‘Courage!’ The Old School Calls
Fear not the darkest night;
Clouds only veil the light;
‘Courage!’ the old school calls;
St. Paul’s, St. Paul’s, St. Paul’s!
( Excerpt of school song.)
These expressive words that have chimed through St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling, for the past 150 years, have taught every student the importance of remaining steadfast and undaunted in the event of a challenge. When we learn of the challenges one particular student, Sharad Kumar Yadav, has endured during his ongoing odyssey, the same words of the School Song, come to mind because he had been confronted by “the slings and arrows” of life. He was ensconced in St. Paul’s for his formal education, from 2001-08. Sharad was barely two years old when he was afflicted by Polio Myelitis, which spread to his left leg, causing an inevitable degree of disability. His parents thought, as he grew, that it was best Sharad go to boarding school. They selected St. Paul’s, in Darjeeling. They knew, that with the school’s powerful ethos, Sharad would not be troubled by any form of discrimination. He would be a normal Paulite and that was what he was- a normal Paulite, notwithstanding his disability. Unknown to Sharad’s parents and Sharad, St. Paul’s had undertaken a similar responsibility, in 1966 / 67, when Gerard West was welcomed into this grand institution. Gerard, also affected by polio, needed the support of two crutches, unlike Sharad, who walks, albeit with a limp or hobble. Both examples elucidate that St. Paul’s were receptive to the policy of nurturing a boy who required special attention.
It was inconceivable to even imagine that, despite Sharad’s disability, this school was destined to propel him to the most inspiring achievements he could ever dream of, in the world of athletics, which he excelled in and broke records in the high-jump category, at St. Paul’s. We must understand, in brief, what occurs within a person’s mind, when he has a physical problem. Only then will one understand Sharad’s scintillating achievements, which began at St. Paul’s and subsequently progressed to a fiercely competitive world, which was far away from the hallowed portals of his beloved school.
A disability means a person who has fundamental difficulty accomplishing things that others take for granted. Doctors Deepak Chopra and Rudolf Tanzi, have explained that directing the brain towards a disability can help with astounding results. Both Doctors, of world wide fame, have compared this approach to physio-therapists who now convince stroke patients to exercise the affected part. The brain, almost miraculously “orders” the affected side to respond. This is how Sharad began treating his physical problem. The phrase, mind over matter, means the use of willpower overcoming a physical difficulty. He conditioned his mind and brain to move ahead with his disabled leg. It was not entirely a smooth sailing cruise for Sharad. Jealousies and rivalries almost ruined everything he aspired for. The Sports Authority of India stated that Sharad had acquired a supplement, which contained Stanozol, a synthetic anabolic steroid, consumed to develop muscles and bone density. Sharad’s appeal that he was innocent and this was put into his diet without his knowledge, was not accepted. He was detained months before the London Paralympics, on the vague grounds of “ misconduct.” His Russian coach, Nikita Uffgan, was assigned to someone else. But Sharad’s determination continued and he went into training in a private stadium. The President of the Committee, Rajesh Tomar, observed Sharad’s dedication and offered Sharad a slot at Incheon, Korea, for the Asian Games. What followed was rare poetic justice.
Sharad’s determination rewarded him with a Gold Medal in the Asian Games, at Korea, in 2014.He eclipsed a twelve year record of 1.79 meters and mesmerized his spectators, who initially reacted with a stunned ‘radio-silence’ as he cleared the new record of 1.80 meters, thus prompting his admirers to erupt into screams of joy. He looked at his supporters with a characteristic smile, evocative of an equally characteristic innate sense of determination. Rev. David Howard, who was the Principal of St. Paul’s during Sharad’s tenure , would have thanked the Good Lord, for His blessings, on a former student.
Sharad is presently training for the Rio Paralympics scheduled from September 7th, to September 18th, 2016. His performance will be closely followed on a wish and a prayer.
This young man’s focus is shared with his academic endeavours. He has graduated from JNU, New-Delhi and intends to pursue his post graduation. After a day’s work-out Sharad calms his mind from life’s challenges and listens to music or practices a bit of meditation as a means of catharsis.
Adversity, be it a disability or controversy, can attribute strength. Challenges move in a mysterious way, reminiscent of Shakespeare’s words: “Sweet are the uses of adversity.”
by Deepak Rikhye