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Rising against adversities

Badminton player Chandramouli fights against odds as he gears up for the Melbourne tournament

Photo: P. V. Sivakumar

THE PLIGHT of handicapped sportspersons is difficult for a normal person to imagine. Sankalapuram Chandramouli is a badminton player who is hard of hearing and also has some toes missing from both feet and one finger missing on his right hand. As a result of his hearing handicap (which he was born with), he has had to face a lot of difficulties in his education as well as in sports. With commendable determination he has managed to educate himself in Information Technology and systems management. But his passion is badminton. His enthusiasm and dedication is evident to anyone who interacts with him.

In every respect he is similar to other players whose intense desire to achieve excellence drive them to overcome fatigue and exhaustion day after day as they put in hours of practice in their quest for victory. But in Chandramouli's case, he also has to overcome his handicaps and also the apathy of the sports system, which holds no hope for a handicapped player.

"Give me a chance to perform. Give me coaching of a specific nature that will help me to overcome my drawbacks. Do not write me off as a player who will never succeed. " he says. "In India there is no specific coaching for players like me. I am trained along with normal players and often I cannot follow instructions . Coaches also feel that I will never amount to much because of my handicap. I am told to go through aimless jogging and fitness routines. I am always told to practice on half the court. All the focus is on my fellow trainees who are normal while my presence is just tolerated. It can be extremely discouraging to be treated like that," he says.

Since he began playing in 1988, he has won several titles in sports for the deaf. He won the men's state singles title in 1990. Later in the National Games for the deaf he was third in men's doubles. He won the state title again in 1992 in singles as well as doubles. In the 14th National Games for the Deaf he was runner up in mixed doubles. In 1993 he was selected to represent India in the 17th World Deaf Games in Bulgaria and in 1994 he trained in Mauritius under Venugopal Mahalingam of Malaysia.

Later he was also fortunate to come under the tutelage of Fred de Jong, national coach of Netherlands who gave him a lot of help and guidance and from him Chandramouli received the kind of encouragement he needed so badly. It helped him to win the title in the Mauritius International tournament beating a South African. In 2001 he took part in the 19th Deaf Olympic Games in Rome and came 9th in singles and 8th in doubles. In 2002 he took part in the Asia Pacific Deaf championship. At present he is preparing for a tournament in Melbourne and going by his past record he is likely to be selected to represent India. But finding funds to participate in tournaments abroad is a big hurdle. His father Dr. S. Nagarajan, retired Professor of English at the University of Hyderabad, says that surely if one is playing for India one should not have to meet the expenses.

"Basically they have two options. One is the sports quota, which is not adequate. And where the sportsperson is handicapped, he has very little chance of getting in through the sports quota. The second option is the general quota for handicapped persons. But there also existing quota is minimal. And even those are usually not filled up because employers are reluctant to recruit handicapped persons. Sometimes I thank god that he has given me a son like Chandramouli. Because of him, I have been able to realise the plight of handicapped persons, their aspirations, difficulties and frustrations," says Prof Nagarajan.

But the big question is, what will it take for the government to realise the problems of its handicapped citizens? That is anybody's guess.

ABHIJIT SEN GUPTA

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