In Sonipat, a district in the state of Haryana, which grapples with an age-old mindset of superiority of having a son over a girl child, Tanu was born with learning disabilities. Her mother even now struggles to turn a deaf ear to the echoes of her neighbour’s whispers- ‘She is Mad’.
Unable to cope in a mainstream school, Tanu, now 13yrs, was shifted to Little Angels Inclusive School, a special school where she repeated Class 3. That was for the first time that her mother felt that there is a place in this world, that would take care of her child’s special needs. She emotionally recalls how she stood and gave the loudest applause for her daughter’s first dance performance on stage at the school. For her it was a re assurance that her child has abilities, she will go higher, something she always believed in. Her husband who has been very supportive and protective of his daughter too, went through a phase where he felt that perhaps, placing her in a special school may be running for a futile cause. Tanu belongs to a family with a humble background. Her father is in the police while her mother is a home maker.
Tanu joined the SO Bharat program in 2012 through her special school and was placed under the mentorship of Coach Sunita. She was extremely shy at that time and seldom spoke. Having joined Athletics she showed inclination to few other sports as well. She has played Floor ball and Floor Hockey but is currently pitching for Figure Skating at the Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017, Austria. She has been participating in the Camps regularly which have brought a tremendous change in her confidence levels and social behaviour. She doesn’t hesitate to express her emotions. From one of the Camps, she surprised her mother by writing, ‘ Mummy I miss you’
Tanu is very fond of her Coach, Sunita, who has mentored her right since the very start of her journey with Special Olympics. Seeing her performing well in the sport has encouraged her Coach and parents to give her as much practise as possible. For two months, earlier this year Tanu, along with a teacher from her school and 6 more Athletes left her hometown at 4 AM, three days a week, for Gurgaon, Haryana, to practise Figure Skating under professional guidance . Back in her school in Sonipat, Sunita makes her practise every day.
When Tanu won a Gold medal at the National Championship for Figure Skating, her mother was overjoyed. She could not believe that her daughter could excel in something fairly unfamiliar as a sport in her community. “For me my daughter is successful even now. After reading about her in the newspaper and getting to know of her achievements in sports my neighbours tell their children to be like her! When we go anywhere they identify us as Tanu’s parents and that means the world to me” .
Tanu is focussed on her practises but alongside helps her mother with house chores through out the day. Tanu enjoys full support from her parents and school in following her practise regimen. Till the November camp she used to visit Gurgaon, Haryana for a week every month with more Athletes with the expenses shared by the parents.
To get her parents to view sports from the development perspective did not come without challenges. The State Chapter representatives had to counsel and motivate them. Her parents were over protective of their child, apprehensive about letting her alone without them.
The confidence in her is noticeable. She hardly spoke with anyone earlier, in fact, maintained no eye contact. She used to weep frequently too. She speaks to others around her a lot more easily. I have seen these changes happen. It is amazing – Sunita Coach