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Prasanta Karmakar : The Swimmer, Fighter and the Unsung Hero

It is said, ” It is easy to crib about what you do not have, rather than be glad of what you have.” Indeed, all of us are always wishing for things, luxuries, miracles that we do not possess. But there are a few who are determined to go against the tide. Those who are completely at peace with what they have, and make a mark even with those limited resources. Prasanta Karmakar is one such person. A person who has won 23 medals for India till date and the first Indian ever to have won the swimming Bronze in the CWG and yet someone not many recognize.

Prasanta Karmakar is a paralympic swimmer. When he was just 7 years old, he lost part of his right arm when he carelessly rested it on a bus window and a vehicle hit him. That careless mistake became the turning point of his life. Overnight he became from a regular able- bodied, school going kid to a handicapped young boy for whom even everyday things like eating, writing and shaking hands became a task. But physical restrictions can’t hold the fighter soul for long, and that is what Prasanta proved when he started swimming at the age of 15.

Though Prasanta considered swimming as a recreational activity initially, he soon was competing in national events and winning. In 2003 he participated in his first International event and there was no turning back from then on. He kept on striving for bigger goals, kept on competing in bigger events and brought back medals for India.

“Swimming ruined my Life.”

Despite the wins, Prasanta claims swimming ruined his life. Because here was this champion swimmer who was bringing medals for the country and the country was either busy cheering cricketers or sponsoring and backing those sportsmen who had more of a glamour quotient involved.

Even the state and central government did not recognise his historical feats. Born in Kolkata when Prasanta approached the State Sports Minister for support, he was kept waiting. Dejected, he finally shifted his allegiance to the State of Haryana, which seems like the only Indian state that seriously considers backing sportsperson with financial and training aid.

Prasanta conquered his physical difficulties, but it is the financial constraints that regularly become a problem. During the International German Swimming Championships for the Disabled in Berlin, in June this year, he nearly missed participating after he failed to get hold of a costume in time. The costume cost 160 euros and to get it from a specific location in Hamburg cost another 130 euros. For a swimmer who was not given any kind of sponsorship, support from the sports federation or financial backing from the government, it was devastating. Finally GoSports Foundation, gave Prasanta a costume and he finished the event with yet another medal.

Even after the CWG where the paralympic swimmer clinched the bronze in the 50m freestyle, in the S9 category, finishing in a time of 27.48s — a personal best and a National record, no State government came forward to honour his achievements!

Prasanta the swimmer will keep on fighting and winning medals, but Prasanta the human being is a defeated man. He thinks once he stops swimming his family will not survive because till date there is no job quota reserved for paralympic sportsmen.

It is time the government and people in general realise that differently- abled sportsmen need as much support, recognition, financial aid and motivation as other sports stars. In fact they need much more because their efforts and accomplishments are simply beyond the normal abilities of a human being and it is time these exceptional abilities are recognised.

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