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“The accident that crushed my body strengthened my spirit and motivated me to excel in sports”

Shekhar Chaurasiya (28) can never forget his 10th standard exams in 2010. Since he had passed with flying colours his mother decided to perform a celebratory puja. Shekhar is the eldest of six children born to Kamalavati Devi and Deendayal Chaurasiya who live in Gunsej village in Bihar’s Rohtas district. Kamalavati had organised the puja just outside their small hut next to the highway.
Shekhar was absorbed in watching the puja when a truck overloaded with goods swerved to the roadside. It hit him, dragged him along and crushed him against the wall. “Every part of my body felt broken,” Shekhar recalls, “my chest, my arms, my legs.” For a gruelling four years he was bedridden, being treated and operated upon. Deendayal, a farm labourer (who later opened a kiosk selling paan leaves), first took Shekhar to a government hospital. Doctors there feared that his limbs would become gangrenous and have to be amputated. Deendayal then sought funds from family members and friends for private medical care; since Shekhar was a popular boy, good in sports and studies, there were people ready to donate. He was treated in private hospitals including one in Chennai but it was Dr Rajeev Ranjan in Patna to whom Shekhar gives full credit for his recovery. At one point Dr Ranjan treated him free of cost. He recalls how his limbs were literally patched up with flesh from other parts of his body.
The family’s strained finances obliged Shekhar’s brothers to discontinue their school studies; Sonu (23) is working in Surat and Ajit (20) is a saree shop employee in Raipur. Younger sisters Soni, Puja and Kushboo are studying in school in Gunsej. In 2015 Shekhar passed his 12th standard exam and he later completed his graduation, having chosen Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics along with Hindi and English as his subjects.
“I never thought I could walk again,” says Shekhar, who was so inspired by his recovery that he was motivated to pursue sports. He used to play cricket in his schooldays but he knew that was no longer a viable option. He took part in 400, 800 and 1500-metre races and at 18 he was selected for the National Para Athletics Championship. His coach Sandeep Kumar, who runs the Academy of Gymnastics, took him under his wing and started training him for free. Participating in national-level competitions held in various states, he won nine gold, six silver and four bronze medals. His fondest memory is when he won gold in both 800m and 1500m in the 16th National Para Athletics Championship in 2020. The Art, Culture and Youth Department of the Bihar government honoured him in the years from 2018 to 2022. 
Shekhar finds it difficult to bend his knees, and his feet require special orthopaedic shoes, but he is fully charged to take his sport to the next level and is confident of winning many more medals. In Patna he has taken a room on rent which is a 20-minute cycle ride away from the Academy. Waking up at 4 a.m. daily, he practises at the Academy and returns by 8.30 a.m. He cooks breakfast and lunch and is back at practice from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. He goes home to Gunsej at least twice a month and when he finds the time he enjoys travelling to the hills and soaking in the greenery.
A nourishing diet is crucial for the kind of hard training he does, but it doesn’t come cheap, and neither does his adaptive footwear. Rent and other household expenses come to around ₹2,500. He gets the state government’s disability allowance of ₹400 and earns a little from coaching students at the Academy. Each medal does fetch him a handsome cash prize – a gold nets him ₹2 lakh – but he points out that such events occur just once a year, and he needs financial backing to excel.  
Shekhar is not yet ready to hang up his spurs and believes he has a few more sporting years left in him. However, he is eager to repay his family for all they have done for him. “My brothers were forced to abandon their studies and have never complained. My parents did everything possible to support me despite their money problems,” he says. He has heard of a Bihar Government scheme whereby medal-winners are eligible for jobs, so he will try for a government job via his sporting achievements. It’s the least he can do for his family which has been such a pillar of strength all along.


Vicky Roy