Between giving instructions and helping "special" children hold a ball, Aditi Sabarwal takes a few minutes to explain to the next group of intellectually challenged children what they are about to play. She is in-charge of conducting bocce- a smaller version of lawn bowls- at the Thyagraja Stadium where 100-odd schools are participating in a sports meet for children with intellectual disability.
Aditi is patient and calmly explains to a small girl that she must roll the green ball so that it lands close to a white ball place about six meters away. The little girl throws --- not rolls --- the ball and it goes off the playing area marked by a 12x6 wooden frame. Undeterred, Aditi places another green ball in her hands and tries to explain again. The 24-year-old is one of the assistant coaches with Special Olympics Bharat, the event's organisers. Aditi is also a "special" athlete.
A basketball player, who has represented India in many tournaments at home and abroad, Aditi feels that it was participating in such meets that contributed a lot to who she is today. Her colleagues also feel that socialising through sports meets made this shy girl independent and helped her make more friends. "I remember I barely used to talk to people, even at home I was very quite. I participated in a couple of sports meets, and then got the opportunity to travel across India," Aditi said. "The exposure and all the new people I met from other parts of the country changed me completely."
When she is not travelling for tournaments, she teaches physical education to children with intellectual disability in Pahargunj. The stipend she gets is not much, but she feels it is better than doing nothing at all.
She might not have given this a thought, but her story is an inspiration to many aspiring athletes with intellectual disability who wish to be independent and self-reliant.