Disabled athlete Somnath Malo has fond memories of meeting with former PM Vajpayee

It was a meeting that took place 16 years ago, but disabled athlete Somnath Malo remembers it like it happened just yesterday.

Malo, who is from West Bengal, was a member of the Indian contingent that won 22 medals at the 2002 FESPIC Games in South Korea. Malo won a gold in high jump. He was 20 years old and the youngest in the Indian contingent.

Mr Vajpayee, who was prime minister of India at the time, had invited the winning Indian team for dinner at his home. He asked Malo to sit beside him and asked him how he came to be disabled in one leg.

Malo says he was unable to speak Hindi at that time and Vajpayee realised that and patted him on the back. Malo said that Vajpayee was so simple in his behaviour that he never felt like he was sitting next to the prime minister.

Malo, who now works in a school, said Mr Vajpayee had advised him to practice well and not to hesitate if any help was required.

The former prime minister died at the AIIMS hospital in Delhi on 16 August. He was 93 years old.

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