by Anoushka Garg, aged 11
Disability: does it have the right to dictate your every move, I incessantly repeated this question through my mind. Not just today, but every day of my disabled life. Each and every day, until I was seven, I was manoeuvred around the small-minded world. The world that laughed and smirked at a disabled child. The world that stared persistently. The world that overlooked ''rejects'' as they call me and ostracized those that were different. Was this right? Was it right to have taken away the fun from my park trips? To take away the ability to shop anywhere, without being questioned as to why a person like me needs to shop? Me? Interested in fashion? And you can forget the word pretty. However much it made me feel different, I had become accustomed to these type of comments; it wasn't new. Despite all these feelings of isolation, I had made up my mind, if I had to be different, then so be it. But why not stand out for a reason other than for my disability. I wanted to stand out for my ability. I would show the world my talents and that being in a wheelchair didn't hold me back.
From that day on I commenced my training to becoming a contestant at the Paralympic gymnastics tournament. I would show everyone that working legs are not all that is needed to participate. What happened to bravery? To guts? To determination? What happened to looking beyond a person’s physical appearance? My training began with learning how to balance on a pole without assistance. If I was going to get anything done I was going to have to stop relying on people to help me up. I needed to understand that becoming a champion was not child's play. Sometimes, just sometimes... I used to dream of myself standing on the podium on my two feet, adorned with the medal of victory while my national anthem played on. The sheer excitement of that moment would wake me up in cold sweat with goose bumps up my arms but I daren’t share this dream with anyone – not my coach, not my mother. After six years of training every day I could not afford to be distracted by what still seemed like a mirage. I felt like a bird trapped in a cage. I was desperate to take my first flight. I started competing and signed myself up for any and every competition I came across. Soon my gliding arms did the talking – not my redundant legs. Spiralling on greased poles and performing magnificent handstands, I felt invincible.
Then the call came. The call that changed my life. I had been selected to represent our country in the Paralympics.