Indrajit Pandey (36), a native of Allahabad, who was in the army, had lost both his legs in a bomb blast four years ago. Dejected, he looked for means to involve himself in some form of sports, when he learnt about wheelchair tennis, which managed to spark an interest in him.
Despite being faced with several challenges, he has been striving to represent Tamil Nadu, where he stays.
“I have come this far. However, I want to represent my country at the international level,” he told DTNext . Along with many other players who are also on wheelchairs, Indrajit will be participating in the country’s fourth All India Tennis Association’s (AITA) tournament scheduled to begin in Chennai on August 1.
With an aim of setting up an exclusive training facility that is completely accessible and to train tennis players who are wheelchair-bound to be world class players, Astha, a non-profit organisation, along with AITA, has been conducting tournaments and working towards creating a pool of wheelchair-bound tennis players.
Stating that this is the second time such a tournament is being held in the city, Sunil Jain, Founder of the Organisation, said, “Tennis players who are faced with such disabilities are faced with a number of challenges, including the lack of basic facilities, such as a tennis court to practice on. The players therefore do not get to practice on a regular basis.”
He further said, “Another major challenge is to create awareness among the parents and teachers on the importance of involving their children with physical disabilities in such sports activities. As persons with disabilities are unable to play like others do, their self esteem tends to be very low. However, sports serve as a means of breaking that barrier as it is a tool for social transformation.”
As most Indian wheelchair players play on a basic sports chair which costs at least Rs 30,000, funding proves to be an important requirement for them.
“One cannot expect to go and compete with International players with those chairs. They need sophisticated, customised and technologically improved chairs. Such chairs would cost at least Rs 4 lakh per chair. Therefore, we are on the lookout for funds. We have already funded a chair for the country’s top player from Bangalore. While he ranks 415 worldwide, we hope it comes down to 100 soon,” added Sunil.
Incidentally, the organisation was on the look out for five other players. Therefore, through Tamil Nadu Tennis Association, the tournament was brought to Chennai.