She lost her left leg in an accident in 2011 when a truck rammed into her scooter. She was hurt but not heart broken. A badminton lover Manasi Joshi wanted to pursue the sport but wondered how, especially after the accident. With one artificial leg, Joshi turned a para-badminton player and now travels across the world playing tournaments. She is no ordinary player – Joshi has won two silver medals in the sport.
Poorvi Gupta brings you her story.
1. Tell us about your journey. What were you like as a child?
I was docile and an obedient kid. I grew up with an interest in science and technology and geography. I pursued Engineering for the love of it. I was also inclined towards sports and learnt some of the most exceptional life skills – like accepting a loss when playing a sport. My parents taught me to take one step at a time and emphasised on importance of family and friends.
2. What did this life threatening accident do to your confidence?
Skills you learn while playing a sport remain with you for the rest of the life and that’s what happened to me. Sport taught me some of the most important skills, to accept the current loss and try and win another time. Once you accept loss, it’s extremely easy to adapt to new things even if it is a disability. I also had yoga and meditation for myself in those days when I was recovering from the accident.
3. Apart from the physical limitation, did you feel any other challenges after the accident?
The main challenge I faced was not so much the accessibility, but the insensitivity of people towards disability. I feel we in India have a long way to go in accepting disabled people into mainstream.
4. Why badminton?
We had been keen on racquet sports since I was a kid. I would watch Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Pete Sampras and Martina Hingis play tennis and would cheer for them when they played at Wimbledon and other tournaments that used to be telecasted in those days. Well as for badminton, the coaching was easily available in the area I lived in and I trained into it. For me playing badminton was as normal as learning how to walk. I had to do it. May be that feeling never let me lose focus from it.
For me playing badminton was as normal as learning how to walk
5. You have participated in many tournaments and even clinched silver at the world championship for Para-badminton. What has this meant for you?
I have just started with Para-badminton and have played two national-level games and two-international level games, out of which, I won one silver at nationals and one silver at Para-badminton World Championships.
My first tournament was at Spain and I realised that not many women are into para sports internationally. My category in singles was cancelled and I had to play with people with lesser disability to gain world ranking.
In London too for Para-Badminton World championships my category was cancelled due to lack of participants and again I had to play with people with lesser disabilities. Thus, it was really unfair for me to compete internationally.
But what I saw at international event was transformational. There is a lot of unity in the Para-badminton community and everyone knows everyone. When I debuted at Spanish International, I was welcomed into the para-badminton family. I realised that these are the people who I am going to meet every time in different country, in different continent with the same passion that I have.
“Internationally, there is a lot of unity in the Para-badminton community,” says Manasi
6. You juggle many roles at the same time being a software engineer, a para-badminton player, a traveller. What’s behind your motivation?
My family has never ever said ‘no’ to me ever. They have always encouraged me to do whatever pleases me, in a sense being the wind beneath my wings.
7. How do you think India can become more inclusive for people with disabilities?
I can go on and on about this:
- People must be taught sensitivity towards everyone in our curriculum right from childhood.
- With more accessibility, we will see more and more people with disabilities in our schools, colleges, workplace, roads, malls, etc. and thus it will become a norm for everyone and disabled people will not be looked as some unknown creatures.
- Inclusion into mainstream is necessary and in spite of 3% reservation, we do not see the quota being filled in many sectors.
- Recreation and travel for the disabled is ignored in India with no facilities.
These are the four main points, I think should definitely be looked upon.
8. What does progress mean to you?
Progress for me is taking whatever comes and still aiming for things I love and be happy.
9. Manasi, you are a source of inspiration to thousands of people. What’s your advice to the young generation that tends to lose hope despite having it all?
People lose hope because there are people around them who tell them that it will be difficult. I want to tell everyone that it is really easy. If you think you want to do it, you will find all the people who help you and make you reach where you are supposed to go. Things are extremely easy. All we require is honesty and patience.