When she was just 15, in 12th standard, she met with an accident. She had previously been diagnosed with gastric ulcers and suffered oral bleeding. On that day as a bout of light-headedness ensued, she went to her house’s balcony, feeling dizzied and nauseous, and started vomiting blood. She fell down from the terrace and hit the ground underneath, suffering grievous injuries to her spine.
In her own words, her life shattered thereafter. She underwent a spinal-cord surgery, but it went in vain. She was unable to walk, and in lack of medical support and attention reduced to a wheelchair. Her kith and kin helped her overcome the inertia, inhibition and limbo, and their support, love and aid enabled her to surmount the great, stacked odds including the abject lack of faculties and facilities, of any sorts.
The requisite impetus came in due course of eight years of closet strife, self-doubt, introspection and subverted internal conflict. The struggle was more so an intra-one, one between internal impulses than inter-competition, that posed as a real hurdle to surmount. She fought back the trauma gradually, and after eight years in a depressed voluntary veritable stasis, finally mustered enough zeal, impelment and drive to revisit her childhood interest.
As a child, Insha Bashir had been inclined towards sports, with an impetus on cricket, volleyball [in which she excelled and pursued upto district level], and others, but she rediscovered her athletic fervour whilst coping with the trauma and striving to recommence and reconstruct herself. During her rehabilitation, at the Shafqat Rehabilitation Center in the valley, she bore witness to others who shared her condition and yet others in even greater predicaments than her, playing basketball, she recalls. They invited her to join in. Once she’d overcome initial hesitation, she found the game to be enjoyable, and convenient and suitable to partake in, from a wheelchair. She states that she finds the game very interesting and is impelled by the enthusiasm of representing her state Jammu & Kashmir, as a consequence of which, she wishes to motivate and inspire others in the valley to overcome their inhibitions and impediments and take up sporting pursuits.
According to her, the J&K Male Basketball team inspired her to embark about this career, and she hopes to lead her team as a captain, some day. She admits she’d reinvigorated her innate athletic spark after dousing it for years, in a depressed, self-imposed room-exile and reduction.
“For me, it is a life-changing move because it made me busy which in turn built my mental peace and also my physique up to an extent. It is my path which motivates to prove my potential to the world.” “Basketball as a sport has a huge role in making me strong”, she told the women-focused media platform ShethePeople.
She trains in a camp dedicated to enable specially-abled people to train, and has qualified for the National Championship in Hyderabad, in 2017.
By her own admission, she trains in the gym on a daily basis, obeys a regular schedule and adheres to a strict diet, delineated by her coach. Besides the afore, she practices basketball daily.
She has recently received an invitation from the US Consulate to enroll in the prestigious Sports Visitor Program 2019, and is enthusiastically looking forward to it.
Being the first female wheelchair basketball player from Kashmir, she laments the abject lack of sports facilties for the specially-abled in the region and lack of support and incentive from both the centre and the state government. In fact, even the general, absolute sports infrastructure faces acute shortage and sports academies are a rarity. Specialized facilities being short is a nationwide trend.
She says the first challenge or prerequisite came in the form of acceptance; acceptance of her confinement to the wheelchair and non-perception of it, as a reduction. The second was to reinvent herself post-accident. The next factor that posed itself as an obstacle and deterrent was the lack of sports faculties and institutions in the region, and then lack of physically challenged-friendly environments in the country.
She typically begins her day with teaching primary grade students at a school, then promptly visiting the nearby court for her daily training session and practice routine. Following the practice, she returns to the hostel and mentors, counsels and instructs young girls who wish to rise beyond their struggles and play like her.
This is in contrast to a time, when self-doubt-ridden and plagued by toxic jibes from relatives, one of whom wished death upon her, in lieu of enduring her suffering, she was unable to emotion gather herself, collect her thoughts, and conjure enough gusto and zeal to even perform daily routines and carry out petty trifles.
Despite the physical hardships, she continued to prepare for the MBBS entrance test. She qualified for it but travelling back and forth to the exam centre on a rocky plateau was a commitment she was not ready for.
Still, her family encouraged her to finish her graduation in Humanities. Soon thereafter, she completed her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor in Education degrees. In spite of having earned a commendable qualification, finding a job was an excruciating strife. Her repertoire, a rarity in the area, notwithstanding, she received little support, from any but her immediate kin.
“My dad’s deteriorating health pushed me to take charge of my life. And so, I began researching my condition and what I could do about it. I came across the Shafqat Rehabilitation Center in Srinagar that gave six months of physiotherapy,” she recalls. Her father, her steadfast cornerstone had been diagnosed with Parkinsonism, and this proved to be the final nail in the coffin, that ensured that she finally mustered enough impelment to stand up on her own feet. Initially apprehensive, her parents asked her to be accompanied by her siblings at the training centre, a fair distance away from her homestead, but one day into the centre, she asked her sister to retain, determined to become self-reliant and self-dependant. She would soon go on to proclaim her self-sustenance and economic self-sufficiency, as well.
It is a testimony to her gritty self integrity to emerge self-reliant and execute both daily chores, trivialities, mundanities and juggle multiple professional spheres and facets. Indeed, the entire nation is lauding her bravado.
She laments her lack of sponsors, which doesn’t let her imbibe confidence in sustenance, often having to struggle to make ends meet. It makes livelihood derivation, a veritable day-to-day struggle, and diverts her focus. She says the abyssal gap of coach and facilities prevents ample, teeming talent from thriving, and this institutional impairment might be liaised by international inspiration.
PS: My advice to every other aspirant girl is to never stop just because they think they are going to be judged. If it is what you really want to do, do it from your heart, and be an inspiration to others.
Uth bandh kamar kiya darta hai; phir dekh Khuda kiya karta hai (Get up and grid your loins; then see what God does)
(The author is a freelance journalist, writer and activist. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)