Mumbai: 4-ft 2 inches fisherman-turned-para-badminton player eyes Championships gold

The para-badminton player aims for a shot at Bandra’s Carter Road. Pic/Sneha Kharabe

A bunch of kids, on their way to school, stop in their tracks and stare at Mark Dharmai as he crosses the street to meet us on Bandra’s Carter Road. It’s not the badminton racquet or a barrel of shuttlecocks in his hand that have caught their attention. They size him up – four feet and two inches. “Till date, people on the street, and children particularly, jeer and mock me. Initially, it would affect me but over the last few years, I have taken it in my stride. Success on the world stage has helped,” smiles the 32-year-old, showing off a few backhand shots for the benefit of the mid-day photographer.

Dharmai tries his hand at fishing in a still from the campaign video

His newfound confidence is courtesy the world rankings he holds in para-badminton. As per BWF’s (Badminton World Federation) records from November 2016, he stands third in Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles Category, and 10th in Men’s Singles Category. Next week, he flies off to Bangkok to participate in Thailand Para-Badminton International Tournament, and in August, he will be in Canada for World Dwarf Games. An ongoing crowdfunding campaign of ‘8.85 lakh on FuelADream is instrumental in giving wings to this para-athlete’s dreams.

Mark Dharmai (third from right) at the Asian Para-Badminton Championship 2016 in Beijing

Casting the net
An East Indian resident of Bandra’s Chimbai Village, Dharmai was born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism. At the age of eight, he discovered his disability. “I would ask my parents why my physical growth wasn’t the same as my classmates. They wouldn’t tell me but when they took me to a doctor for treatment, I figured it out. My parents were my biggest support during a traumatic childhood,” says the commerce graduate from St Andrew’s College, who spent his growing up years, accompanying his father, a local fisherman, on the boat. “Assisting him was an economic compulsion. I…

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