Free Press Journal

Shalini Saraswathi wants to make India proud at Paralympics 2020

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I train with professional athletes who are able. They have treated me as their equal, and have never made me feel different or less. When I look at them, I am inspired and when they look at me, they are inspired.

Mumbai : Targets are set, now Shalini Saraswathi is working hard to achieve them. But that does not mean if she fails to make it to Paralympics 2020, it will be the end of her life, exclaims this fun-loving blade-runner.

Saraswathi, a Bangalore-based marathoner and public speaker, says, “I want to participate in the Paralympics 2020.” But she knows very well it entails immense hard work and there will be setbacks at times and she will have to deal with them. But Saraswathi, a quadruple amputee, wants to take things as they come.


Without revealing much about her training tactics, Saraswathi says, “I train with professional athletes who are able. They have treated me as their equal, and have never made me feel different or less. When I look at them, I am inspired and when they look at me, they are inspired. We live in a mutual admiration club.”

Her journey from being able to differently-abled (yet, stronger), began in 2012. She was returning from a vacation in Cambodia and contracted fever, which turned out to be Rickettsia, a rare bacterial infection. It caused her to lose her baby (she was pregnant then), suffer multiple organ failure and slipped into a coma. She survived all these calamities but her limbs gave way. The rest is history  which shaped Saraswathi’s future.

Had all her four limbs been amputated overnight, maybe she would have been a different person, she feels. But since the loss of her limbs occurred over a period of two years, she says she was able to look at things differently.

“My family functioned well — there were times they were over-protective and at times they were not. I was strong when I looked at them and they were strong when they looked at me. We played on each other’s strengths. I was always a little reckless and they knew I would bounce back,” says Saraswathi, with a twinge of sarcasm. Saraswathi acquired the skills to become a motivational public speaker, but there is one aspect of these sessions she finds exhausting. “The question that is most exhausting is when people ask what inspired me. I do not have an answer to that question. I think there are some generic questions, like who played an important part in my life  — was it a book or a movie  and so on. They ask me to name one person in my life who inspired me and I think it is difficult to single out any one person.” However, she does enjoy these sessions, where she can share her experience in a light-hearted manner.

Saraswathi started her journey as a public speaker in 2016-17 and her first-ever corporate session was for Tesco in Bangalore. Since then, she has addressed 1,200 people for Deloitte. While many pursue this as a full-time career, this deputy general manager at Firstsource Solutions, does not have any such plans. “I don’t do general motivation, my talks are centred around my life,” she claims.

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