It’s been almost a decade since Shekar Goud lost a part of his left leg, the toes on his right foot and his right hand in an accident. But seeing the 26-year-old para-athlete in action, you understand why he says that disability is not really weakness.
Shekar is right now 11 days into The Atlanta Foundation-sponsored Republic Ride 2017. In those 11 days, he has covered 900km, cycling the distance from Leh to Delhi. “The cold winds of Leh and Ladakh almost froze me,” says the Nalgonda native. But he’s determined not to let small things like tough weather conditions keep him from completing his ambitious cross-country cycle trip from Leh and Ladakh to Kanyakumari.
Back in 2006, Shekar, was working in a rice mill and pursuing a certificate course in Electrical trade (specialising in electrical wiring and stationery machines) from Nalgonda ITI. One evening, he was talking to a friend on the phone while sitting on the compound wall of the rented house he lived in, when suddenly tragedy struck.
“I have no idea how it happened, but I slipped from the wall and fell down. As I remember it, on one side there was a transformer, and on the other side there were electrical wires. While falling, I grabbed the wires,” he explains.
Shekar doesn’t remember anything else until waking up nine hours later, surrounded by dead bodies in a mortuary. Starving and struggling to understand what had happened, he dragged himself out of the mortuary, much to the shock of the government hospital staff, since he had been declared dead.
Although he lived, the electrocution had taken a terrible toll on his body. “I had lost the initial golden hours. Had treatment been given on time, both of my limbs could have been saved,” he says. As things stood, however, his left leg had to be amputated below the knee, as was his right hand and the toes on his right foot.
The entire treatment cost nearly Rs 12 lakh, forcing his family to sell their farm land for funds.
While many might have given up after such tragic losses, Shekar was determined not to let them stop him from living life fully. “Disability can be a strength rather than weakness,” he says, his voice full of determination.
So that he could be productive and live an independent life, Shekar trained his left hand to work as well as his right hand used to. Today, he works as a CCTV in-charge at Lemon Tree Hotels in Hyderabad, monitoring the functioning of cameras on the premises.
But Shekar didn’t just stop there. To rebuild his confidence, he also took actively to sport, starting off with running the Airtel Hyderabad Marathon with a Jaipur foot. Following this, the Dakshin Rehabilitation Centre in Hyderabad sponsored prosthetics for him, including a running blade.
Since then there’s been no looking back for Shekar, who has completed 11 marathons as well as attempted a 200-km brevet cycling event (a timed long-distance cycling event), completing 169 km in 16 hours.
“I have also done rock climbing, cave walking, swimming and badminton. After trying all these sports I have settled on two sports, primarily running and cycling,” he says.
“My cycle is a member of my family, it is like a friend to me,” says the para-athlete.
Shekar, who kicked off his Republic Ride on October 25 by riding from Leh to Khardungla in -2 degrees Celsius temperatures at an altitude of 18,000 feet, says that the rough mountains are a perfect metaphor for the ups and downs in his life and the challenges he has had to overcome.
His cross-country trip, he adds, is an effort to promote the cause of equality for persons with disability.
While he’s currently focused on completing his cycling journey, Shekar is also planning for a more serious foray into badminton, and perhaps even representing India in the sport. “My immediate aim is to complete the Leh-to-Kanyakumari trip successfully, but I also want to be a part of the badminton team in the 2020 Para-Olympics and represent the state and country,” he says.
Shekar plans to kick off his badminton training soon after he completes his cross-country journey early in December.
Together with TAF, Shekar is currently running a campaign on Milaap.org to raise funds for his Republic Ride. The campaign can be accessed here.