Courage to Continue: Coach for able-bodied players

7th November 2018 at 8:00 am

We all have read about people who have risen above the huge challenges thrown by life at them with courage and emerged victorious. They went on to achieve new levels of success, when nobody thought they could, because they thought they could. But, Inspiration like air can be found just about anywhere, even in the untold story of a common man, like you and me, a ‘common man who had uncommon courage and resilience’.

After all, what is success? Is it earning a lot of money? Is it being counted in the list of top 10 most successful people? Is it about owning a mansion or a luxury car? No. Success, in its essence is “realizing your true calling and following that with a heartfelt passion’ because everything else then is just a by- product of it.

It was 3rd February 2014. He woke up in the hospital on a cold wintry night, after a full 3 days of being unconscious. The nurse on duty, told him that due to the near fatal accident he had, his body had been badly traumatized. He had suffered fractured ribs, a badly crushed arm and a grave rare injury to the spine had left his body paralyzed from the waist down. Looking at the history of similar cases in the past, doctors gave their verdict,

‘The spinal cord damage is irreparable. You will never be able to walk again’.

A crushing pain seared through his body. He could feel beads of sweat on his forehead. The image of his wheelchair bound uncle, who breathed his last after living the life of a recluse for 30 years, loomed large in front of his eyes. He felt as if someone had suddenly picked him up and thrown him down a pitch-black hole with no end in sight. His dream of becoming a famous football player one day, lay shattered at his lifeless feet as a flood of tears erupted from his eyes. His complete life was being washed away and he could do nothing about it.

He felt like a complete failure. But how could one fail when the name itself personifies victory?

His name is Vijay, and this is his story, of struggle and triumph, in his own words.

I was born on 5th Jan 1989, in a small, dusty remote town called Sakoli, in Northern India. My mother had brought me up on her own with menial resources as my father had succumbed to illness when I was only 5 years old. Since an early age, I had taken a liking towards football. The day I was selected to play on the district level from my college, was the happiest day of my life. My favorite football star, who was the chief guest, had presented me an autographed football, upon winning the game. I looked at the sky, something I always liked to do, it was my dream to reach out to it and touch new heights. That day of 6th Aug 2009 got etched in my memory forever.

But, alas, memories were all that were left for me now. I would never get to relive the joy of playing football again. My friends and the society, in general not knowing what to say, thought it was best to avoid me. I got loads of pity and sympathy but not a single word of encouragement. Maybe, everybody thought that I was useless and a burden now. Truly, I was in fact nothing more than a burden, on my poor mother. Even my boss at work unable to cope up with the physical limitation my condition imposed, threw me out of the job. I started hating the sight of me, the useless me, the weak me, bound in a wheelchair all day along. I lost all belief in myself. I was fearful of myself, of the world, of everybody. Days became months and months became years, but it was as if I was stuck in a time warp.

It was in 2016, when one day, I was rummaging through some of my old stuff. In a corner of my almirah, I found the same autographed football and the hand-written message stared back at me,

Winning is not important, courage to continue always is’

Something flicked. For the first time in the last 2 years since that fateful day, I looked inside of me and realized a new energy coming alive. I could not play football, but I can certainly teach others how to play.  As if by design, after a week, I saw an advertisement in the local newspaper, requiring a football coach in a nearby college. The college principal was skeptical at first looking at my physical condition, but he saw a definite resolve in my eyes which made him agree, something he told me later. For hours on end, I sat at the football field in my wheelchair and put my entire being into coaching the football team. It was much more challenging than I had imagined it to be, but I promised myself I would continue despite all odds.

The day my student got selected to play at the national level was the second-best day of my life. I presented him my most treasured possession, the football which had held me in good stead always. It had fully served its purpose in my life. That evening of 6th Aug 2018 got etched in my memory forever. That day, I did not look up at the sky. I closed my eyes, letting my soul get clean with my overflowing tears, letting them drown my fears. Joy is not always in being but letting others become, through you. I had won that day, over ME.

I liked looking at the vast sky thinking it was the limit,
It resonated with my dream of going far to great heights
But, alas! an unknown fear engulfed me,
The fear imposed by my physical self
And, I gave up, each time, every time.

My reflection in the mirror, one day,
Beckoned me to go beyond my physical self
I looked deep within, in my soul,
And discovered a newfound strength, a torch of hope
For others and me!

For I had understood that the biggest demons are not outside, but the inner ones,
And once you conquer the self,
‘Sky’s the limit’ will lose all meaning, it never had a limit, nor do you

This time I did not give up,
And in that moment, I knew, I had become Limitless!

Note: Actual name and few identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individual on his request.