Reading had me captivated since childhood. After exhausting my personal stack of books, which would have immobilized a mobile library, before I turned 12, I turned to other kinds of books. I romanced with romances, and divorced them soon after. I tried the religious books, but they weren’t my temple. I even gave cookery books a shot, but they just weren’t my cup of tea.
Finally I stumbled upon ‘Manga’. No, that isn’t an abbreviation or the name of a Martian, rather, it is a genre of Japanese comics, with some prescribed guidelines. I switched to all the sports mangas possible, and read most of them with great enthusiasm. However, only one could leave a lasting impression. The name of the manga was ‘REAL’ by Inoue Takehiko. It wasn’t your regular comic. For starters, it didn’t feature your alpha males and underdogs going head-to-head in basketball. It was actually based on wheelchair basketball.
The pace and shooting skill of the ‘handi- capable’ instantly attracted me. Youtube also supplied videos for paralympic basketball, and I saw how people had transformed a disability, into an ability like no other. They were moving on their wheelchairs as if they were natural extensions of their own bodies, and had ball control that would put modern day PGs to shame.
The players were categorized according to their disabilities veracity, in a scale ranging from 1- 5. While most 5 rated players are single amputees who can run normally with prosthetics, the players rated 1 are a miracle in themselves, for most of us would be on the bed permanently had we been in their position. Each team can only have a total of 14 points on the court at a time, so only two single amputees can feature, thus making it a game of numbers too.
To get a measure of their determination, I decided to take to the Basketball court myself. I attempted a few 3- pointers, some counted, most touch and out, very few failing to touch altogether. I then arranged for a chair and took a few shots. I fell short of the target by roughly 6 feet (laughably, I know, but try it yourself too). And what’s more, some wheelchair basketballers (the 1 point players) don’t even have fully functioning stomach muscles, thus making it even harder. I failed to keep the ball on my lap while sitting motionless on a stool, let alone a £3500 wheelchair whizzing about. But, perhaps the fight I am talking about is not the one they are engaged in.
They are not handicapped by their wheelchair or lower angle of release, that is their strength. Their determination helped them reach a stage where no other person can think of venturing. The mental battle that they fight each and every day with society to prove their mettle, and to show the world their own capabilities, is the war they are waging. And they are dribbling past, intercepting passes, shooting through and outplaying the skeptic world in every possible way. For them, the sky truly is the limit.