Thousands will throng the streets to participate in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon on January 19. While most of them will participate to test their fitness, there will be at least one who will run for glory. Oliver D’Souza – a T-7 paraplegic (no sensory function from chest down) – will show his vigour in the Champions with Disability category.
D’Souza has been participating in this marathon since 2011. “We come as a group for the marathon because we just want to be counted. Everybody talks about religious minorities, but nobody talks about us,” said D’Souza, who is from Mazgaon but resides in Borivli.
“I want those people who would rather spend their morning sleeping to feel ashamed on seeing me. Nobody expects a paraplegic people to participate in the 2.4 km event,” he added.
The 31-year-old was a footballer and wanted to be a professional but an accident in 2005 cut short his ambition. While attempting to retrieve the ball from an under-construction building, he had climbed over a makeshift roof, which collapsed and he fell down 12 feet landing on his back, leaving him paralysed.
“I had no motivation to do anything. I had to cope up with the fact that my life had just changed in a span of minutes. I stayed at home for four years just being depressed, sad and angry. I also stayed at the Paraplegic Home for spinal injury patients in Sion for sometime,” said D’Souza.
However, in 2010, he found his motivation after attending a seminar by Nina Foundation, an NGO that helps patients with spinal cord injuries. “They made me realise that despite my condition, I could lead a normal life. I kept meeting motivating people since then. When I saw them doing wheel-chair stunts and happily playing tennis and throwball, I was awestruck. I never imagined that people with my condition could do that. I sought help from them and my life just changed after that,” he stated.
D’Souza has been working with the Royal Bank of Scotland since March 2013 and drives his car from Borivli to Parel (where his office is located) every day. He wants to pursue a full-time MBA degree, but the infrastructure in the city de-motivates him from doing so.
“I want to study, but going to college is a nightmare as most colleges are not wheel-chair friendly. I just hope the government pays a little heed to our needs,” he said.