At a Coaches training conducted in Pondicherry in January 2018 Anil introduced ‘Athlete Leadership’ to the participants. During his session he was asked questions which he replied with ready wit. With clarity he differentiated between Special Olympics, Olympics and Paralympics; on being asked about his goal in life- he re-joined that each day he achieves more than before. “Sports is not about winning or losing, it is about participation; that is where its actual power lies”. It is not a surprise that Anil was one of the Athletes who participated at the Athlete Leadership Workshop held in Delhi in November 2017. He can speak four languages – English, Hindi, Telegu and Tamil
Anil 20 yrs, has a twin brother, Akhil. Anil was always subject to comparison with his brother. In fact there were people who even suggested that he should be ‘given away’ to an orphanage, in view of his physical condition. Although distressed, his mother was strong enough not to pay heed to these mumbles.
As a child he found it difficult to hold anything, he could not stand and had an awkward posture. He joined Special Olympics through the Satya Special School Pondicherry in 2006. Initially it was not Anil but his mother whose interest in the sports camps made him participate. His parents realised that Anil could not go further than grade 3 in a Government School in Pondicherry. He encountered difficulties in identifying letters, reading and writing as well. The Physiotherapist also had assessed him as he used to walk on his toes, experiencing more pain while walking. He was advised to receive special education, physiotherapy and play therapy in order to improve comprehensively.
The Satya Special School Founder and SO Bharat Pondicherry Area Director, Ms Chitra Shah’s struggle from the very outset was to change the mind-set of the people from a charity based and sympathetic outlook to a population with differing abilities. Her efforts were to highlight what they can do and not what they cannot. Despite the students of the school being mainly from the rural expanses, sports assumes a significant place in the curriculum. Looking up to sports as a means of advancement could be traced back to 2013 when one of the Athletes from the village won a Gold medal in Basketball at the SO Regional Asia Pacific Games. The Coaches over here do anything to bring persons with special needs on to the field and get them to play.
Anil’s sports journey started with assisted walk, soft ball, and bocce which he played at the State level. Initially, he was unable to play Cricket as he was unable to grip the bat. As the practises went on improvement in his physical functioning became more and more conspicuous. Currently he is playing Table Tennis quite regularly and also shows interest in working on the computer
Anil is receiving special education and took the government exam successfully passing the 10th standard. This year, he is going to take up 12th standard (public exam) under the NIOS curriculum. Although he faces difficulties in walking, he is learning new techniques by the physiotherapist to overcome it. He likes to participate in dance events and other extra-curricular activities such as giving speech, theatre and sports. He couldn’t read books earlier, but now he can give a speech on various topics.
“Anil is a great spokesperson. Amongst approx. 800 students, including those who have good communication skills, Anil stands out. He is different; he is gifted. In fact it is Anil who encouraged his mother to complete her 10th grade and then the 12th at the age of 35! When she said that she would feel awkward taking an exam with a student much younger than her, Anil reasoned out that she should not bother as she would probably never meet him again
Sports works like magic. It is the sports field which developed his confidence, his self-esteem. Even if you are not winning, you are participating like everyone else with so many people watching you. The minute the Athletes are on the field you can see them happy and joyful. This is an emotion which neither my classroom nor the physiotherapy hall can give to them” Ms Chitra Shah