Bashir Ahmed Dar from Jammu and Kashmir has not dreamed that there will come a day when the future of his daughter, Rakshinda Mehak, will be anything but bleak after she and her brother were born with complete disorders of hearing and speech.

Yet the years roll on and 25-year-old Rakshinda was a key participant for India on the judo team at the 24th Deaflympics, currently taking place in Caxias do Sul and, more importantly, was on the verge of winning a bronze medal from one event.

Dark future because of a supposed inconvenience? No more.

The moment of glory for Rakshinda and her family came when she finished fifth in her event, the -78kg category, narrowly losing the bronze medal match to Turkey’s Yadigar Talahyan.

“None of them may have received a medal, but they always bring back laurels and I’m proud of my daughter,” Bashir Ahmad Dar, Rakshinda’s father, told The Bridge, still in disbelief to see what day come true.

However, this was not the first time that Rakshinda made the head and heart of Bashir and the whole of Jammu and Kashmir swell with pride. In 2021, Rakshinda became a household name after winning bronze at the World Deaf Judo Championship held in Paris Versailles, France.

World Deaf Judo Championship Bronze Medalist Deaf Judoka Team

Not only that, Rakshinda, a student of Indira Gandhi National Open University currently, has already won at least 13 gold medals in judo competitions at national and state levels and had the honor of being named the best judoka. at the National Deaf Judo Championships in Lucknow. in 2021.

If we want to delve deeper, Jammu and Kashmir’s rendezvous with nurturing judo is not unheard of and a quiet subculture of earnest and enthusiastic judokas has flourished in the valley thanks to the constant efforts of the government.

Therefore, it was no surprise to see that three – Rakshinda, Vishal Khajuria (under 60kg) and Rakesh Singh (under 66kg) out of the eight judokas who came from India for the Deaflympics were from the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir.

In fact, they are all former students of Jammu’s School for Speech and Hearing Handicapped, which is run by J&K Samaj Kalyan Kendra, a well-known NGO, where they learned their first steps in judo under the guidance of Suraj Bhan Singh. , the J&K Sports Council’s head judo coach.

Overcome the odds

Even though Rakshinda was born in Kulgam, South Kashmir, she and her family had to move over 190 kilometers to Gujjar Nagar in Jammu where a special school existed, so that they could receive the right education.

“Soon after they were born, we discovered that our daughter and son were unable to speak or listen, so we decided to move to Jammu, where there was a special school for these children,” Dar explained, who recently retired from the Department of Education. .

Upon arrival in the state’s summer capital, Dar got them admitted to Samaj Kalyan Kendra School near Shaheed-I-Chowk in Jammu.

At first, Bashir was sure his children’s future would be bleak. They hardly understood anything, and understanding was the biggest challenge they had to overcome as a family.

“Due to a lack of connection between them and us, I felt like nothing could possibly come out of them in the future,” Dar confessed, quickly admitting he didn’t lose though. hope.

“We couldn’t understand them, and they couldn’t understand us. It became a little easier to converse with them after they learned to write,” he recalls.

Judokas Rakshinda Mehak and Vishal Khajuria

Similarly, judoka Vishal Khajuria who hails from the Shahpur Brahmana region of Jammu also had similar problems growing up. Vishal’s mother, Babita, spoke to The Bridge and mentioned, “It was very difficult to communicate with him at first because he wouldn’t understand us,” she said.

Meanwhile, for Rakshinda and his brother, the journey with judo was sparked at Samaj Kalyan Kendra school where Vishal also started his training in 2013 and so far has won 10 gold medals despite being impaired. 80% hearing.

“Rakshinda was in seventh grade in 2012 when judo instructor Suraj Bhan approached us and said he would train her; her fate changed when coach Suraj Bhan taught her judo,” Dar added with gratitude.

“Samaj Kalyan Kendra Principal Roshan Bhan introduced deaf students to judo and provided logistical support to them and their coach, which inspired our children to take up the sport and changed their lives,” Dar said.

Through the constant efforts of Suraj Bhan Singh and the school over the years, the trio of Rakshinda, Vishal and Rakesh have become an inspiration to many specially disabled teenagers, proving that if one is strong enough, one can overcome many obstacles, including physical limitations. , and turn adversity into advantage, turning fortune in their favor.

Having fathered two special children, Dar also realized that “nothing is impossible with dedication, discipline and hard work. And nothing will seem to stop you from achieving your goals then,” he said. stressed, jubilant to see her daughter and son doing so well, despite the obstacles.

No less than a “normal” person

Rakshinda Mehak with her family

All in all, even though the trio of Rakshinda, Vishal and Rakesh are currently shining, it goes without saying that there is still a lot to be done to promote hearing and speaking people in the state and across the country.

“Children with disabilities are gifted, they are active learners. They talk about everything, even discuss politics in their sign language. My son, who is also a national-level judoka, watches international news and has spoken to me about what’s happening around the world and I was stunned,” Dar said, explaining her perspective.

Telling The Bridge that the government should take action by organizing sign language teachers, building schools and implementing an employment policy for these specially disabled children, Bashir and Vishal’s mother Babita said. insisted on similar points.

“I send a message to all parents of children with physical disabilities, especially girls, that we are no less than any other normal person. We need people to understand that these children are no less than normal children. “Dar pointed out.

Government intervention at this stage is therefore crucial and it is hoped that Rakshinda’s fifth place at the Deaflympics will inspire them to take new initiatives and promote these athletes.

Dar mentioned, “The government should also develop institutes to provide training for parents of specially disabled children to understand their wards and simplify this already difficult aspect.

When it comes to sports, coaches who know sign language and are qualified for the job should be brought in so that children with disabilities can gain confidence despite their disabilities and not feel worse, Dar and Sharma believe, after having spent a large part of their lives watching their children go out and compete at big events and leave their mark.

With this performance at the Deaflympics by the Kashmir judokas, it is hoped that change is closer now and that no parent has to think that their child will have a ‘dark future’, just because of a disability.