28 April 2017 | Last updated 07:00 PM

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Defying all odds
Rohan Ambike | Thursday, 12 January 2017 AT 01:21 PM IST
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Pranav Divekar has not only learnt to cope with Down syndrome, but is now also gearing to participate in Paralympic Nationals to be held in Delhi this March.

Life throws challenges at you. For Pranav Divekar, who suffers from Down syndrome, the challenges were greater and tougher. But he decided to overcome them, of course with help from his parents, Vibhavari and Jaywant. Having a small wind pipe, lack of muscle tone and acrophobia were some of his biggest problems. “Pranav had a lack of muscle tone. To have some movement in the muscles, his father used to give him a full body massage everyday. That developed some energy in his muscles and limbs,” says his mother.  

Pranav has come a long way and this March, he will be participating in Paralympic Nationals to be held in Delhi. Last year, he won silver and bronze medals in the state-level Paralympic Swimming Competition held in Pune and also won silver at the state-level Aquathlon (200 m running, 50 m swimming, 200 m running) event held in Pen in 2016.

In 2012, he was invited to the Special Olympics World Aquatics Invitational at Puerto Rico. He not only participated but also won a silver and a bronze at the event. In 2013, he won a bronze medal in the Asia-Pacific Regional Games held by Special Olympics at New Castle, Australia.

Speaking on how the family coped with Pranav’s acrophobia, Jaywant says, “In order to remove the fear of heights from his mind, we started taking him to hill tops. Initially, it took more than an hour or so for what should have been done within a few minutes. Pranav enjoyed being at the top of the hill. We realised that he was very happy in the company of nature. Hence we started arranging short trips for him.”

For children suffering from Down syndrome, socialisation is a must. Unless they do not mix with people, they might be rejected by society and that will add to the feeling of insecurity. The more they socialise, the more they learn quickly and it also improves their intellectual development.

“We started taking Pranav to family gatherings, reunions and at places where he was accepted. That helped him get acquainted with relatives and in a way developed his intellect,” says Vibhavari adding, “Academics bring about a different level of confidence in a person. Hence we aspired that Pranav achieve at least a minimum level of education. At the age of 14, we realised that schooling was not going to help him, so we stopped sending him to school and instead started imparting education to him on one-on-one basis with the help of a tutor. He completed his education till Std X and appeared for the exam in 2009 at the age of 16.”

Pranav also had a weak hand grip, which is a characteristic of those suffering from Down syndrome. He overcame it by undertaking training in drawing.

During his growing-up years, he also took a genuine interest in cooking a variety of dishes. “He could distinguish between the taste and also knew the basic ingredients from a young age.

That is when we decided to give him a formal education in cooking,” says his father.

The efforts have borne fruit. Pranav now works at Suruchi Instant food products and commutes to his workplace independently.

Today, he leads a normal and independent life and is an inspiration to all those who have tough challenges and, more importantly, are willing to overcome them.

In 2014, the President of India Pranav Mukherji felicitated Pranav with the prestigious Role Model Award (in the Persons with Intellectual Disabilities category).

This true hero deserves a big salute.

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