It is interesting to watch Dadhichi on any regular day at the premises of the Open Learning Systems (OLS), an organization working for the care, protection, education and rehabilitation of Persons with Intellectual Disability, Autism, Cerebral Palsy and Multiple Disability. He clearly, shows an uncommon inclination. The electrical items, often the switch boards, around the place catch his attention. He examines them and then opens up the connections and moves on. When any deconstructed electrical item is seen lying around the place, it is clear who the visitor was. For his safety, he always is being observed, and wherever possible an electrical appliance is placed higher and higher. In sync with his interest, Dadhichi has been placed under the training of a visiting electrician and the Secretary, OLS, Dr. Pratap Rath has taken him under his wings encouraging him to fiddle with electrical and electronic gadgets and appliances understanding how they work. Now he has become adept at using computers, laptops, tabs, smartphone, music synthesizer, LCD projector and a host of other gadgets that many educated people would struggle with. In a number of events organised at OLS, Dadhichi has set up the microphones successfully.
That is Dadhici’s way of feeling needed and empowered. At the virtual event, if his Coach, Arpita Mohapatra and Sasmita Mohapatra advised them a time of two hours to practise, he would practise for much more. He would also make others practise, taking the lead.
“Due to his congenital condition he has speech difficulty which frustrates him sometimes as it is very difficult to be improved further, otherwise he would fit-in very well as a team leader” says Arpita, who believes that sports performances bring out the hidden and often unexpressed abilities of the Athletes. And this is where a Coach steps in – to observe and to provide the opportunity and Arpita and Sasmita, both, do it with dedication, joined by Bibekananda Mohanty, who kept the practises going on for two Athletes who stayed at a distance from the rest. The three divided the work among themselves.
Abandoned by the family, Dadhichi has been at the facility for over 12 yrs. Arpita, who joined SO Bharat in 2011 mentored him and observed that his physical frame would support his sporting talent very well. Dadhichi has been participating in Swimming, Skating and Football, showing an exceptional skill in swimming under the tutelage of Arpita.
Cricket not being a core Special Olympics sport had eluded Arpita’s attention until now. This event made her realise that Cricket is a skill that resides naturally in many Athletes, owing to the Cricket environment in the country.
Dadhichi watches Cricket regularly on TV, waiting for a match between India and Pakistan and also Srilanka. His Cricket icon is Sachin Tendulkar who he observes closely. Here as well, he observed the demo videos, once shown by the Coaches, and watched them repeatedly to practise and to help others in the technique as well. Having Arpita over would be a treat because she often came with a chocolate for all the players. But, the day she would not come, nothing changed; Dadhichi would take the lead. After a tiring day he would turn to the ‘house mother’ who he fondly calls ‘Ma’ and the one who prepares for him his favourite food!
The nomination of Athletes for this event spread to many factors that are not considered for an in-person event. For a virtual event the Athletes who stay far away, or are in a weak digital-access space, or do not have a suitable device, or perhaps not one at all, may not enter nominations at the outset. The Cricket practises went on only for 15 days preceding
their performance as the state took some time to register, thinking through these barriers. The fact that team Odisha could participate was an achievement by itself.
Even today which is many days following the event, the Athletes reach out to Arpita, telling her how they continue to practise the skills asking her repeatedly- “when is Cricket happening?”. Seeing the interest for the sport, Coaches Arpita, Sasmita and Bibeka plan to take it up with Mr Prakash Rath, Area Director SO Bharat- Odisha, their mentor, and develop it further. They are sure that the gravitation to Cricket will expand reach across a cross section of the society, including the grassroot