From a wheelchair, actor, athlete and now sailor

Published: November 24, 2009  |  Source: indianexpress.com
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For someone paralysed waist down for 25 years after a road accident, Salil Chaturvedi has had an amazing journey. The spinal cord injury has confined him to a wheelchair since his youth but that hasn’t come in his way of his being an author, storyteller, actor, tennis player and environmentalist.

Now, the 38-year-old has decided to take on the seas. Hoping to set an example for the disabled, Chaturvedi will sail from Mumbai to Goa. The gruelling, eight-day, 240-nautical-mile journey will start Tuesday and end in Goa on the eve of World Disabled Day. It is something no disabled sailor has ever done in India.

“I want to make disabled people realise there is nothing in the world that they cannot do,” says the winner of several awards for his short stories and poems, the latest being the Commonwealth Short Story award from the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association in 2008.

Chaturvedi, along with his wife Monika Kshatriya, cousin Shaunik Chaturvedi and sailing instructor Umaji Chowgule, will undertake the Godrej Brighter Horizons expedition on a 21-foot sloop designed in 1920 by Derrick Morgan Giles, an English naval architect. The vintage boat has no modern amenities, apart from a motor that can be used in emergencies. “I will take four breaks during the journey to assess my back pain. Except that, only bad weather can stop my expedition,” says Chaturvedi who has represented India at Wheelchair Tennis Tournaments in Australia and Japan in the 1990s.

Chowgule, the sailor behind Chaturvedi’s expedition, praised his determination. “To learn sailing is not very difficult but for Chaturvedi it indeed was. We had to use a bigger boat to help him avoid using greater physical force. We had to strap him to a seat so his hands could remain free,” says Chowgule, adding it takes only hand, eyes and mind to guide a boat.

Chaturvedi, who is writing and acting in a children’s serial called Gilli Gilli Sim Sim, says when he saw dolphins swimming across him on his first venture in the sea, he knew he would succeed. “They suddenly appeared and were moving alongside our boat as if saying welcome to the sea,” says Chaturvedi.

Shailendra Awasthi
The Indian Express Group