Pradip Mori, 17 yrs, joins his father in labouring at a building site nearly everyday, physically carrying material from one place to the other. He earns a daily wage as does his father, but Pradeep makes sure that he attends school at least twice in a week. Coming out of his one-room accommodation in a chawl in Bhavnagar Gujarat, that houses all the five family members, gives him some respite. When the days’ work finishes, he thinks of Sports, because that is a talent that stands him apart from the rest of the daily wagers.
In a freak accident a couple of years back, as Pradip sat on the roadside, a four-wheeler sped past him, flinging a small piece of stone that hit his left eye. Fortunately, he continues to play sports but will have to eventually get himself operated, as his vision is getting affected gradually. He has an Intellectual Disability with low hearing. He does not complain but takes these challenges in his stride and lives one day at a time.
Pradip was identified for the Cricket event despite not having a bat and a ball, or even adequate clothes, no cell phone and also having an eye injury. The reason was clear. He is a sportsperson in spirit and skill. Once confirmed to be part of the event, he used a thaapi (washing paddle) to practise. His time allowed him to practise for 2 to 3 days and not more in his school, and he participated with confidence that equalled any other.
Pradip joined SO Bharat about five years back and since then has participated in Athletics and floorball, under the mentorship of Mr Tushar Joglekar. He has played Floorball up to the National level. Despite the odds and a priority for daily survival, it was the constant encouragement and involvement of Pradip in Sports that has brought a new dimension in his life. Prior to travelling outside his district, his parents were apprehensive as they feared how he would manage in view of his ‘disabilities’
Pradip was regularly invited to participate at the Khel Mahakumbh, an annual sporting bonanza held within the state of Gujarat. (It is an initiative taken by the Government of Gujarat to promote sports activities across the State.) He leveraged the opportunity to amplify his sporting ability (Athletics), demonstrating his best at the event across all five annual editions. All five years fetched him a cash award, earmarked for the first three positions. His parents saw him shine, gain confidence while his neighbours (within the slum) started to look at him in wonder, as he travelled to places within India they did not know even existed.
Mr Tushar, who was also on the Panel of Referees at the virtual Cricket event, expresses that the Athletes need to be engaged and encouraged constantly. “We attempt to do that whether lock down or no. We can see Pradip grow into a personality different from that of his family, and that is the impact of sports. We have experienced that at camps; so many times, it is the Athletes who look after us. They wake up earlier than us and prod us to begin the day. Sports impacts Physical, Mental and community health. We are reaching out to make arrangements for Pradip’s eye operation and hope that it happens soon.” – Says Mr Tushar.
Mr Tushar joined SO Bharat Gujarat as a volunteer in 1998 and worked his way through being a Coach, Resource Person and now a Trustee with the State Chapter