Chapmion Spirit: The inspirational story of Kashmir's first national Paralympic medallist

  • Ufaq Fatima
  • Publish Date: Mar 5 2018 2:50AM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Mar 5 2018 2:50AM
Chapmion Spirit: The inspirational story of Kashmir's first national Paralympic medallist

Showkat Jeelani is a living monument to courage. The 56-year-old from Lal Chowk, Anantnag district met with a car accident in February 2006 that left him 75 percent disabled. Most people would have given up on life. But Showkat is not most people. He put his heart and mind into sports, becoming Kashmir’s first national Paralympic medallist, winning a gold and three silver medals at the National Paralympics Championship in Bangalore in 2012.

“I could not believe it when I won the gold in throw jump. I felt like my body had grown wings,” says Showkat, who was honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Sportsperson by the Jammu and Kashmir Police that year. Soon after he won the National Para Athletic Championship.

“It was the first time I was travelling alone after my accident,” he recalls about the 2012 national championship. “My wheelchair was my support. With the help of people at the airport and the hotel, I managed my first day in Bangalore. The next morning, the organisers refused to sign me up as I was not affiliated with any sports council because in Kashmir the one we have is dysfunctional.” But realising his love for sports, the organisers let him participate.

In 2014, Showkat won the Sub Junior Tong-IL Moo-Do Championship, organised by Tong-IL Moo Do Federation of India. On Republic Day in 2016, the state government awarded him for his achievements.

The youngest of eight siblings, Showkat completed his higher secondary studies from SP College in Srinagar in 1981 and subsequently earned a diploma in civil engineering from the city’s Government Polytechnic College. In 1994, he was recruited as an engineer in the Roads and Building (R&B) Department, Anantnag. He got married soon after and fathered two daughters. It was a fulfilling life, he says. Until, that is, he got into an accident while travelling from Srinagar to Anantnag. His car had collided with an army vehicle. He suffered a spinal injury that left him paralysed waist down. “He was an outgoing person and was fond of travelling. After the accident he became weak and with time short tempered as well,” says Rehana, Showkat’s wife.

Showkat was in Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Science, Srinagar, for over a month. But seeing that he was not getting better, Rehana took him to Delhi for further treatment. They had to leave their kids with relatives.

“We spent two months in the Indian Spinal Injury Centre in Delhi. There, seeing people in worse conditions doing routine work gave him hope to fight back,” says Rehana, who looked after her husband single-handedly.

It was at the Indian Spinal Injury Centre that Showkat learned of sports programmes for people like him. He decided to give it a go, and hired a personal coach. The rest, as they say, is history.

Showkat’s younger daughter Aaliya was barely five when her father was injured. He could not even lift a spoon then, she has been told, but now he is a champion. No wonder Aaliya sees him as a role model. “Papa worked hard to give himself hope. He’s an example for anyone going through a tough phase,” says Aaliya, now 17.

In the last 11 years, Showkat has fought every battle with courage. Hard training and regular exercise has now enabled him to walk on his own. He has also made judicious use of technology, buying a customised car for specially-abled people. “We always see an injury like this as the end. It’s just a pause in your life and you just have to come out of this distress and fight. One should never give up. No matter how you feel, dress up, get up and never give up.”

He is a frequent visitor to Shafqat Centre in  Bemina  for the disabled people. He actively participates in sports and other activities there. Recently, he was appointed a counsellor at the centre and he says he’s determined to help people like him realise their potential. “I want to touch as many lives as I can. It gives me immense joy if I can become a hope for any hopeless person.”

Showkat recently met Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to raise the issue of the lack of basic facilities for the disabled people in Kashmir. “She assured me the government will take the issue seriously, but so far I have not seen anything.”