Ngathingpei Khayi

You can make anything by writing – CS Lewis

The Real Man

Photos by Manoj Kesharwani

Are you upset with your life? Meet Joginder Singh Saluja who made all the obstacles in his life a stepping-stone. All you need is to find a reason to live!

“Biggest disability is negative attitude, not your physicality,” says Joginder Singh Saluja, who had first polio attack when he was just ten months old. Wearing brown boots and denim, he slowly walks in the gym with a stretcher in his left arm, as his both legs have polio. We greeted each other and shook hands, in plain word he grasped my hand, and it was hurting. On the second look, with those biceps he can even crush somebody. “By the age of thirteen, I had around fourteen operations on my legs. It was leading me into depression. I realized that I have to come out of it and then I thought of body building.” He overcame his weakness but this world won’t let him go. “I joined a gym but there also people made fun of me. I made sure that I don’t give in to their ridicule but take it as challenge.” As if that was not enough, his father met with an accident that made him also walk with stretchers and three sisters to take care of.

“Where ever I go people thought I was there to ask, for charity or help. But finally things started changing when I took part in my first major tournament. I was declared Mr. Delhi for Best Physique, I was just sixteen years old. Those people who mocked at me are now trying to be in good terms with me,” says Joginder reclining back on his chair. In fact, whoever was coming in the gym were giving him greeting like, bhai namaste, salaam bhai, and some even touched his feet. “After that at the age of seventeen I won Mr. North India title in disable category in upper 52 kg. In addition, at nineteen I played my first Para sports, till now I am champion in that category seven years in a row. Hopefully, this year also I will win and it will be a record of its kind.”

Knowing the pain and agony he went through, he decided to make a different-able friendly gym where they can work out with normal people. “I started my gym four years back. I didn’t make a separate gym but a disable friendly gym. Today we have around fifty players out of which twenty are champions in their category. Please note this, I don’t charge a penny to differently-able people. I am doing all this without the help of any NGO or government. It will be really helpful if Delhi government allot me some land, as I am paying a huge amount as rent.” Today he owns two gyms with the name Workout Wonders in Delhi (C-330 Vivek Vihar and B-154 Yojna Vihar). Bollywood actor Amir Khan came to inaugurate one of them and even spent some time with him. “Initially there were some gyms around but they couldn’t sustain in front of our noble idea, which people really liked,” says twenty-six year old muscle-man.

Like the name of his gym Workout Wonders, he is really doing wonders and inspiring many lives. Joginder Singh Saluja is a volunteer worker in Delhi University and gives counseling to disable students. And he is one of his kind to be recruited in Indian security force, he works as Health Consultant with Central Reserve Police Force. “I am really thankful to respected minister Oscar Fernandez for giving me this opportunity. More people need to come up and give more opportunities to people like us. There are lots of things that can be done which are just ignored,” with some frustration in his voice. “I got an offer of two lakhs per month from a London Paralympic School, plus a government job, an escort and that my commuting will be also taken care of. And recently my hero in body building Jay Cutler was in the capital and he suggested me that I can go to America and make the people there to be aware of such sports. But like this all our talents will drained out of the country.”

With a deep sigh he continues, “Just give me a proper support for two years and I will guarantee you that I will bring home an Olympic medal for sure. Not just that I want to take part in Mr.World contest also. All I need is a proper sponsor.” Many dreams but so many wrongs in this country and it can be seen he is really upset with the system as he repeat it again and again in the whole conversation. “Government needs to support players so that more champions will come out from the country but they are busy in their politics and corruption.”

Joginder is not just saying but want to solve the problem from the root. “There should be someone in the management who understand the problem, who understands the sports. How will somebody take decision regarding sports that has never played a game? In our case, it will take years for a normal person to understand the problems of a disable but a minute for somebody who is like us. There are lots of senior and talented retired players whose talent and experience are just getting wasted.” Going deeper into the situation, he continues, “The real change will come when the society will change their attitude. Family has to become a role model first to make a disable a role model. Let the child follow his dreams, don’t stop him. Give him a reason to live, and when there is a reason to live, life become much better.”

And in that step is Mr. Perfectionist Amir Khan through television series Satyamev Jayate. “He read an article on me where I was chosen as a Role Model for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities by Government of India and he was really moved. Other people die to get associated with him but I was fortunate that he himself came to me to my gym.” In the episode with disable people, Amir did fifteen push ups where our real hero did thirty and more, so Amir had to stop him. “He is a kind hearted man and that we can see in the initiative that he has taken up. And seeing at his body, he is really dedicated about it that’s why he is having such a good body. It doesn’t happen like that, it’s not magic but lots of effort and discipline living. It should be an example for every youth,” pointing at the photo of him with Amir Khan on the wall.

Though he is not less then a hero himself but he is just a man. “When I get depressed I devote myself to meditation. I am a very pious person and I follow Sri Guru Gobind Singh (Sikh community). Sava lakh se ek ladaoon tabhi Gobind Singh kehlaoon, I repeat it five times everytime when I feel down. I try to find happiness in everything….”

(Published in Mandate Jan’13, Page No. 62)

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