Ten years ago, two teenaged hockey players, close friends, had a single dream — to play for India.
Highly talented, they were soon being labelled future national stars as they played pivotal roles in their Sonepat CRZ School’s hockey team’s victories.
They began to believe one day, together, they would wear India colours. But it was not to be.
Bharat Chikara (now 24) made it to the national squad, but Amit Saroha’s (now 25) could not. He struggled at the junior level and almost quit the sport before that choice was taken out of his hands.
On September 21, 2007, he was involved in a car accident that broke his spine. At 22, he was told he would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Most people would have given up on their dreams.
But Saroha decided he would adapt his. Incredibly enough, today both childhood buddies are part of India’s Common-wealth Games squad.
Chikara is in the hockey team, manning the midfield, while Saroha will represent the country in the wheelchair shot-put event.
“It’s nice to see Amit in the Games Village. His positive attitude is helping him live his dream of playing for India. I really hope he makes it to a podium finish,” said Chikara. “Whenever we are free, we get together…It’s always inspirational to be around him.”
A week ago, Saroha ‘celebrated’ his third birthday after his ‘rebirth’.
“Surviving the accident was a rebirth for me and I always celebrate it with friends,” said Saroha, who belongs to Sone-pat’s Bayanpur village. “What-ever happens is destiny but I will always live life king-size.”
He said he was introduced to wheelchair rugby by an American acquaintance during his post-accident rehabilitation at the Indian Spinal Injury Centre. He later formed an Indian team, which played a demonstration match against Brazil in the World Para-Games in Bangalore last year.
“In Bangalore, I learned about para-sports and following a six-month training stint in shot-put, I made it to the national squad. Now, my aim is to have the Tricolour flying high,” said Saroha, with his ever-present smile.