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“I want to represent the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at the Olympics”

“Never thought that I would be this independent!” was Bhavani’s reaction after she got an orthopaedic shoe lift as a teenager. Now, she has made it her life’s mission to make other persons with disabilities independent too.

Born with a shorter right leg, M. Bhavani (31) was a student at the Government Senior Secondary School, Rangachang when she attended a medical camp in Standard 11, where she was fitted with the shoe to compensate for the 5-inch height difference. Little did 16-year-old Bhavani know that this would change her life

After her schooling, Bhavani studied D.Ed (Social Education). She now works on a contract with the Education Department, as part of the ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’, and teaches children with special needs, for all 21 disabilities listed in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act.
In 2021, during a mental health counselling session at the Navy Hospital, Bhavani was suggested to take up sports, and she immediately started training for 100m sprints. She was elated after her first ever victory at the 100m sprint in the19th National Para Athletic Championship. “I never imagined I could win the event,” she says.  
Bhavani attributes her successes to the ace athlete K.P. Mammu of Andaman Nicobar Police Fire Service, popularly known as ‘Andaman Express’, who motivated and trained her, recognising the fire in her belly and the fleetness of her feet.

Shortly after she won her first silver medal in 2021, Bhavani faced an obstacle – no dedicated tracks in Port Blair to train for her running! But like a true athlete, she leaped right over the hurdle, and started training in long jump too.

There has been no stopping Bhavani since. So far, she has clinched four gold, two silver, and two bronze medals, in tournaments across India in both 100m sprints and long jumps. “It has been my dream to do something for my place, for my nation. Athletics gives me an opportunity to contribute,” she says. 
Bhavani is grateful for the goodwill of members in the education department, some of whom have sponsored her trips to participate in the 22nd National Para Athletic Championship, 2024 in Goa where she clinched a gold medal in long jump. Bhavani highlights the extensive support of the district education officers, Sangeeta Chand and Gyan Sheel Dubey, who have been very supportive every step of the way. “My co-teachers are also very helpful at school; they pool in money for my expenses,” Bhavani shares.

A typical day in Bhavani’s life is quite choc-a-block, with no time to herself or for hobbies. Alongside her duties as a special educator and a mother to six-year-old Arnav, Bhavani is also training other athletes in Junior games. Other teachers also come to her for training in social work.  

Bhavani’s mission: “I want to take Andamans to the Olympics. I want to represent the Islands and make us all proud.” Beyond the awards and laurels, she has also brought much needed attention to the facilities for paralympic games and sports in the Indian archipelago. The Andaman & Nicobar Islands Sports Secretary has expressed his interest to Bhavani in creating special provisions and infrastructure for paralympic athletes. As she waits for a formal meeting, Bhavani can feel her dreams of transforming paralympic sports in the Islands manifest, starting with on-ground change.

Bhavani is steadfast in her ambitions. She is now setting up the Yogitaa Foundation, where she will train children with disabilities in sports. “Parents in the Islands tell me that there are no sports facilities for disabled children. There are no job prospects too when they grow up. I want disabled children to be independent, and sports can help them. Andamans should have all the sporting facilities. If at least one of our children can become successful in the championships, it will be great.”


Vicky Roy