Rahul Borkar, 17 yrs, has a speech challenge. As observed by his mother, Sports helps him shelve his challenges and transports him from loneliness to joy that emerges from the thrill of participation. At this event, although he could not see other players as he saw in events earlier, he was told that this was a Cricket Competition. His face lit up in excitement as he prepared to participate in a sporting competition, that he until now was watching closely on TV, or on his cell. The event came as a welcome change from all these months of inactivity, boredom and a ‘no-schedule’ day. He would wait and alert his mother to any information received from ‘Delhi’, as his mother would be occupied for the day, cleaning the homes of people staying nearby.
|Rahul with Mr Madhav Bhalerao|
Following his Mentor and Coach, Mr Madhav Bhalerao, Rahul would walk to his school, which is about 2 kms away, while his Coach travelled for two hours in a bus to plan practises for Rahul and few more Athletes, for about 3-4 weeks prior to the competition. Dedicated practises showed a clear improvement in Rahul’s Cricket skills. “When I saw him play cricket online, I wondered whether his destiny would take him to being a Cricket player- maybe”- Ms Maneesha Mahendra Borkar, Rahul’s mother
Coach Bhalerao has been training Rahul in Table Tennis and Football as well, for the past three years, but Cricket strikes a personal connect. He often delegates Rahul with leadership roles within the sports arena, something that brings out the leader in him, despite his communication challenge. Rahul does not speak much while sitting with other Athletes, but gears up when asked to lead.
Ms Maneesha has always worked through her son’s childhood. She had no option. Her day begins with arranging water for her home which is available only in the mornings for about two hours. She recalls, Rahul being born weak and regrets to date, that his disability may be because she could not give him enough attention in his formative years. A speech defect existed in her husband and his brother as well.
As Rahul joined a special school and started to participate in sports, he also started to smile, eat, play, dance, showing interest in art. He finds a constant companion in his younger brother, Akshay, who is 14yrs of age. Rahul grew with cricket as around the chawl (community living in multi storeyed buildings with shared facilities), where he stays, there is always a cricket pitch ready, in the locality. Cricket has been his constant companion, that helped him tide through the frequent brawls that took place between his parents, his father’s demise a few years back, and also helps him make friends. Another common bond that he shares with his friends is that of playing the ‘dhol’ (drum) which they do specifically during the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. The practises, however, go on round the year. Cricket and Dhol, are his two favourites.
Rahul draws inspiration from his Coach, who has mentored him and whose guidance has given a direction to him. Coach Bhalerao, has been associated with SO Bharat Maharashtra for about 20 yrs, having led 11 Athletes to participate in the Special Olympics World Games, so far. He plans to add Cricket for the Athletes. He is, currently, preparing his team for Table Tennis and Badminton, training them to create equipment through resources available at home- like making a table tennis ball with paper etc. He feels that as new modes of sports engagement emerge, with the determination, discipline and commitment, of the Athletes, they are sure to continue growing even through the ongoing pandemic.