Ishrat Akthar: Inspiration Personified

This young woman from Baramulla has been an epitome of courage and determination to face all odds in the journey of her success, in both sports and education
Ishrat Akthar: Inspiration Personified
GK Photo

Born in 1998, Ishrat Akhtar lived a normal life like every other girl in her native village Bangdara in north Kashmir's Baramulla town.

In August 2016, she was preparing herself to appear in Class 10 JK Board of School Education (BOSE) examination. But on August 24 of that year she faced an unusual and unexpected incident in her life as she fell from the balcony of her home which broke her spinal cord and left her handicapped for the rest of her life. That time Ishrat was only 17 years old.

"I was at the stage where teenagers would live a free life. I became a liability for myself," an emotional Ishrat recalls.

Like most of the students, Ishrat was indecisive about her career but she was planning to pursue a Nursing course following in the footsteps of her elder sister, after qualifying her class 12th examination.

"I never knew that I would not be able to appear in class 10th examination. That time I was left devastated, I was in shock and depression after facing that incident in my life," Ishrat said.

Her siblings and parents were equally shocked after Ishrat remained confined to the four walls of her room for a complete two years.

After a gap of two years, her elder sibling came to know that an NGO was scheduled to hold a camp for specially-abled people in Baramulla and distribute wheelchairs to the handicapped people as well.

"At first I did not agree to attend the camp because nobody could lift me in their lap as it would cause pain in my back. But somehow I was convinced by my family to attend the camp," she said.

As Ishrat attended the camp in 2018, she was referred to Srinagar Voluntary Medicare Society to get training for handling her wheelchair and receive some therapies as well. She was scared of wheelchairs and sitting on them.

"Besides other therapies, I got acclimatised with basketball as playing with basketball was considered one of the best therapies to come out of depression. I was given a basketball to come out of depression as I would cry suddenly and used to remain silent. This was happening with me because of depression," recalls Ishrat.

Ishrat practiced basketball for several months in 2018 with a hope to at least come out of depression but she did not know it would change the world for her.

While Ishrat was practicing basketball at Voluntary Medicare Society, in the same year WheelChair Basketball Federation of India (WCBFI) conducted a camp in Srinagar to select some players for the basketball championship at National level.

Impressed with her courage, gaming tactics and enthusiasm Ishrat was selected by WCBFI to participate in the national level championship.

"But at that time there was no female basketball team from J&K and I represented the Delhi team to play at national level that time (2018)," she said.

But after participating in her first national level championship, Ishrat came back to the Valley and decided to train more girls and make a basketball team of her own. So with this, playing basketball did not only help Ishrat to get rid of depression but it gradually gave wings to her life as after the passage of a few months, Ishrat along with her own team participated in a second national level basketball championship as well.

This was the turning point of her life as she started getting recognition at national level. Encouraged with her participation at national level, Ishrat did not stop here. In 2019 she was selected for international basketball championship by Basketball federation of India and she represented India in Thailand.

"I was not sure if I could perform well at International level but my performance remained satisfactory," she said. The match was played in December 2019 in Thailand.

After getting international recognition, Ishrat became a household name in J&K for her courage, conviction and dedication. She is now popularly known as Kashmir's International Wheelchair basketball player.

From 2016 to 2022, Ishrat has faced many odds but she never gave up and continued to motivate herself to move ahead in life. And with this, she decided to continue her studies which she could not continue after the 2016 incident.

"After I came back from Thailand in 2019, I decided to continue my studies. In the same year I appeared as a private student in class 10th JK BOSE exam," she said.

Later, in 2020 Ishrat got her admission in Government higher secondary school Athoora in Kreeri area of Baramulla to complete higher secondary level education. "I used to go to my higher secondary school daily like other students. I qualified my class 12th exam in 2021," she said.

This year (2022) she has got her admission in Government Polytechnic College for Women and is pursuing her diploma in office management.

"After the 2016 incident I was uncertain about my future but when I represented at national and international level in the basketball championship I decided to pursue my studies as well," she said.

Besides playing basketball at international level, Ishrat has participated in State Level Wheelchair race in 2020 and clinched first position.

Now, she drives her car and has become a motivational speaker as well. "I was invited to deliver my lecture in Chennai, Kerala and other places," she said.

She obtained her driving license after undergoing the driving test which was held at Sopore by Assistant Regional Transport Officer (ARTO) Baramulla.

"Initially I faced difficulties in driving my car but gradually I managed to get used to it. Now I drive from Baramulla to Srinagar to practice my basketball as there is no basketball court in Baramulla," she said.

She was presented the Kashmir Young Leadership Award in 2021 and Two more awards by the J&K Lieutenant Governor (LG) Manoj Sinha.

Ishrat was presented the Kashmir Young Achievers Award in 2021 by Major General Prashant Srivastava, GOC Victor Force, on behalf of the Governor.

She was also felicitated with the Women of Steel award 2022 by the then JKPCC President Ghulam Ahmad Mir at Srinagar.

Ishrat's story not only symbolises an indomitable spirit to chase her passion despite all odds, it's equally an inspiring tale of how struggles in life lead to success. Truly, Ishrat is, as many of her friends and acquaintances say, an epitome of determination and passion.

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