On February 19, 2000, the temperature in Amritsar was 5 degree Celsius. It was a chilly morning, and just another regular day for Padmini Srivastava until it all changed.
As a volunteer at the All-India Pingalwara Charitable Society, a home for the destitute and an orphanage, Padmini found an abandoned five-year-old girl.
Recollecting that moment, she says, “This girl was brought in by a police officer because he found her crying. We tried looking for her parents and even asked her if she knew where she came from. But we were able to find out nothing.”
She continues, “At that time, my husband and I would come to the society to teach; we were regulars here. She was very restless and kept moving from one place to the other. I worked with her for a long time and slowly started understanding her. We did an assessment and made an entire file to help her and us.”
The growth of a powerlifter
The little girl abandoned 19 years ago was named Shallu. She is now competing in powerlifting and representing India at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi from March 14 to March 21.
Padmini goes on to say, “Shallu is 23-years-old now. While she still has a speech defect, she is an ace powerlifter. We started athletics with her first. Slowly, she started displaying interest in field events. It was much later that she mentioned her interest in powerlifting.”
Over the years, she has won many gold and silver medals at powerlifting events. Shallu continues to live in the Pingalwara home, along with 223 other residents.
Special Olympics World Games 2019
Shallu will be representing India at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi & Dubai. More than 7,000 athletes will compete in 24 sports.
Special Olympics is a humanitarian sporting event to promote the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. The games in Abu Dhabi will be the most unified as this year’s event will host more than 190 countries, thus breaking the record of participating countries in the history of the Special Olympics.
Anger, a motivator
In 2012, Shallu started training in powerlifting but lost interest in a few months. While her coach tried to motivate her, she started playing football instead. A few months into the game, she was fouled during a match, and the anger in her was immense.
She channelised that anger in lifting weights, and since that day there has been no looking back for Shallu.
Padmini says, “Shallu is working hard and says that she will try her best to get back the gold for the country.”
For now, the excitement for Shallu is manifold, while she is thrilled to represent India on such a large platform, she is also looking forward to her first-ever flight.
Being abandoned by her parents and having a speech disability has not hampered Shallu’s spirit and zeal to win. If you are giving yourself an excuse to not work hard and achieve your dreams, then make sure you read Shallu’s story one more time.
We, at The Better India, wish this young girl all the very best for all the weights she wants to lift, whether in the championship or life!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)