“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” said Ralph Waldo Emerson and there is no better person who could stand true to this quote than Mark Dharmai, a Paralympian, current World no.12 (Singles) in the BWF rankings and silver-medalist at the Thailand Parabadminton Championship 2017.
On March 3rd, 1984, Mark was welcomed into this world by the loving arms of his mother Josephine and his father. However, what followed was a bitter-sweet experience for this family.
My early childhood was a daunting challenge for my parents. I can vividly remember my mother carrying me around in my early childhood. My acute disability and my disfigured legs were always a hindrance.
Mark recalled his childhood days. People with physical disabilities can be spotted vividly but the society fails to notice the mental disability where passing derogatory comments or harassing someone has become an act with no repercussions.
Born with a dwarf-syndrome called “Achondroplasia”, Mark struggled growing up and was assisted by his ever-so-strong mother, in every way possible.
This is a perennial problem faced by all dwarfs in the country and teasing, mocking, giggling, staring and name calling is part of the course. Everybody reacts differently, although not much has changed on the ground, l must confess that in my catchment area in Bandra, l experience no problem now. My successes at Badminton both nationally and internationally and also the many medals at Field events in National tournaments have enhanced my self-esteem and l do not react in a negative these days. That’s part of the learning experience.
Mark explains about the strength he gained from every hardship he went through. Mark Dharmai completed his schooling at St. Andrew’s School and also has a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce. He goes on to say that if not for the support of two of his teachers Late Fr. Laurie and Fr. Rodney Esprance, he couldn’t have become the successful man he is today.
Ask how sports started for this inspiring personality and he speaks up:
Sports in Bandra and especially for the East Indian community has been the driving force. My uncle, Leo Dharmai and his son Floyd have been accomplished Hockey and Football players having played at the Maharashtra State level. They initiated me into Hockey and Football and in my category l am still a very good Hockey player. Could l have carried on with the sport? The answer is an emphatic “No” since there have to be at least 20 similar kids to partake in this activity. So team activities are virtually impossible and that’s where Father Evans, my mentor, initiated me into the game of Badminton. Ever since, l have won accolades for the country and the state.
Managing his expenses has been one of the biggest challenges for this star. Despite having graduated with a degree in Commerce, Mark Dharmai has no full-time job to support himself since the disabled aren’t very welcome to work everywhere.
His father being a fisherman keeps the family afloat while his mother takes care of the house. His friends from the Bandra Gym help him out now and then, but it could only be of little help to him. Currently, he has a new life coach working pro-bono and a crowd-funding platform to help him sail through his needs.
When it comes to the amount of support that the para-athletes get compared to the regular athletes from the Government, it is absolutely meager and doesn’t cater to their necessities. In the end, they don’t get proper recognition and their talent is not appreciated.
When asked about the love and motivation he has gained out his several triumphs, he swiftly puts out that the joy resides within the family and hardly any appreciation comes from the sports fraternity. He also says that his competitors from other countries are loaded with support from their government, which in itself is a sad story of how we come forward to uplift our sportsmen.
l am very proud of playing for India. I get a lot of respect abroad, all my competitors in Badminton are my friends. Badminton keeps me going and I will retain my interest in the game.
Mark Dharmai spoke about his love for Badminton and his pride in playing for the nation. He has won several medals for the country at the international level. Although India is coming up in International Badminton thanks to the heroics of a few national players who made their effort count in the International front, India as a sporting nation is still light years behind the rest of the world.
But, Mark is still hoping that sooner or later, these Paralympic stars will get their due recognition.
When compared to regular sports and athletes, Para sports doesn’t get the deserved acknowledgment. It is mostly off the radar. But Mark is a man full of positivity and this is what he had to say:
When they play, 50,000+ spectators come to watch them. I will do this in India one day. I have identified 6 compatriots and we will form an Indian team. My manager has got everything in place but we have to locate them, who are all over the country but are living closeted lives in their immediate community.
Ask about his one true inspiration in this world and he immediately springs up with the answer and owes it all to his Mumma. He truly believes that if not for her determination, he wouldn’t have fought his own battle.
Sports is not a luxury but it is a necessity and Mark is all thumbs up for this statement and that’s why he has set his own company called “The Little Giants” to help out people who are interested in learning Badminton.
Mark Dharmai voices out that sports should become an important part of everybody’s life. He says,
Everybody in this country should do sports. Walk, run, train, fitness, health, entertainment, employment, empowerment, sports for education…use it as a tool for developing healthy children… loop it into yoga.
Looking at Badminton as a prominent sport in India, it has developed by leaps and bounds in the past few years. The major part of this success should be attributed to the vibrant coaches, Pullela Gopichand, Prakash Padukone, Vimal Kumar and their ardent efforts to train the national players to glory.
Mark is confident about reaching the No.1 ranking if he could receive the guidance of such renowned coaches. But, he is running short of funds to sponsor his coaching.
Dwarfism is not a disability when people like Mark have everything inside them to grow stronger and shine in this world. All they lack is proper guidance, support and money. Most Badminton rackets used by professionals cost above 10000 and the coaching is quite expensive as well. With initiatives like ‘Fuel A Dream’, Mark has been running strong, making his dreams come true.
Let’s lend a hand of support and do the little we can to honour Mark and all other sportstars who need recognition.