The Challenging Ones inspires physically challenged people to shine in sports and adventure, finds Alekh Angre
In 1999, Major Devender Pal Singh (now retired) lost his right leg in a mortar bomb explosion in the thick of Operation Vijay, better known as the Kargil War. On reaching the hospital, he was initially declared dead, but an anaesthetist managed to revive him. Although he survived, Major Singh’s right leg had to be amputated due to gangrene. Typical of a war hero, Major Singh was determined to live a normal life. He got himself a prosthetic leg at the Artificial Limb Centre, Pune and worked doggedly to overcome his disability and do more. He decided to take part in a car rally but couldn’t find sponsors because of his disability. The rejection by sponsors only made him more determined and he decided to focus on running. Ten years after Kargil, he participated in the Delhi half marathon (2009). “The rejection was a catalyst to prove myself. I completed the race in 3hours 40mins,” he says, proudly. Since then Major Singh has completed five half marathons and earned recognition as India’s ‘Blade Runner’.
But not everybody has Major Singh’s steely determination and will power. Many find it difficult to deal with disability. It is to help them that Major Singh, along with Major Bimal Mehra (retd), founded The Challenging Ones (TCO). TCO started as a Facebook page in 2011 with the idea of motivating those who are physically challenged—he prefers to call them ‘Challengers’—to overcome their limitations and train them to participate in sports & adventure activities.
TCO is now registered as a non-government organisation (NGO) under the Indian Trusts Act. Its core group comprises experts in orthopaedics and prosthetics.
TCO has three core activities. One, it provides a discussion platform for prosthetics, creating awareness on basics like how to wear the limbs, how to perform physical activities such as running, driving, etc. It also connects them with prosthetic experts to receive technical support and guidance.
Two, TCO offers a peer support system for people using prosthetics and for their families since accidents that force people to undergo amputation cause trauma to the entire family. Often, family members don’t know how to deal with the situation. “The Challengers take it upon themselves to meet and guide fresh amputees and their family on how to deal with the unforeseen situation. It has better impact than help that is provided by able-bodied persons,” explains Major Singh, who is now employed with a bank and works with TCO in his spare time.
Finally, TCO wants Challengers to participate in sports and adventure activities. “Our ultimate aim is to train more Challengers to help them win medals for India in the Paralympics,” says Major Singh.
So far, apart from regular workshops and talks (including the ones at Goa and Pune) to help and guide people, TCO has helped 12 amputees to participate in a 6km event at the Airtel-sponsored Delhi half marathon. It has also motivated five challengers, including a five-year old (who lost a limb due to a congenital disease) to participate in a Terry Fox Run at Chandigarh to raise funds for cancer research. At an individual level, TCO supported and sponsored Neeraj George (whose left leg was amputated due to bone tumour) to participate in the 2nd French International Para Badminton tournament at Rodez, France in 2012. Neeraj won a gold medal for India in the doubles event.
TCO’s online presence helps it reach out to many who want to take up the challenge of living a normal life. It had received monetary support from an organisation and individuals, but the big chunk of its fund-raising happens through the talks that it conducts. TCO also plans to assist a few companies to set up state-of-the-art limb centres across India. Currently, Major Singh is working hard to get the insurance industry to extend cover for a better quality of prosthetic equipment which is expensive but allows better mobility and higher activity levels.
TCO has volunteers in various cities. You can volunteer for TCO’s activities by arranging motivational talks for the physically challenged. You can also make financial donations. TCO is awaiting exemption under Section 80G of the Income-Tax Act
The Challenging Ones
A/ 53, Sector 36, Noida (UP) 201301
Mobile: 9650960322 / 9999319942
Email: [email protected]
India wins Freedom is the best source for a ringside view of the happenings in pre-independence India between 1920 and 1947 from the eyes of the an insider—Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
I first heard about this book from my favourite English teacher at school, but could lay my hands only after I entered college. Reading it then, as out of school youngster living through the immediately post-independence era-then virtually one-party rule, one leader-Nehru, of the socialistic pattern of Five Year Plans with "commanding heights", the wars with Pakistan and China, was different from reading it now, with certain banned sections restored.
The story of how India wins Freedom was written by one of the most low profile dramatis personae of the Freedom Movement known to all as Maulana Azad, independent India's first education minister. It provides the reader a peek into what actually happened along the long road to freedom.
After all, over 30 million copies of this book have been sold. At his request the initial editions of India wins Freedom had blocked certain passages that he considered politically sensitive just then. Though its full text was confined under seal in the National Library, Calcutta and the National Archives, New Delhi for thirty years, in 1958 a slightly abridged and revised version was published leaving out "incidents and reflections mainly of a personal character."
I have now reviewed the complete text, its 2009 reprint-initially released in September 1988 under a court directive. All the words and phrases of the original have been reproduced to restore the tone and temper to unravel the controversies that simmered for long about what lay in the blocked text. The Maulana comes out with his frank personal assessments and forthright views of the events and personalities involved. He depicts them in their true colours that were hitherto shielded from public eye and his assessments, on the benefit of hindsight are bang on.
Abul Kalam Azad, a Maulana and a distinguished scholar was elected president of the Indian National Congress first in 1923. This was at a time when he and Gandhi just entered the Indian political arena almost hand-in-hand. He was considered closer to Nehru, but disapproved of his ways as those of Gandhiji and Sardar Patel-he doesn't mince words, he is brutally frank in expressing his views that he penned.
