Tuesday, March 28th, 2023 01:54:29

‘Courage!’ The Old School Calls

Updated: September 8, 2016 12:17 pm

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

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