Wheelchair to basketball court
Para athlete Nisha Gupta tells us her inspiring story and the importance of keeping oneself motivated.
Nisha Gupta is an inspiration to many. And why not? The 20-something met with an accident at the age of 18 which left her paralysed from waist down. Having fought depression and other odds, Nisha now plays for Maharashtra’s Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team. She has also played national level basketball and represented India in swimming.
Vitamin Stree, a content channel from Supari Studio, has captured Nisha’s story in form of a video. They want to raise funds to buy sports wheelchairs for Nisha and her team. “We have got a good response from the videos but we are still raising funds. We need sports wheelchairs, which are different from normal chairs so we need more funds,” says Gupta in the middle of her practice session in Mumbai.
The unfortunate incident
Throwing light on the incident that changed her life, Gupta says that she had gone to Uttar Pradesh with her family for a vacation. “I had climbed a tree to pluck mangoes but I slipped and fell. My spine fractured and I was paralysed from waist. After coming back to Mumbai, I went through treatment and was also in rehab for five months. After three months, the doctor told me that I will be permanently on the wheelchair but I should take my life forward.”
The incident left Gupta in deep depression. “My relatives from UP never motivated me; in fact they kept demotivating me and I was therefore in depression for four years. I used to just watch TV, sleep and eat,” she says.
Gupta who has won a bronze in the 2nd Wheelchair Basketball Tournament held in Delhi in 2015 and has also secured third place in the International Bali Tournament in 2017, says that a chance to visit Nina Foundation — an NGO for spinal cord injury changed her outlook towards life. “I attended one of their events and met so many others who have been through similar accidents and were on the wheelchair. My accident happened in 2004 and back then there was hardly any awareness. But when I attended the event and met so many others, I realised that these people have moved ahead in life. Ketna Mehta, a co-founder of the foundation was also on the wheelchair. I also met Oliver D’Souza, who became my friend and taught me to be active, travel alone, and practise a fitness regime,” she says. It was D’Souza who introduced her to swimming. “He told me that swimming is very good for our fitness. We used to practise swimming and one day I got to know that the nationals would be happening in a month. We started preparing for it and participating in the competition, which was a great experience because we got to meet so many people. I got silver and bronze medals in the following competitions and then there was no stopping,” she adds.
She then moved to playing basketball and says that too got her several medals. “For the last four years, I am playing basketball. I had already wasted four years and but I wanted to achieve something in life. I had an interest in tattooing so I became a tattoo artist too,” she says.
Gupta says that getting support from the family was the most crucial factor. Initially, her family did not stand by her dreams because they were scared about her health. “They were scared about how I am going to do it but once they started watching me put in so much efforts into sports, they stood by me. I am also very stubborn and if I want to achieve something, I will work very hard for it,” she says.
Gupta says the biggest struggle was to accept her spinal cord injury and the fact that she will never be able to walk again. “It was very important for me to accept it. Once I did that, everything else was easy. Now I travel alone in the local trains. I have done fashion shows, dance on the wheelchair. No matter how much others motivate you, if you do not motivate your own self, you cannot achieve anything. Having said that, a lot of people have helped me initially,” she adds.
India, not disabled friendly
The only complain Gupta has is that most states in the country are not disabled friendly. “Compared to Mumbai, Delhi is very accessible. You don’t think twice before travelling by public transport in Delhi. It’s difficult for disabled people to get a daily job elsewhere as they end up spending their entire salary on travelling because public transports are not user-friendly,” she says.
Even the way people react to disabled people is different, she says. “If the government can make our cities wheelchair friendly, people will not be sympathetic towards us because we will be more independent. There is no difference between us and normal people,” says Gupta, who also plans to launch her own NGO for disabled people. “I want to build a rehab where people whose families don’t support them, can live and earn.”