The 1940s were momentous years in the history of the Freedom Movement. Azad was re-elected Congress president in 1940 and held office till 1946, another landmark year. Azad along with Gandhi and Nehru held talks with the British Cripps Mission, Viceroys Wavell and Mountbatten.
Azad recounts two of his conclusions during the talks with the British that were "doomed to failure". The arrest of the Congress leaders on the morning of 9 August 1942 following the Quit India Resolution and the World Wall II was coming to and end with the Allies firmly in control. Following Gandhiji's 21-day fast he took a decision that if India was declared free, it would voluntarily side with the British by extending full support to the war effort. The second was at making fresh attempts to meet Jinnah to come to an understanding with the Muslim League. He writes "It was largely due to Gandhiji's acts of omission and commission that Jinnah regained his importance in Indian political life. In fact, it is doubtful if Jinnah could have achieved supremacy, but for Gandhi's attitude."
After Azad stepped down from his Congress presidentship in 1946, he said later that he'd have preferred Vallabhai Patel as successor, but under intense pressure had to choose Nehru. He frankly concedes, "That was, perhaps, the greatest blunder of my political life... (had Patel been chosen) he would have seen to it that the Cabinet Mission was successfully implemented... he would have never committed the mistake of Jawaharlal which gave Jinnah the opportunity to sabotage the Plan... I cannot forgive myself when I think that if I had not committed the mistakes of the history of the last ten years would have been different." It indeed would have made a world of difference to India's history-no Partition and massacre of both Hindus and Muslims, no Pakistan, no wars, no cross-border terrorism and 26/11s.
Azad also recounts in detail the errors committed by everyone and all that smack of blatant hypocrisy. As Congress president Azad, in 1940, had declared that if India's political problem was to be solved it should not only join the war of its own free will but would also adopt conscription and send every able young man to the war front. No one heard him then. He believed that had this happened the duration of the war would have shortened and rendered British morally indebted and the Muslim League and Jinnah could have been totally sidelined and the disastrous consequences-no Partition. Unfortunately for India his advice was disregarded!
Azad takes us into the times, mindsets and the outcomes of the contradictory stands taken by his illustrious contemporaries like MN Roy, Gandhi, Patel, the Nehrus-Motilal and Jawaharlal, CR Das, Rajaji and Subhas Chandra Bose. Of his friend Nehru, he says was prone to talk in his sleep "carrying on a debate, sometimes muttering and sometimes talking loudly... indicating how much strain under which Nehru was working."
As one who has also read earlier volume I find this one much more alive. His views on the Muslim League and Jinnah-disapproval of Gandhiji conferring the title Qaid-e-Azam on him and letting the League have the finance portfolio just because Patel wanted Home, makes us admire a afresh the honesty and courage of this son of India who has been largely ignored by our historians. This book is a must read for those really want to know of Indian Freedom Movement in the context of contemporary Indian history.
(Nagesh Kini is a Mumbai based Chartered accountant turned activist.)
A woman in upstate New York is surprised to find a contribution to the Wisconsin governor's campaign on her credit card
When MaryAnn Nellis tried to pay for groceries on April 14, her credit card was declined. Later, she said, she found out why: Her credit card company, Capital One, had flagged an earlier purchase as potentially fraudulent. The problem? A $5 donation to Friends of Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor's campaign committee, Nellis said.
Nellis told a Capital One representative she had not made the donation to Walker, who is fighting an effort to recall him as governor in a closely watched, expensive election set for June 5.
"Over my dead body," said Nellis, a potter and retired teacher in upstate New York who describes herself as "adamantly angry and upset" at Republicans such as Walker. Nellis disputed the charge and she was issued a new card.
Though the amount of money was small, ProPublica decided Nellis' complaint was worth following up. There have been other reports recently about insecure campaign-donation websites and the potential for fraud. Earlier this month, The Washington Times reported that Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Republican Mitt Romney, was using a collection system that madeonline donors' credit card information accessible to even amateur snoopers.
At ProPublica's request, Nellis called Capital One and asked a representative about the $5 charge to Friends of Scott Walker.
"She told me that they watch for fraudulent merchants who will put through a bunch of charges that are not legitimate," Nellis said. "I said, 'The fraudulent merchant here was Friends of Scott Walker, right?' And she said, 'Yes.' They had a little flag on any Scott Walker activity."
As an experiment, a ProPublica employee also made a $5 donation to Friends of Scott Walker on her Capital One card on May 10. Almost immediately, Walker's campaign sent an email thanking her. Less than a minute after that, Capital One emailed a fraud protection alert, saying the company "noticed potentially suspicious activity" on her account and asking her to call fraud protection as soon as possible.
When she inquired, a Capital One representative said the donation wasn't in line with her spending pattern and "our fraud department had some potential fraud concerns on the account."
Another $5 donation, made to Walker's opponent on the Capital One card, was not flagged as potentially fraudulent. Neither was a $5 donation to Friends of Scott Walker made on an American Express card. (The employee is seeking refunds of all three donations.)
We called Friends of Scott Walker and eZcontribution, the Wisconsin company that runs the website handling donations for Walker's campaign, for an explanation, but no one would answer our questions.
Walker's campaign spokeswoman, Ciara Matthews, emailed ProPublica on May 10 under the subject line of "follow up."
"I received a message about the story you are doing," she wrote. "The campaign does not comment on internal matters."
"How about allegations of credit-card fraud?" we wrote back. "That's hardly internal, it's external."
Matthews did not reply.
Ultimately, all we can say at this point is that Capital One appears to be flagging donations to Friends of Scott Walker as potentially fraudulent.