This is the story of Amarjeet Singh Chawla, or now fondly known as SportySikh. Here’s the brave man’s story in his own words:
I wasn’t born blind, I want born an athlete. I was an active person since my childhood. Playing kabaddi, doing crazy things was my daily routine. But things started changing when I came to know in a school eye checkup camp that my vision wasn’t normal. The eye specialists told me and my parents that I will lose my vision slowly and gradually. The thought of becoming 100% blind shook my parents and even me. This was the only reason I couldn’t become a fighter pilot back then. I tried hard to overcome the thought, the fear by loving my life as normally as I could. Same activities, same craziness, same zeal for life continued for years.
It happened when I was 40. I was total blind one day. The world was completely dark for me. It was that day that changed my life. Like any other normal person, I went into depression for about a year or two. Thanks to my family and friends, I could live my life happily and earn my bread and butter. People around were supportive, and gradually I was out of depression. But there was an incompleteness inside me. I tried keeping my adventurous side alive by going to small treks in Maharashtra.
One fine day, I received a message from National Association for the Blind (which I was a member of). The message mentioned that a group of blind people from NAB will be participating in the first ever Marathon in Mumbai. We were told that we will be given escorts from the Standard Chartered Bank. I immediately agreed for the same. I wanted to be someone who isn’t just any other blind person living a random life. Soon mid-January 2004, I ran my first ever long distance run of 7 kilometres with an employee of the Standard Chartered Bank. It was Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2004. It was a great feeling. People cheering for us, celebrities clapping for us, all this was new and an indefinable experience for me.
After a few days, I decided that I will continue running. I decided I will run more than this. The next year, in 2005, I ran my first half marathon (21.097 kms) at Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2005 with my own escort. People like Kapil Dev and Anil Ambani met me and gave me a pat on my back during the course. There was simply no looking back post this!
Today, after 15 years, I have run 103 half marathons of 21 kms each. Not only this, the list also includes 61 10 kms and 12 kms runs and 5 ultra runs (17, 24, 38, 50, 55 kms). I have completed my first target of 101 half marathons in Tata Mumbai Marathon 2019. I am the only blind person in India to run this number of half marathons. That event is like a milestone for me, I started from there, I achieved my first target there. My next target is of 151 half marathons.
During these 15 years, I swimmed a lot and I trekked a lot. I am the only blind person in the world to scale 19,830ft. high Dolma Pass in Kailash Parikrama, Tibet (China). Another feather in the cap is that I am the only blind person to have successfully completed 1,100ft. rappelling from Takmak Point in Raigad Fort (Maharashtra). Apart from these, I have completed countless treks in the Himalayas (Himachal and Uttrakhand) and Sahyadris. Talking about swimming, I won gold medal in 50mts. free style in All India Swimming Competition for Disabled in 2004, silver medal in 50mts. free style in Maharashtra Swimming Competition for Disabled in 2005. Also, I won bronze in 50mts. breast-stroke in Maharashtra Swimming Competition for Disabled in 2007.
I am not bragging about these things, but I feel great when I think about these events. Finally, I can say that I don’t feel like a blind person who lost his vision as well as hope in life. I can proudly say that I didn’t give up and become someone whom people would pity. When people say I inspire them, I feel even more motivated to achieve newer records. I feel loved and honored when people call me SportySikh.
Contributed by Amarjeet Singh Chawla, the SportySikh himself