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Nothing should stop you from following your dreams - My Take by wheelchair basketball champ Dinkle Shah

This week on My Take, Dinkle Shah, a key member of the Maharashtra wheelchair basketball team talks about her journey making it to the number one team in India.

My interest in sports in general dates back to over a decade. The involvement in wheelchair basketball started quite by chance. I got to know about a national tournament in Delhi and thought why not check it out. I was so hooked that I decided to pursue it at a competitive level. Because I had attended a few basketball camps, I was familiar with the game.

My life changed in 2001 when I was about six years old. I was in Kutch with my parents for a family function when the Gujarat earthquake occurred. Within less than an hour of our getting there, the calamity struck.

After the earthquake finally stopped, I was found lying somewhere with my head bleeding. My family went from hospital to hospital seeking help, but it was hopeless. All of Kutch was destroyed and there was no doctor to help me, no one to even give first aid.

I finally got to a hospital nine hours after I suffered the injury. Everyone was worried that I may be impaired as I had hurt my head. I spent a week at the ICU in a critical state, struggling for the survival.

During that period I was diagnosed with a spinal cord Injury and I had no sensation from the chest down. The diagnosis was hard to take, not just for me but also for my family. Somehow we did it.

What was disheartening was the behaviour of the world at large. Schools were not ready to enrol me just because I was in a wheelchair. They saw me as an additional responsibility. The atmosphere was one of sympathy rather than empathy.

Turning point

It was a period of intense struggle and heartbreak. Things changed after I met Dr Ketna Mehta, Founder, Nina Foundation. She was so kind that she came to the place where I stayed, met with the school authorities and took a firm stand on my behalf. She convinced them to enrol me.

I stayed in touch with her and soon became a member of Nina Foundation. It was Dr Mehta who envisioned a career in sports for me. She always put my name forward for all sports events and motivated me. If she had not pushed me towards sports, I would not have reached where I have today.

I took up basketball seriously in 2015, which is the year I also played in the nationals. I went on to get selected for national and international camps. It was in one of these camps organised by Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India that I was selected to play at an international tournament in Bali, Indonesia. I played as a defender there.

Personally, I believe that I could not have achieved so much if I was not a wheelchair user. Most of my achievements are linked to wheelchair sports and have happened because I use a wheelchair.

That does not mean that being a wheelchair user has been easy. Although things are changing and there is greater awareness and acceptability today. What I am blessed with is a supportive family, who have been there through my ups and downs. They have backed all my dreams, be it in studies, sports, or anything else.

I would urge people who are depressed because of their disability to get out of their rut, and make their disability, their strengths. I don't think anything should stop you from following your dreams. Remember, everybody has some limitation or the other. You should not feel low because of it.

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