Palak Kohli: I used to feel why people have two hands, and God did this to me!
When this 18-year-old says with conviction that she has the “determination and hard work” required for the sport and to fulfil her dreams, the world needs to see it! Wonder girl Palak Kohli is India’s para badminton star from Jalandhar, who recently made history by becoming the youngest para badminton player in the world to qualify for Tokyo Paralympics 2021.
Kohli and her partner Parul Parmar are the first Indian para shuttlers to qualify for Tokyo Paralympics; in the SL3-SU5 women’s doubles event that is debuting at the games this year. The duo is currently training in Lucknow, at the Gaurav Khanna Excellia Badminton Academy — the first Indian professional para-badminton academy in India. And Kohli says, “When everybody was spending time with their family (during the lockdown), I sacrificed being with my dear ones. All the athletes went back home. Everybody was posting about making pancakes, spending time with their parents and siblings... I used to feel a bit sad. But I’m glad I stayed back and trained. It was a golden era for me!”
She says her confidence comes from the sport itself, and of course her family and coach, Gaurav Khanna. “Anybody who sees me would always ask: ‘Aapke haath ko kya hua hai?’ and then comment: ‘Bhagwan aisa kisi ke saath na kare!’. Woh sympathise karte hain, which I don’t like. Whatever has happened has happened. We need to accept it. Hum logon ke curse karne se things won’t change. I used to feel why people have two hands, and why God did this to me! All this changed when I stepped into the field of sports. The moment I came to Lucknow, I saw many para players here... their smiles, enjoyment, and nobody felt that they are differently abled. We keep on making healthy fun (of each other). How a person grows, depends on one’s surroundings. If you are surrounded by positive people, it will reflect in your actions and behaviour,” opines Kohli.
“I’ve crossed many hurdles,” says the young gun, talking about the time when her life changed for the better, circumstantially. “Hurdles were there from the day I entered the field of badminton... I was once coming out of a mall and was told by a man about para sports; particularly para badminton. He said, I should give it a shot. Then there was no looking back. It turned out to be a great opportunity for me. Whatever I used to face in the society and at school. I would never share these with my parents. Kyunki agar unse share karti toh woh dukhi ho jate. I just told them that I wanted to start playing para badminton, and they were very surprised. I insisted and they gave in,” she adds.
And now that her struggles have paid off, ask if she’d like to replay them on the screen, and choose an actor to portray her part in a Bollywood adaptation, and she says: “I definitely see myself (laughs)! If you dream big, your targets will be high and you’ll at least reach somewhere nearby.”
Author tweets @Nainaarora8