Phool Singh, 45, a paraplegic and resident of Pune was the first out of 300 participants in the wheelchair at the Mumbai Marathon. He finished the Marathon in 15minutes flat. He is an ex-army man confined to the wheelchair since March 1994 as he was hit by a bullet in an ambush. Mr. Singh also practices wheelchair basketball for 1hour every day. On winning the event he said, "I participate every year in the Pune Marathon. But this is the first time we have come to Mumbai. Initially I had problems. For someone used to being in perfect control of his faculties, it is difficult getting accustomed to being bed-ridden. But then I got used to it and became self-sufficient again with the help of my wheelchair."
Another participant Kulasya Joshi, 21, who is confined to the wheelchair due to a developmental birth defect said, "I have been suffering from spina bifida since birth. I didn't participate alone, my father ran along with me. But it was absolute fun. I will come again next year." A 14year old girl, Amira who participated in the event said, "I love this event. When we run, everybody cheers for us. It feels so good. It's like letting everybody know that we are good at something too."
AdvertisementHowever, everybody was not happy with the arrangements for the wheelchair event. They feel the discrimination continues and there is only 'sympathy without empathy'. Dr. Anita Prabhu from the 'Abled Disabled All People Together' ( ADAPT) foundation said, "Six years ago, people on wheelchairs couldn't even think about participating. It was only when we protested that the organizers started the wheelchair event five years ago. Even to this date, the organizers do not give any prize or certificates to the wheelchair participants." While talking about the differently-abled children like Amira, Dr. Anita Prabhu said, "The kids love the marathon. Being differently abled, most of them cannot have many outings. So this once-in-a-year event is a big thing for them."