Four years ago, on a wintry October morning, 22-year-old Shahira was cycling like never before. It was the 17th National Road Cycling Championship held at Muzzafurpur, Bihar.
Her mother’s words echoed through her head as she pumped the pedals hard towards the finish line – “If you don’t win a national medal this time, no more cycling. This will be your last match,” she had said.
Shahira had had a huge fight with her mother that day and had promised herself to win the medal at all costs.
That day, she not only finished second in the race but also saved her dream of becoming a world cycling champion. However, her happiness was short-lived. Today, she is struggling to even walk properly, let alone cycling. She injured her spine while participating in a state-level cycling tournament organised by a private association.
Stuck in Mounting Medical Debt, She Had to Give Up CyclingLiving in a cramped tin-roof shed in Almatti village of Vijayapura district, she lives with her mother and five siblings. After her father’s demise, her mother was forced to take up work as a laborer, and her brother had to drop out of school to work and support the family.
Growing up in such a scenario, life was never easy for Shahira. But, she didn’t let anything get in the way of her dreams. Her mother and uncle believed in her, and that was all she needed to turn her dream of becoming a champion cyclist into a reality.
Her uncle Usman Attar, who was also a national-level cyclist has been Shahira’s inspiration. “I was drawn to the sport when I was a child. I have attended several of my uncle’s cycling matches. I knew I also wanted to do the same. He not only motivated me, but also trained me initially,” says Shahira. Soon, she began to participate in state and national-level events. Her dream began to take a definite shape. Medals started pouring in. But, the near-fatal accident drastically altered Shahira’s plans for her life.
Getting Back to Cycling Is Her Top Priority“Two people were on a bike and they ran over me. All of this happened during the match,” Shahira says. The accident ended up causing her a severe spine injury and a rod had to be inserted in her spine.
Since four months, she has been bedridden. “My mother cannot afford the medical costs. My uncle borrowed Rs 2 lakhs from his friends to meet the hospital expenses,” she adds. The accident didn’t break the cyclist’s confidence. She is determined to get back to the sport she loves most and make her country proud.
Vikram Kamath, a student at Carnegie Mellon University, who came to know about Shahira’s ordeal through an article published in The Hindu, decided to set up a campaign to raise funds for her ongoing medical treatment.