Vasu Sojitra is 23 year old. He lives in Connecticut, US and he loves climbing the snow-clad peaks and skiing down the white slopes. He does so at adrenaline-pumping speeds. He does so on one leg.
Vasu Sojitra: 23-year old Skier proves Disability to be a Myth
When Vasu was only nine months old, Vasu was afflicted with a blood infection. His right leg was diagnosed with septicemia, and the limb had had to be amputated, in order to save his life. He received a prosthetic leg. As he grew up, he started living life like any other boy of his age. He participated in soccer, hockey and even skateboarding when he was in school. His parents were his biggest support system, as they treated him the same as his brother, and encouraged him to do all that he liked.
However, when Vasu turned 10, he had to give up his artificial limb. He then took to crutches, and while walking about, supported by crutches, he realized his love for skiing. He was 15 then, and was on a trip to Vermont. He wanted to enroll for the training, but unfortunately, the courses were not equipped to deal with his physical challenge, and he had to give up the hope of getting a formal training in the sport. However, he did not lose heart. Instead, he mustered all the courage and grit within him, and started training himself.
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He looked through videos, and repeated all that he saw, over and over again, until he could finally succeed in performing what he would aim for. This self-schooling continued for a year, after which, he also adapted his gear to his unconventional body balance. The accessories he uses are unique in every sense. For instance, he uses only a single ski, instead of two, like the other skiers. Besides, his ski poles have a one-of-a-kind design. Known as outriggers, these ski poles double up as crutches which have little skis that are attached at the bottom. These are helpful while climbing up, as they prop him up and assist him in steering while he glides. He places his outriggers above uphill, and using his upper body, he pulls himself. Thus he essentially dips the entire way to the top of the mountain.
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Vasu has no qualms in admitting that being a skier is difficult because of his disability, but he only sees it as a challenge that he needs to overcome, and does not let it stop him from doing everything unassisted, on his own. In fact, it is a quite a treat to watch him at his sport. He has a rare grace in his glide, which defies his disability, and anyone who watches him whizz along the snow will possibly forget that he does all that on a single leg. Perhaps, it his just his perspective and attitude that oozes out and makes up for everything, because according to Vasu, “Disability is a myth,” and he adds that having just one leg instead of two is no big issue, it is only a hiccup.
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Vasu was often seen blowing past other students along the corridor of the University of Vermont. Skiing is not the only field in which Vasu excels. Academically, he has succeeded to attain the qualification of an engineer, and he also has a day job as the assistant director for adaptive programmes in sports in a non-profit organization that work for the disabled. Vasu, whose family roots are in India, is a frequent visitor to Uplata near Rajkot in Gujarat, where he has his ancestral home, and Vasu hopes that someday, he will be able to replicate his current work in his homeland, as well.
Vasu’s story is that of sheer perseverance and love for the sport of skiing. It is a story of strength of mind, and is worth drawing inspiration from. To document his life story and bring it to the people, a Vermont-based production company named T-Bar Films, founded by brothers Eliot & Tyler Wilkinson-Ray with the goal to chronicle the outdoor world, set out to capture the untold story of an authentic character. T-Bar Films, which has made some incredible documentaries about surfing, mountain biking and skiing, after their first film United We Ski, about the importance of Vermont’s community-based ski hills, thus created a short film named Vasu Sojitra: Out on a Limb.
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The film showcases Vasu’s struggle and his relationship with the backcountry of Vermont. The documentary was shot in Chic-Choc Mountain Range. As described in Vasu’s official website, “Out on a Limb profiles Vasu’s inspiring story and follows him as he ventures deeper into the backcountry to summit peaks, drop into avalanche zones, send cliffs, and ski deep powder lines, all completely unassisted.” The film was released in November, 2014. Immediately, it caught the attention of the audience. The vistas in which the short is set, along with incredible cinematography boosted the main subject of the film, i.e. Vasu’s incredibly inspiring tale of beating all odds to follow his dreams and do what he is truly passionate about – skiing. The film was also featured in the Banff Mountain Film Festival’s India Tour in Delhi, India, which was recently. There, too, the emotional Indians were moved by the tale of the young man, whose heart belongs to India, and who made his best efforts to overcome all hurdles.
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We are often demoralized by the smallest of things. Every hurdle we come across seems like a mountain we cannot cross. We give up easily, we get depressed. Vasu’s tale reminds us that even the biggest of hurdles can be crossed, and no matter what challenges life throws in our way, we just have to be strong enough to take it in our stride and move on. Vasu has accepted the challenge that was presented to him at an age when children discover the use of their legs, and he not only learnt to move and get by, but taught himself to climb the tallest and roughest of mountains. He has earned the respect of fellow climbers, and has not even kept himself restricted to just one thing. His true success is not in becoming a noted climber, but in winning the hurdle race of life.