Despite 100 percent hearing and speech disabilities, two persons from Jammu and Kashmir proved that with hard work and dedication, nothing is impossible.
Rakshinda Mehak and Vishal Khajuria from Jammu and Kashmir have been selected by All-India Sports Council of Deaf (AISCD) among six members Judo team for upcoming First World Deaf Judo Championship, to be held at Versailles, France from October 27 to Oct 30.
Rakshinda has been selected in the 78 Kg weight category whereas Vishal in the 66 Kg weight category.
Trails for the selection of the Indian Deaf Judo team were held earlier this month, at Emerald Heights International School Indore, and was hosted by Madhya Pradesh Deaf Sports Society (MPDSS).
Originally hailing from south Kashmir’s district Kulgam, Rakshinda presently lives at Gujjar Nagar, Jammu along with her family. Vishal hails from Shahpur Brahmana in Jammu district.
Rakshinda’s father Bashir Ahmed Dar says he has two children who both are deaf and dumb with 100 percent hearing and speech disabilities. It was because of the studies of his children that they moved to Jammu as there was no special school in their Area.
“Soon after, we realized that our daughter and son are unable to speak and listen, so we planned to shift to Jammu, where there was a special school for such children. We admitted them to Samaj Klayan Kendra (School), at Shaheed-I- Chowk Jammu,” says Dar, a government employee.
He added he was seeing his children’s future dark “because of improper communication among them and us. we were neither able to understand them nor could they understand us. After they learnt writing, things became a bit easier to communicate with them.”
“23-year-old Rakshinda Mehak and 24-year-old Vishal Khajuria started Judo in their School, meant for students with hearing disabilities, under the guidance of Suraj Bhan Singh, Senior Judo coach of J&K sports council,” says Dar.
He is the only coach who took initiative for coaching deaf judokas in their school in April 2012.
“Principal Samaj Kalyan Kendra, Roshan Bhan introduced the deaf students with the game Judo and provided logistics support to them and their coach otherwise these disabled children would have been neglected,” he said.
Rakshinda is currently pursuing graduation from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).
“Rakshinda was in seventh standard in 2012 when Judo coach Surajban approached us and said that he would coach them, it was after coach Surajban taught her judo that her fate changed,” says Dar.
Becoming an inspiration to many specially- abled youths, the duo has proved that when one is strong enough, despite many challenges including physical disabilities, one can turn adversities into advantage and make their fortune on their side.
“With dedication, discipline and hard work nothing is impossible. And nothing will seem to stop you from achieving your dreams,” says Rakshanda.
Rakshanda spoke to Rising Kashmir via Arwha Imtiyaz, who voluntarily works as interpreter with All Jammu and Kashmir sports association of Deaf.
Rakshanda has won several awards throughout her Judo journey. She has bagged at least 13 gold medals at national and state level judo matches. She also won a best judoka award in deaf national judo championship 2021 held at Lucknow.
Hailing from District Jammu’s Shahpur Brahmana area, Vishal Khajuria has done intermediate education from the Samaj Kalyan Kendra (school).
With 80 per cent hearing and speech impairment, Vishal has bagged 10 gold medals in his Judo career at national, state and district level championships.
Rakshanda and Vishal started their Judo journey in 2013. It was their coach, Surajbhan who has supported them despite being nonprofessional in sign language.
“It was with his guidance and training that we could make it through,” Vishal says via Arwha Imtiyaz.
Visual says that their families have always been supportive to them.
“Despite being a girl, I was allowed to go for workouts and practice for long sessions. At times I used to come back from gym very late but my parents never raised questions about that,” Rakshanda says.
Vishal said they were ignored by the government despite bagging many national medals. We were only given hopes by the government, and nothing was done on the ground on their behalf, he said.
“There are no schools and colleges for people like us,” he said.
They said that they are practicing hard and are hopeful that they would bring laurels back home by bagging medals for their country to set an example for others.
“The government should also understand that people like us exist in this country too,” said Rakshanda.
They said that All Jammu and Kashmir Sports Association for Deaf and All India Sports Council of Deaf (AISCD) has helped and supported them.
However, they said, there is a need to introduce professional coaches who would know and understand sign language.
“We urge the government to introduce Job policy for sports persons, especially for specially-abled persons,” Rakshanda said.
“My message to the parents who have disabled children, particularly girls, is that we are no less than any normal person by any means. We need people to understand us," she said.
Vishal’s mother Babita Sharma, said that it was very difficult to communicate with Vishal as we could not understand him initially.
Dar says that the government should develop institutes for providing training to the parents of specially abled children, in order to understand their wards.
Parents of the duo have thanked coach Surajbhan and Principle Samaj Kalyan Kendra, Roshan bhan for teaching and training their wards.