“The only disability is a bad attitude. The limitations are not in your body but in your mind,” says the Vikram Awardee and first Asian Para swimmer to cross the English Channel. To keep his dreams alive, he had to mortgage his house but he didn’t step back.
Satendra Singh (32), in a heart-warming conversation with Life Beyond Numbers, says, “Even though there were a lot of people who tried to convince me otherwise to quit swimming because of my physical deformity, I have always believed that through willpower we can conquer all battles.”
Born in Ghatagaon Village in Bhind, Madhya Pradesh, financial problems were always part of his life. “My father was a farmer and the only earning member of our family. We had to lend money which we couldn’t pay back so we sold our land and moved to Gwalior in 2007 so that I can study and earn,” says Singh.
As a child, once Satendra suffered from diarrhea and got treated at a district hospital, where due to improper treatment his nerves got damaged. Recalling the traumatic experience she said, “I didn’t feel the change until I was in 7th standard. I started to feel pain in my legs and found out there was 60% disability in both my legs.”
From a Village Pond to National Championship
“I asked for funding from MP government but I didn’t get one because there was no proof of my abilities. I was asked to swim in a local pond and prove and when I told them that I was planning to cross the English Channel, they doubted me,” says Satendra.
In 2009, for the first time, Satendra participated in National Paralympics Swimming Championship in Kolkata and won a bronze medal in Free Style among 400 swimmers across the country.
“What I have learned is that adapting to the changes is important. For many people, it takes time to accept the fact that they were once abled and now disabled. But not in my case. I didn’t wallow in self-pity when this happened, rather I decided to fight my physical disability with my able mind,” he says to LBN.
Getting Up and Moving Forward
Whenever life throws us to the ground, it is essential to get up and charge yourself and this is what Satendra has done.
“I loved swimming as a child. It was during my school days when I used to spend hours swimming in a local river and it became my daily routine. I also saved the life of a 12-year-old from drowning,” says Satendra.
In Gwalior, he joined Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education, where he got the courage and motivation to try his abilities in swimming. He met his Professor Virendra Kumar Dabas, who trained him for the national–level paralympic swimming.
Dabas was the senior professor in sports management in that University back then and currently is the Chairman PCI (Paralympic Committee of India). Not many know that he is also the first person to form the association for Paralympic swimming (in 1996).
On asking about Satendra, 64-year-old Dabas says, “Most disabled people I have come across have stopped dreaming, they do not have a target or focus, but Satendra was different, he didn’t leave everything to fate, he believed in hard work. I found positivity in him.” He continues. “Satendra was always curious, he always wanted to learn more, which helped him to reach where he is today.”
Success is about Will-power, not Facilities
Satendra also holds a master’s degree in History along with Diploma in Computer Application and Tally Software. In 2013, He got a job in the Department of Commercial Tax, MP which made his life a bit easy financially but had to resign because he couldn’t find enough time for training.
Thanks to TATA Finance and IAS officer P. Nahari who supported Satendra when he was in need of financial help. “Nahari sir gave me a computer so that I work on and I am very grateful to him. TATA helped me when no one was willing to place their trust in me,” he says.
“One thing I am very confident about is that success can only be achieved by believing in self and will-power Facilities do not help one to achieve it. So, I believe it is important to motivate and inspire a person because it helps to build confidence and achieve the impossible,” says Satendra.
Staying Motivated in Tough Times
What bothers Satendra is that in India, one has to achieve something to prove their worth and only then people trust you and your abilities. “If you win a match, people cheer you and support you. The thing is you have to prove yourself first and then you can think of getting help, that too if something is willing enough to do that. This needs to change.”
He continues, “Looking for a constant source of money to fund your dreams is difficult. Searching for sponsors every time to support the events I plan to participate in, becomes tough at times.”
Right guidance is one of the crucial things every sportsperson craves for and so did Satendra. Through Facebook, he came across his present coach Rohan More from Pune who is the youngest person across the globe to swim across the Ocean Seven, which consists of seven open water channel swims.
Rohan trained him for 8-9 months in Pune. There were ups and downs in Satendra’s life, but he was never afraid of failure and always believed that it is a path to success.
“It took months of practice that made crossing the English Channel possible for a disabled man. So, it was not a miracle that happened in a single day, it was out of complete determination and my love for swimming. Challenge excites me and not fame,” he says.
Before Satendra, no one in Asia had crossed the English Channel. On June 24, 2018, he became the first para-swimmer across Asia to do so through relay swimming in 12 hours 26 minutes. He was part of the swimming relay team which had four para-swimmers from India, including him- Jagdish Chandra, Chetan Raut, and Rimo Shah.
Singh has always believed in the lines of Bhagavad Gita that keeps him going- “Whatever happened, happened for the good. Whatever is happening, is happening for the good. Whatever will happen, will also happen for the good.”
Currently, he is preparing for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
So what to do with bad attitudes in case it comes to us in the form of disability? You need to get rid of it in your mind and understand that only Sky is your limit!