Sport is something that unites us irrespective of our backgrounds. The United Nations estimates 12-15 % of the world population to be impacted by some kind of bodily disability. This estimate for India is about 7%.
While few self-motivated differently abled across the world have shown extraordinary courage and will power to not be bogged down by the condition of their bodies and have excelled in the various fields. Be it art, social work, sports or politics. Most of these achievers are self-made and they have realised their potential without much talking about accessibility or other legal rights associated with the people with disabilities that are conferred by law of the land.
They have lived, expressed themselves living with the limited accessibility to interact with the world and yet have found a way to find their unique self-expression and are living a life of complete participation and contribution.
Similarly, I was wondering if there is some common secret behind every such success. If we can crack this, I thought we can as well make that available for millions of people with different abilities in the world and a real difference can be made to this aspect of human beings. As a person with constrained physical movements (my body was impacted by Polio when I was 18 months, due to which I do not walk on my legs and I take support of people to move around and I use wheelchair too for the same), I have been someone who would be curious to interact with various aspect of life and people and would find a way to create an access to interact.
It is my interaction with people in as is condition without expecting the change in the condition that allowed me to appreciate the world the way it is. I would be honest here that, at times the world would occur very different for me and unfair for me. I would feel totally out of place at times. It was in those times that I realized that I got to find a purpose for my interaction with the world without a desire to change the world.
A very profound question was “Can I be resource for the world, without getting anything in return at all?” There was no clear answer. From the personal perspective most of the time answer would be yes. But when I examined further that confident yes was a result of me being able to interact with the world and allowing the world to interact with me in current situations without either of us wanting to alter anything.
This is where the word jugalbandi struck to me. I thought how would it be to bring worlds of people with and without bodily disability together for a common purpose? Just like in musical jugabandi two different world interact with each other to create a master piece and entertain the world and inspire the world.
So we went ahead and explored this idea in music and dance and art in the first two years. We brought visually challenged dancers and sighted dancers to learn and perform dance together. We allowed ‘mouth painters’ and young artists to come together on a same canvas to paint. It was an amazing experience of joy and inspiration and creation.
The birth of Jugalbandi Sports
In 2014 we wanted to explore this much seriously and we ventured into sports and we called it as Jugalbandi Sports – Life is a Game, lets play it! Astha began this journey with series of sports activities in a very innovative format called Jugalbandi Sports in three different sports activities, wherein people with and without bodily disability come together in a single team and play together to know, understand and help each other for the same purpose of winning. It was excitement of matches of tennis, cricket and chess in the Jugalbandi format that mesmerised people with what is newly possible.
The idea is to bring people with and without bodily disability together in sports in a same team and allow them to discover each other’s world and enable them to break the notional barrier between them. This approach blurs the boundary between the two worlds to a degree such that engagement between the two is rooted in joy, satisfaction, growth and opportunity and contribution.
ASTHA is a Non-Profit Organization based on working to promote Paralympics Movement In India. ASTHA conceptualized Jugalbandi Sports to bring people with and without disabilities together in a way that they can learn and understand each other. ASTHA mentors and supports Para athletes to reach excellence through sports. Among other projects currently, ASTHA is working on setting up India's First Accessible Wheelchair Tennis Training Center.
We held a chess tournament where in 20 visually challenged players played with sighted players. This event was conducted at RV Dental College in Bengaluru on 22nd November 2014. Sighted players were amazed even to realise that people with blindness can play chess and they were astonished by the ability of human perceptions. It was unforgettable day for many.
Here is a video of the chess tournament:
On 14th Dec 2014 we conducted Jugalbandi cricket at Capitol School grounds of JP Nagar Sports Association. Three mixed Jugalbandi teams were formed. Each team had 5-6 abled bodied players and 5 -6 differently abled people. It was fun, excitement, fight and arguments and the day ended with total learning and allowing each other to know better and appreciate each other. Our respect for people went to whole new levels. International para swimmers Sharath Gayakwad and Niranjan also played cricket and they were thrilled to experience the concept.
More recently, there was another Jugalbandi Cricket tournament held at Sullivan Police Groundsin Bangalore on October 16. The event was played between the 3 winning teams with each team of 10 players, consisting of 6 abled and 4 differently abled people. The tournament was played on a 20-yard pitch, witnessed overarm bowling, and was based on a knockout format as per the rules and regulations set by the International Cricket Council.
Here is a video of the cricket tournament from 2014:
Following the success of chess and cricket, we held Jugalbandi tennis on 28th Dec 2014 at KSLTA stadium in Cubbon Park. We conducted a doubles tournament with each team comprised of one person on wheelchair and his/her partner on feet. We formed 9 teams with the help of few private Tennis Academies in Bangalore and Karnataka Wheelchair Tennis Association. We conducted trials to form teams.
Jugalbandi Sports is a very innovative concept that bridges the gap between abled and differently abled athletes. Both sets of athletes share a unique experience of competition and joy. Sporting values such as team-work, determination and hard work are also acquired by all participating players.
- Sunil Jain