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For two disabled teens,Shimla snow brings US alpine laurels

In the heart of Sanjay Colony,a slum cluster in Okhla Phase II,it is easy to miss the Shah family’s home. The family of five lives in the small room behind their tea stall,fenced in by wooden benches.

In the heart of Sanjay Colony,a slum cluster in Okhla Phase II,it is easy to miss the Shah family’s home. The family of five lives in the small room behind their tea stall,fenced in by wooden benches.

But this cramped living space has a refreshing scent of hope coming out of it. The Shah’s youngest son Brijesh,a deaf and mute teenager,is just back from America having won the silver in the alpine skiing event at the Special Olympics Winter Games,Idaho. Brijesh is lapping up the accolades though he can’t word his excitement nor hear the praise.

Brijesh,16,is not alone in this moment of glory. His neighbour and friend Reena,also deaf and mute,was one notch behind and bagged a bronze in snowboarding.

America would have been unheard of by the two if not for the duo’s school Deepalaya — a learning institute for special children. And the snows of Shimla was their happy practice ground.

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Brijesh’s father Triloki Shah started the tea stall after the printing press he worked in shut shop three years ago. Grounding spices for his special masala chai,Shah said: “It has been difficult to make ends meet these years. All I want is a good life for my kids.” “We couldn’t speak to Brijesh till he came back but we were so happy at his achievement,” he added. India won a total of 13 medals in the Winter Games.

Brijesh’s mother Madhu,however,was very nervous sending her youngest so far. “But he has won a medal. I have told all my relatives in Bihar and they too are very happy,” she said.

The mood is equally bubbly a little distance away. Walking through zigzag alleys bursting with tiny constructions,Newsline reached Reena’s one-room home. Sign language is her only communication with the world,and as it turns out,she has a lot to say. “She’s saying she missed her mother a lot over there,and also home food. I had to scold her to make her eat,and she keeps reminding me of that too,” said Manoj,one of their coaches.

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Reena conveyed that winning the medal was only secondary. Travelling,meeting people and making friends and to feel normal was more to her heart. The 18-year-old’s father works in a factory in Okhla,and his Rs 4,000 a month is the only sustenance for this family of seven. He has four other kids to provide for,but at the moment,he preferred to bask in his daughter’s triumph.

It all began in school. Deepalaya honed their interest in the sports,and then sent them for trials. After being selected in the Indian team,the two trained under specialised coaches in Shimla.

First published on: 20-02-2009 at 12:57:12 am
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