that person who cannot sit in one place for a long time. Now, imagine my mental state when I was under bed rest. That's when my friends came to my rescue. They used to take me for evening walks in the ground near my house and made me sit and watch the games. After a few days, they insisted that I at least stand as a wicketkeeper when they were playing cricket.

This helped me gain my confidence back after I lost a part of my leg.

My parents faced every possible dejection from society. Some of our neighbours ridiculed my pursuit of a career in sports and shamed many aspects of my life. But my parents never revealed anything about it to me, for so many years. They held the pain back to themselves and supported me throughout my life.

Also Read: My Story: "I Was Bullied For The Way I Walked, Today, I Spread Awareness About Disability"

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Contributors

Rakshitha R

Rakshitha R

Digital Editor

Rakshitha an engineer turned passionate journalist with an inclination for poetry, creative writing, movies, fiction, mountains and seclusion. Not a part of the social process but existential.

Shubhendu Deshmukh

Shubhendu Deshmukh

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Shubhendu, the quint essential news junky, the man who loves science and politics in equal measure and offers the complete contrast to it by being a fan of urdu poetry as well.

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Abhishek M

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" An engineer by profession, Abhishek is the creative producer of the team, graphic designing is his passion and travelling his get away. In more ways than one, he makes the content visually appealing."

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