Manasi Joshi was only six when she started playing badminton with her father. She continued to practise the sport as a hobby and also played at the district level in a few matches. In 2011, she met with an accident and lost her left leg. Today, Manasi is a national and international level para-badminton player. This is her inspiring journey.
“It is really easy. Once you decide you want to do something, there will be 10 people who will come forward to help you. You just have to take one step at a time, be regular at what you are doing, and focus on it. When you are focussed, everything will become very simple,” says 26-year-old Manasi Joshi, a para-badminton player who plays at the national and international levels.
She has won several medals and has played against world champions too.
At the age of 22, Manasi met with an accident on December 2, 2011. She was riding a two-wheeler on her way to work when a truck hit her and crushed her left leg. By the time she had the surgery, she had lost a lot of blood. The doctors tried to treat her leg but it got infected and had to be amputated. After spending 45 days in the hospital, and learning to walk all over again with the help of crutches, she was back up again – optimistic and hopeful as always. Once her wound was healed, she got a prosthetic leg.
She talks passionately about the time when the love for badminton entered her life:
“I was very young, around 6 years old, when my father started teaching me how to play. We had only one racquet and it was very old. My father would just throw the shuttle and I would try and hit. I was shorter than the racquet at that time. I joined a badminton coaching class after a few years. And after that, there was no looking back.”
A resident of Mumbai, Manasi was always interested in science and engineering. She pursued her Bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering, developed an interest in software development, and started working as a senior software engineer with Atos India. She continued playing badminton as a hobby, while working full time. Before her accident, she also played at some district level matches.
The first match she played after the accident was in August 2012 – a company-level badminton championship conducted by Atos. She came first in women’s singles.
“After that match I realised that I still have skill and I can play without my leg too. The CEO and other colleagues in the office praised me a lot and it helped boost my confidence,” she says.
All this happened at a time when she was still going through rehabilitation and learning to walk. For eight months after getting her prosthetic leg, she continued to use crutches for support. So, it took a few months before she could play at higher level tournaments. In June 2014, Manasi started working out to be fit again. She set daily targets and began weight training and walking. In August 2014, she got the chance to represent Maharashtra at the selection trials for Asian Games 2014. She didn’t get selected but that match was a new beginning for her.
“I had made many amputee friends by that time. One of my friends, Niraj George, who is also an international para-badminton player, encouraged me to play at national and international levels. He made sure that I aim high because, according to him, I have a lot of skills,” she says.
In December 2014, Manasi played her first national-level tournament and won a silver medal. It was a very special match for her because she got the chance to play against Arjuna awardee Parul Parmar. She also got selected for the fifth Spanish Para-Badminton International Championship, which was to be held in March 2015.
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To be ready for her first international-level game, Manasi practised for two hours every day during weekdays and four hours a day during the weekends.
Had she ever thought of making a career out of badminton before her accident?
“Never. I never thought about badminton as a career option. My priorities at that time were just like every other college graduate – to get a job with a good package, to get a nice home, an expensive car, and other such materialistic things. But after my accident, my goals are not so materialistic anymore,” she says. For Manasi, badminton was more like a means to remain fit before the accident.
While the recovery period was long, Manasi never let negativity hinder her confidence.
“You need to learn how to balance. You need time for your body to adapt to new things because the prosthetic leg is heavy and tight. Fortunately, I had many people around me who helped me a lot. Everyone was very patient because they knew that the body takes some time. But once you adapt, it becomes very easy. That is how things turned in my favour,” she says.
Her next international match after the Spanish tournament was the BWF Para-Badminton World Championships held at Stoke Mandeville, England, in September 2015.
One of the most memorable matches for Manasi was a mixed doubles match where she got a chance to play against previous world champions with her partner Rakesh Pandey.
That match helped them realise their potential and encouraged them to move forward.
Manasi’s father, who is a scientist at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, has always been an inspiration for her.
“My family always keeps pushing me. My sister and father encourage me to do things I like. Other than being a scientist, my father is also an author and he plays tennis for his company – he somehow finds time. I feel that if he can find time at his age, I can definitely do it too. They inspire me to do something that I never thought I had the potential for,” she says.
She somehow juggles time between her work and the sport. Manasi wakes up at 4:30 a.m. so she can practise in the morning before leaving for work. She does not have a coach right now. Her brother, who is also a badminton player, teaches her at home. She also practises yoga regularly.
“This sport is really close to me. It has made me what I am today. I will love to give it more time and push myself to the next level. My goal is to be world number one,” she concludes.
Here’s saluting Manasi’s spirit, determination and positive attitude, which can inspire many around the world.