Motivational speaker Nick Vujicic says, “Changing your attitude changes your life” and for Kajal Dey, the only table tennis coach in the country without hands, his attitude to never give up changed has changed his life completely.
Dey lost his hands in political violence after Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991. In an interview with Indian Express, the coach from Tripura recalled the horrific incident and said, “May 21 will always be a fateful day for me. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on that day in 1991. I used to be a driver at a nursing home here during those days and often worked till late at night. I was returning from duty and got caught in front of an irate mob. There was so much violence on the streets. Someone in the mob cut off both my wrists.”
Dey visited many prosthetic hospitals in order to replace his hand, but his efforts proved futile and it looked like there was no chance he would get his hand back and it was then that he was told to seek treatment at Pune’s Artificial Limb Center (ALC), a unit of the Armed Forces Medical College.
He recounts, “I went there and was treated for 5 months and 17 days. God! Nobody can imagine the kind of discipline they practice. I was literally made to work out things for myself.”
At a very young age of 21 years, the doctors advised him to undergo a special operation, separating his two arm bones, which will lead to muscle developing around the bones creating two large fingers like body parts. The operation certainly helped the coach, as he began to manage his daily work starting right from using spoon and fork to a mobile phone.
With cricket no longer a part of his routine, it was the sport of table tennis that he took up to change his fortunes forever. In those days, Pole Star Club in Agartala used to offer free sports coaching to children and he consulted few coaches before joining the club.
His sheer hard work and dedication have seen kids win medals at various national and regional tournaments. He has coached over 45 children since 2003; few of whom have become table tennis champions. He also groomed his own daughter Kalyani Dey who went on to contest in 19 national tournaments and won 4 medals there. She also performed exceptionally in state tournaments in the past.
Dey’s determination to fight back after such a big tragedy shows how fate can turn in your favor if you are ready to fight the obstacles.