Friday, April 03, 2009

Visually impaired children experience parasailing!

“We experienced the freedom of birds flying in the sky.” It was how Nagesh Netke and Sushama Pawar, two visually-impaired children from the Poona School and Home for the Blind, Kothrud, described their experience after attempting to set a Limca world record — as the first pair of blind children to parasail at a height of 100 feet at Bavdhan Hill here on Thursday.

Nagesh Netke was the first to take to the air. “It was a thrilling experience. I was apprehensive initially but once I took off, the feeling was magical. I felt like a bird. I am on the ground everyday. It felt nice to be high in the air for a change,” the 19-year-old said. Netke hails from Ahmednagar and lived with his parents in Mumbai before shifting to the Poona School and Home for the Blind in 1997. A district champion in chess, he has a keen interest in politics and aims at becoming a lawyer.

Next, it was Sushama Pawar’s turn. Even after three days of theoretical preparation, she was anxious. “I was very scared before the flight and did not know what to expect. But once my feet were off the ground, I experienced the freedom of a bird,” she said. Pawar is from Baramati and has been with the institute for the past 10 years. She is also interested in other sporting events — running, swimming and throwball. Dancing is her another passion.

Anand Munje, head of the parasailing school at Bavdhan, spoke about the difficulty he faced in explaining the details of the sport to the children. “We had to give a detailed explanation of the entire process, right from the parachute to the harness. Taking off was not a problem... but landing was a major concern as they will have no guide with them and will have to do it on their own. But after three days of training, we knew these children were ready to attempt this feat. We are glad it went off successfully,” said Munje.

The principal of the girls’ section, Sulabha Pujari, feels this will motivate other wards from her school to be more active. “These kids learn more when they experience things rather than hearing about it. This will motivate other children to take part in such activities. They will be determined to look past their disabilities and achieve the impossible.”

Incidentally, Pune is home to two national record holders in parasailing. In February last year, Kedar Munje set a record for using the longest towing rope (565 feet) for a parasail. In May 2008, N K Mahajan, then 88, became the oldest parasailor to take flight.


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