Living in a conflict torn region like Jammu and Kashmir is hard enough. Living there with a disability can be even more challenging. Mohammad Rafee Parray has overcome this to make his mark on the national wheelchair basketball scene.
Mohammad Rafee Parray was born with a facial tumour, caused due to abnormal growth of blood vessels. Surgeons in Srinagar, where he is based, said it was too dangerous to remove.
Things were hard enough when in 2010, at the age of 23 Rafee became paralysed after falling from the roof of his house.
“I thought it was just a fracture that could be fixed, and things would be back to normal”, recalls Rafee, who is now 32. “I was not aware that I have to live out the rest of my life in wheelchair. I went into depression”.
Paralysed after fall
Three years later, Rafee discovered basketball when he joined a team at the Voluntary Medicare Society (VMS) in Srinagar. This is an organisation dedicated to helping people with disabilities.
Playing wheelchair in a basketball was not as easy as it sounds.
"At first, it was very tough for me to play the game in a wheelchair, but I told myself, I must keep going with my life. Basketball has played a huge role in changing my miserable life into a happy one." – Mohammed Rafee Parray, Wheelchair basketball player
In 2015, seven boys, including Rafee, were sent by VMS for a workshop of the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI). Here, the boys were introduced to sports wheelchairs. Rafee was able to transform his game to an altogether new level. His skills and attitude got him noticed.
“I found Rafee’s attitude to be so positive”, says Madhavi Latha, Co-founder, WBFI. “His spirit is incredible given the many issues he has overcome. He is not only a great player but gets along well with fallow players”.
Captain of J&K team
Rafee’s formidable skills on the basketball court have earned him a place on the national side. He is also the captain of the J&K Wheelchair Basketball team.
The achievements have helped him overcome the early setbacks.
“Playing and representing my state at the national level has helped realise that things are possible even in a wheelchair. It may happen in a different way than I imagined but it is possible”, he says.
Rafee spends his spare time helping people with spinal injuries. “Living in a state like J&K is very challenging for athletes with disabilities, he says. “Our state is way backward in terms of accessibility and implementation of disability laws. This makes it tough for a disabled athlete to practice and improve his or her game”.
Madhavi Latha Believes these circumstances make Rafee and his fellow J&K players’ even more remarkable. “Challenges exist for all disabled athletes in India, but they are much worse for these players. Their attitude is really amazing, and they should get more opportunities with accessible infrastructure so they can become an asset for India”.
Rafee hopes to motivate more disabled people to participate in sports by sharing his story.
“Sports is especially important for people with disabilities, not just for rehabilitation but also growth and psychological wellbeing. It helps eliminates negative emotions and instils discipline, team spirit and friendship”.
This story was origonaly published in newzhook