Dwarika Prasad Jangde (35) is a swimmer and a fencer. Swimming came naturally to him, having grown up in a village where he would bathe in the common pond. But fencing, a sport for which he won awards, came later. Dwarika fences in a wheelchair, for he has a locomotor disability.
It has been an eventful journey for this son of a farmer in Hariharpur in Mungeli district, Chhattisgarh. Bhanupratap Jangde and Kunti Bai have four other children. Dwarika, the middle child, never really walked. His disability prevented his timely admission to school. In fact, there was no school in Hariharpur for his older brothers Rajendra and Padum to go to, and they started farming with their father. When a Prathmik Vidyalaya (primary school) finally opened in the village, Dwarika had to wait till his younger brother, Raju, was of school-going age. It was Raju who carried him to and from school on his back.
Dwarika says he did not face any challenges as such in school as he had owned his disability very early on: it was normalised for him and for others around him too. When he was in Class 5, a teacher told him about an impending camp in the village for people with disabilities. Thus he was able to get a tricycle from the Social Welfare Department. From Classes 6-10 he studied in a government school in Fasterpur, Mungeli, along with Raju, living in a hostel. But he had to leave the hostel when he failed that crucial year and it was three years before he could resume his education through a distance education programme. This gave him impetus to complete Classes 11 and 12 at the Multipurpose School in Bilaspur and then his BA from the Jamuna Prasad Verma College there.
Dwarika’s life took on a purposeful trajectory when he joined the Ashraydatt Karmashala Vocational College, where he learned trades such as motor winding and printing press work. During his vocational training, he also joined Sanjay Taran Pushkar, a public swimming pool in Bilaspur, as it was free for disabled people. Though he already knew to swim, here he learned all the strokes, participated in many local competitions, and won. Bilaspur opened up new avenues for him when he discovered wheelchair fencing.
When he started wheelchair fencing, it was a new game, and he won the Major Dhyanchand Puraskar in 2014 and then went on to participate in the Paralympics in Canada. He didn’t win any medals there, but was awarded the prestigious Shaheed Rajiv Pandey Puraskar from the Sports and Youth Welfare Department, Chhattisgarh. On his return from the Paralympics, Jan Vikas Parishad Evam Anusandhan Sansthan (JVPAS) felicitated him and JVPAS director Manoj Jangde was very supportive. Since then he has been involved with the organisation, going for their meetings and providing autorickshaw services when needed.
Driving an autorickshaw is Dwarika’s means of livelihood. He rented an auto from a close friend before buying his own. He says he has always wanted to be independent. Living now in Bilaspur, he supports his wife Namita, their two very young children, Dolli and Adarsh, and his mother. His father and older brothers continue farming in Hariharpur; his sister Saroj, who stopped her studies, stays with them.
The way he married Namita, who has a slight disability in her left leg, is a story in itself. Both of the same age, they had met in college. Her father was a headmaster and she was the youngest of three sisters. In 2014, when she was in her BA final year, she also started fencing and that was when she got to know Dwarika better. “I was impressed with his intelligence, his behaviour, his game, and his bravery,” she says. “We participated in many competitions together.”
Her parents did not approve of the relationship. Therefore, during the Covid-induced lockdown in 2020, she simply turned up at his house without telling her parents and they got married. And because of the lockdown, her parents couldn’t look for her! Her parents stopped talking to her but when she got pregnant with the first, all was forgiven and their relationship is now back on track.
Namita says she is very lucky to have Dwarika and his supportive extended family. She visits Hariharpur often (which is why Dwarika was alone during Vicky’s photo-shoot). Beaming with happiness, she tells us that when she goes there, her bhabis (sisters-in-law) don’t allow her to cook, and encourage her to study, and “there are like 20 people in the house to look after my children”. She has completed her B.Ed. and is preparing for the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET). Dwarika’s only wish now is that she gets a good government job.