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Ishrat Akhter: First international wheelchair basketball player from Kashmir

Meet 25-year-old specially-abled girl, who plays basketball, does motivational speaking and drives a car

Delhi: Ishrat Akther from Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir is a multi-faceted personality. She is an international wheelchair basketball player, a motivational speaker, Kashmir’s young leader and an achiever’s award-winner. Indeed, six years back, Ishrat’s life had no meaning — but an incident changed it all.

Now, Ishrat has become an inspiration for all those individuals who set limitations for themselves. Who refuse to dream and achieve their ambitions.

The girl next door

Ishrat was born in a village where women did not participate in sports. Like any other girl, she believed whatever her family taught her and did not dare to dream big. However, her life changed on August 24, 2016, when she fell from the balcony of her house. The injury was serious, it damaged her spinal cord – making her physically challenged.

Life changed for the good when the 25-year-old girl from the Authoora area in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district started her basketball career in 2018. For her, playing basketball was not just a love for the sport but a passion for standing against all odds, come what may.

“I never played any sport before 2016, not even in school, but in 2016 when I was just 18 years old, I met with an accident. I fell off from the balcony of my house and this made me bedridden for two long years,” recalls Ishrat.

Did not surrender to fate

A brave and resilient girl, she developed the will power to transform adversity into hope. Certainly, she did not wish to live a life of hopelessness and despair.

“After that accident, I was a patient at the Voluntary Medicare Society. I saw some boys coming to play basketball on the court which was in the society and all of them were in wheelchairs! Seeing them play, I was deeply influenced. I was inspired. I thought, “I don’t want to sit idle. Let people form their own, biased opinions,” she says and continues:

I, therefore, decided to play basketball. I remember that when the selection process for the Indian team started, police and army people came to my home and informed me that my name was in the list and if I wanted to attend the three-day selection process for the Indian team, I must leave for Chennai within a day. For me, this was a golden opportunity, so I left for Chennai all alone, and participated in the selection process. Luckily, and to my great joy, I got selected. Since then, I have been determined to live a life based on self-conviction, will power and courage.

At the Medicare Society, I joined the Wheelchair Basketball Team and got selected for the ‘nationals’ in Tamil Nadu, representing Delhi. Jammu and Kashmir did not have a team at that time. I was part of a team of good players. Eventually, a team for the state was conceived. I played the second national game at Mohali, representing J&K.

ishrat akhter international wheelchair basketball player kashmir
Ishrat Akhter receiving an award by the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Manoj Sinha | eNewsroom India

Conquering world

“I was selected to represent India at the Asia Oceania Wheelchair Basketball Championship at Pattaya, Thailand in 2019. I am the only girl from my state who has represented India at the international level. Besides, I have participated in a Boys’ Wheelchair Race, I being the only girl in the race. Happily, I secured the first position. I also play Wheelchair Table Tennis,” says Ishrat, with great pride.

Among others, Colonel Isenhower has been a constant support for Ishrat. He has been her guide, mentor and guru. And she is full of praise for him.

“When the selection process for the Indian team was going on, communication services were suspended in Kashmir. Hence, Colonel Isenhower, who was in Kochi, traced me out in two days and arranged everything. Since then, he has been an inspiration for me. He has always been motivating me to do much, much more. He always says that I have to make my name and thus refuse to be restrained — because I am a wheelchair-bound person,” says Ishrat.

Ishrat’s family has always acted with amazing positivity and magnanimity, giving her optimism and courage. She feels that, undoubtedly, it is due to the support of her family that she has reached the international forum, something impossible to conceive for a girl with the kind of difficulties she had faced in her life.

On the flip side, she believes that her life has completely changed because of the accident which resulted in her opting for basketball.

Indeed, after four years of the accident, Ishrat has resumed her academic life, and is currently pursuing a diploma in the Women’s Polytechnic College, Srinagar.

Truly, she represents the eternal metaphor of hope. For her, sky is the limit.

“Not just an international recognition but after 4 years of my accident, I resumed my studies. I passed my Class 10 and also appeared for my Class 12 exams. Now, I’m also pursuing my Diploma,” she says.

Controls her life

The specially-abled Ishrat, braving all odds drives a car, all by herself without anyone’s support.

“In the beginning, it was very difficult, but I wanted to drive by myself. If one has courage and willpower – one can achieve anything in life,” she adds.

“I remember, I used to feel scared even if I had to go some miles away from my home but today I travel alone, even when I have to go to some places outside Kashmir. There are instances when I observe people looking at me and seeing how I manage things but at the same time I’m proud of the fact that today, I get invited to speak as a motivational speaker across India,” she points out.

In 2019, she was also selected for a Sports Visitors Program- Wheelchair Basketball and Accessibility in the USA but because of personal issues she was not able to attend it.

Ishrat is also a motivational speaker and has delivered many talks in Kashmir and other states. She was presented the Kashmir Young leadership award and Kashmir Young Achievers Award 2021 by the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Manoj Sinha.

She has also received the Women Steel award 2022 from JKPCC.

Varalika Mishra

is a Mental Health activist, author and a freelance journalist

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