Disability Heroes - Why Javed Choudhari refuses to be defined by his disability
We start off World Disability Day with the first in a series of profiles of people who are Disability Heroes. This is not a definitive list. There are many heroes and it is not possible to do justice to all. These are just some of the people who are emerging as new warriors in the cause of disability. They are pushing boundaries, not just for themselves, but for the larger community. In the bargain, they are making everyone's lives the richer for it. We begin with wheelchair basketball player, Javed Choudhari. .
When 24-year-old Javed Choudhari broke into a spontaneous dance to the tune of Zingat at the end of the Pune Half Marathon a few months ago, little did he know that he would turn into an overnight social media sensation.
Javed, an amputee, is a national level wheelchair basketball player. He said he was just expressing his happiness after he finished the 10-km marathon decided to show it. A video recording of the dance made its way to social media and he became the talk of the town.
"I was the ambassador for the Pune Half Marathon and I was in a really happy frame of mind as I had just played the national tournament where I had won the Man of the Series award," recalls Javed. "I was happy to have finished the run and started dancing to the song. It was totally spontaneous and happy moment that went viral."
This sense of spontaneity and spirit Javed retained even when he was told that he would lose his right leg after he was involved in a bike accident in his village, Lonar in Maharashtra. This was in the year 2015.
"His attitude was positive right through the time he was wheeled into the operation theatre and even at casualty," recalls childhood buddy Anil Irathkar. "I know Javed from the time we were in play school - that's nearly 20 years of friendship. Even after his leg was amputated, he was not shattered or under-confident. He was back to his usual self and that makes him such a wonderful role model because he has dealt with his circumstances so well."
After surgery, Choudhari completed his education, while pursuing an interest in dance. Wheelchair basketball happened quite by chance.
I was always passionate about dance and continued to take part in university-level competitions. At one such event, I met another person, who had also lost a leg in an accident and he put me in touch with the group, The Challenging Ones, started by Kargil War veteran Major D P Singh. From there on I got motivated to start playing wheelchair basketball. - Javed Choudhari, National wheelchair basketball player
Having never played the game in his village, Javed had no clue about the rules of wheelchair basketball. His biggest advantage was his energy levels and he made it to the Delhi team, of which he eventually became captain. Under his leadership, Delhi won the nationals twice and Javed got picked for the national team.
What makes him such a star on the basketball court is his endless positivity, says Captain Louis George, Captain, Maharashtra Wheelchair Basketball Team.
"He is always cheerful," says Coach George. "He generates positive energy wherever he goes and above all he is a team player, which makes him an asset".
What makes the hero tag so apt for Javed is the words he lives by. Listen to this - "I do not believe disability to be a setback in any way. I ride, bike, dance, go wherever I want to go. I ride a bike, swim, dance and go pretty wherever I want to go and do whatever I feel like."
Even better is his determination to communicate this boundless joy and zest for life to others like him. He has taught disabled people how to ride a bike and regularly throws fitness challenges towards fundraising efforts for disabled kids.
"His attitude is the most inspiring", says Saloni Singh Pathania, who ran the half marathon with Javed and was witness to that spontaneous dance. "Everything he does proves that disability should not hold you back and we need not treat disabled people with pity or feel sorry for them because the heart and spirit can achieve so much more once we get over the physical attributes".
Truly, a man who is shaping attitudes towards disability.
Disability Heroes Series: