From wheelchair to basketball: Meet Inshah Bashir who carved her own destiny

Wheelchair basketball player Inshah Bashir persisted and fought to get past her disability, and since then, she has never looked back.

When this young Kashmiri native met with an accident at the age of 15 that left her wheelchair-bound for life, she didn’t let it stop her from following her dreams. Inshah Bashir persisted and fought to get past her limitations, and since then, she has never looked back. She has fulfilled her dream of playing professional wheelchair basketball and is the first woman basketball player from Jammu and Kashmir. Today, she not only plays at the domestic level, having represented India at the international level but also counsels young women to rise beyond their struggles and play like her.

However, it was not an easy journey for her. It took years of struggle—both physical and mental—but with the support of family, friends and mentors, she battled depression, self-doubt and inhibitions to overcome the trauma that the accident had left behind.

Destiny played its part when she visited the Shafqat Rehabilitation Centre in Srinagar for physiotherapy and witnessed people with disabilities playing basketball. During her 6-month physiotherapy programme, she met the men’s wheelchair basketball team. She joined them, initially hesitant, but once she started playing, she fell in love with the sport and trained hard to overcome the challenges that came her way.

In a heart-to-heart conversation with Soulveda, Inshah talked about her journey and the lessons she learned along the way.

You are a pioneer of wheelchair woman basketball player for women in Kashmir. What does your achievement mean to you?

It means a lot to me. It has given me recognition at an international level, and to some extent, I have been able to change the mindset of differently-abled people. Success in life is achieved when you fulfil your dreams and give the gift of happiness not only to yourself but to others as well. You become happy because you made others smile.

Can you tell us about the kind of challenges you faced and how you dealt with them at such a young age?

My first challenge was to accept that I am wheelchair-bound. The second was to reinvent myself after the tragic accident. The third was the lack of infrastructure in our state as there are no accessible buildings, parks and basketball courts. The fourth challenge, which every disabled person faces, is the lack of a disabled-friendly environment. You know for a girl who was quite fit and healthy enjoying her student life to its fullest, and then suddenly getting confined to one corner of her room, needing help for almost everything—it hit me hard. But with time, I accept the reality and thought about the ways that eventually helped me get better.

You’ve played at the national level and travelled to the US for the Sports Visitor Programme in 2019. What has been your greatest moment of pride?

Every moment was special for me, whether at the district, state or national level. But yes, my greatest moment of pride was when I got an invitation from the US Consulate to participate in the Sports Visitor Programme 2019 to be held in North Carolina, USA. Representing my country was my dream, and when it happened in the US, it was indeed a dream comes true.

Considering the physical demands of the game, did you ever feel like giving up?

Yes, I did feel like giving up at times. At one point, I was not able to move from one room to another, and now I start my day at the gym. Sometimes, it felt impossible to train so hard but I was wrong. It was certainly difficult but not impossible. Today, I am happy that I pushed myself beyond my abilities. I am happy I did not give up on my courage. Today, if I somehow miss my gym workout even for a day, I feel incomplete. I follow a regular schedule and a specific diet chart fixed by my coach. In addition, I practice my game every day.

We don’t see a lot of women athletes from Kashmir. Did you face any obstacles while you were pursuing your passion?

Yes, many obstacles—being a girl, being a Kashmiri, being disabled, the lack of facilities in Kashmir, and accessibility issues. But in the end, it is all about the mindset. Often, we enjoy a lifestyle that doesn’t prepare us for tough physical challenges, and in any sport, one needs to be fit and strong— both mentally and physically. In this aspect, sports has liberated women and continues doing so. If only they are provided with proper facilities by the government, more and more women will take up sports as a profession.

Sports is a new field for women, especially in Kashmir. If we look at the scenario across different states in India, women in sports are emerging at the front. Be it wrestling, boxing, shooting, badminton or tennis, Indian women are pursuing sports seriously and making their mark everywhere. If girls in Kashmir are trained and coached properly, they too will shine in sports and make the state and country proud.

Share with us a few life lessons you learned in your journey that helped you reach where you are today.

It’s okay to fall, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to scream but it’s not okay to give up on hope. We are not here to please everyone, so stop thinking too much about what people will think. Stay away from toxic people. But don’t forget those who motivated you. Be down to earth but dream big. No matter what situation comes in your life, don’t ever think it’s the end and don’t give up on your dreams. Trust yourself. Nobody will be able to help you until you help yourself. Lastly, nobody can take your dreams away from you if you don’t allow them.

You have exhibited exceptional courage in the face of adversity. What advice would you give to those who face similar challenges?

My advice is to never stop following your dreams just because you think you are going to be judged. If it is something you really want to do and it makes you happy, find the inspiration to do it. Don’t wait for a miracle to happen to fulfil your dream. Take a stand and fight hard.

What are your thoughts on the importance of mental health?

Let me tell you there is no secret trick to beat depression. You are the only solution to all of your problems. You have the choice to be strong and courageous even when you don’t feel strong enough. Eventually, you will realise that you had that strength and courage all along. Yes, it hurts. During such times, think of the strongest person in your life. Think of your role models. What is so different about them? In the end, we are all human and have the capacity to be great and strong. Some people will demotivate or discourage you but don’t lose heart. No matter what it takes, never stop trying and never stop believing. Your day will come.

What are your plans for the future?

My core passion is to excel in this game presently. As far as my long-term vision is concerned, I want to become a ray of hope for those who have accepted their disability as their destiny. I want to bring out the hidden talents of those who are disabled—either by birth or accident—and have lost their willpower. Our life is our message, so I wish to be an inspiration for all those who have faced challenges similar to mine.

  • Inshah Bashir is the first woman wheelchair basketball player from Jammu and Kashmir. She rebuilt her life after an accident left her wheelchair-bound. She not only plays at the domestic level but has also represented India at the international level. When she is not busy practicing the sport, Inshah counsels and inspires young women to rise beyond their struggles and make a mark.

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