As sportspersons bag medals, coaches wear the stars. But it gets them into a thrill when the winning disciples are special, deaf and dumb. Aakash Hassan meets a coach who specializes in creating para-judo players and ‘talks’ to his team, some of whom permanently migrated to Jammu because of him and the basic infrastructure
They are a distinct foursome. They are two boys and two girls whom everybody in Jammu’s Moulana Azad Stadium knows.
In the stadium, one January afternoon, they are sitting in a comfortably semi-circle with a cell phone at the focus of their attention. Occasionally, they pull their heads back and clasp hands, apparently in response to the tensions of a live streaming video they are watching. This is a recording of a game in which one of the four had knocked out his opponent, recently.
But their leisure is cut short within seconds after their coach scolded them, for not getting ready for the game. He was angry that they are wasting time.
Wrapping their bodies in the white aprons, in the next five minutes they are ready to fight – judo. With fists clasped, their arms bend at elbows, and feet firm on the ground, the two groups start their “mastered moves.” The scene changes, they are on the two sides of the ring.
Stopped occasionally by their coach, Suraj Ban Singh, thick bearded and mustaches man wearing red turban, he corrects their moves. He returns to his seat only after one hour with a satisfactory smile on his face.
“They are improving with each day,” Singh says, “You see I wish to see them in a World Championship.”
The young judos appreciate each other waiving their hands and moving their fingers in singular form. This is no trick of their game, as spectators might expect. They are para-judo players. All the four are congenital deaf and dumb.
But how the four para-judos are linked to Singh is an interesting story in itself.
A 1992 trained coach from National Institute of Sports Delhi, Singh was training fresh judo aspirants. Appointed as contractual coach, services of this Jammu resident were regularized in 1998 by State Sports Council. However his regular course of training youth changed once he attended a seminar in Lucknow in December 2011.
“A friend of mine compelled me to attend the international seminar on the scope of training disabled youth,” he says. “The seminar of couple of days changed my way of thinking and now I was eager to get trained for training the specially-abled kids.” Soon after the seminar, he underwent training, learnt the sign language and other basic things.
“Then, I put the idea of training the disabled with the State Sports Council and I was permitted to go ahead,” Singh remembers. “But there was a condition that I have to find at least nine players on my own.”
It led Singh to start his own hunt for specially abled kids, interested in judo. He landed at Samaj Kalyan Kainder, perhaps the only Higher Secondary School in the state for the disabled run by an NGO at Shaheedi Chowk Jammu. School administration agreed. He was allowed to train the students and even providing him space within the school premises. By 2012 spring, Singh got his team and started training them after they would finish their classes.
But the coach did not remain confined to his requisite team only but begun training other interested students as well. Since then he claims to have trained nearly 100 specially abled students.
In 2012 only, he Singh took his team to Lackow for the national event of Deaf Council of India and the team outshined all others. “In the first tournament we secured 13 medals that include, eight gold, three silver, and two bronze,” says Singh proudly.
That helped the coach in securing a designated space in the stadium for training. His disciples continued shining in the subsequent years by participating in major sports events across India. By now, the team he mentors, has bagged more than 24 gold medals besides two dozen silver and bronze.
Members of this team include two siblings hailing from Boh village in Kulgam’s Damhal-Hanjipora belt. The brother sister duo have secured four gold medals and two silver and one bronze, so far.
Rakhshinda, the eldest of the two, has completed her twelfth standard this year and is being counted as one of the finest players in the team.
She excelled in different camps held in various cities across India securing three gold medals and one silver. As she excelled in the game, she inspired her younger brother as well. Nabeel is two years younger to her and was initially reluctant in joining the game.
“His sister encouraged him and begun giving him extra training,” their father Bashir Ahmad Dar, said.
Now, Nabeel is the fastest growing player in his team with already a gold, silver and bronze in his kitty.
Their father Dar is no less an inspiring character in the entire judo story. A government lecturer and father of four, Dar migrated to Jammu for his two disabled kids, almost a decade back.
“There is no higher level school in valley and it was impossible to get them trained like this,” says Dar, now a proud resident of Gujjar Nagar. Initially they lived in rented accommodation and later they constructed a house. Currently posted at R S Pora, he shuttles between the two places to ensure his children get the best of training and care.
Dar still owns his inheritance back home that he has not sold. He visits his relatives every year, especially during hot summers, to escape the scorching unaffordable heat. “Now, Jammu is our home,” Dar said.
Another excelling player in Singh’s team is 16-year-old Rukaya Banoo from Banihal who has secured two gold and one silver medals, so far.
Interestingly, Rakaia’s family is also a neo-migrant to Jammu. When her father Abdul Hamid Dar decided to give proper education to his disabled son and daughter, the entire family migrated.
An employ in Wildlife Department, their family is now settled at Prem Nagar.
His Mansoor Ahamad, who is two years younger to Rukaya, didn’t join the game till early this year. Encouraged by his sister, now he also wears the snow white judo aprons and is being trained for the upcoming matches.
Vivak Singh is team’s another major player. Son of a business man, 19-year-old Singh is getting trained since he was in ninth standard. So far, he has played at different levels securing five gold medals, highest in the team. Last year, he got selected in the Commonwealth for deaf-Judo.
“We were so happy that our player is going to play in the Commonwealth,” says Singh, “But the team was not sponsored by Government due to some reasons.”
Resident of Satwari Jammu, this lone child of his parents is being considered one of the strongest male players in India.
What makes para-judo distinct is that the team members are now working together. In each other, they have found sort of an extended family, their parents say.
These boys and girls have their speech and hearing impaired but that does not prevent these young athletes from using latest technology. They actually use it to improve their lights and interact.
Everyone among them is using Smartphone and those too exploring modern features.
“They are all using internet and social networking sites,” Singh says. “Barring the problems they have since birth, they are as good as we are and, in certain ways, better than us.”
To communicate with each other they are use whatsapp and other applications and even make video calls.
Nabeel is now also trying his hand at photography. As he shows videos of his matches, he goes on to display the photos he clicked recently.
“They are more intelligent than the normal kids,” says Bashir Ahmad Dar. “They are very well aware with the computer system and when sometimes anyone in our family encounters some problem in phone, Nabeel handle it.”
This game has helped these children to find a new world, admits Hamid. “We can have some problems while communicating with them but while they interact with each other they are lost in their own world,” he said.
But he rues that they are not getting same facilities at their home.
Even Suraj Singh says he has “discovered a new world” in these “silent” people.
“I have been training the normal players but once I turned to this line I was apprehensive that I should get ready for the tough job,” Singh said. “But training them is easier than the normal ones. They are hard working and grasp things fast; you need to know only sign language.”
The team has a regular schedule of practicing for an average of four hours daily.
As the second round of the day’s training is over, the team folds their white aprons in the bag.
Singh bids them good by, while reminding with the authoritative gesture to be on time tomorrow. As they start moving out, they open their handsets and get back to the world they understand better virtually.