By Haziq Qadri @haziq_qadri
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Videographer / director: Shams Qari
Producer: Haziq Qadri, Ruby Coote
Editor: Josh Halil
Mohammad Rafee Parray, from Indian Administered Kashmir, was born with a Hemangioma face tumor that surgeons concluded was too dangerous to attempt to remove.
This made life challenging enough, but then in 2010 he became paralyzed after falling from the roof of his house.
The 30-year-old said: “On 12th May 2010 I fell down from the roof of my house. I was paralyzed and went into depression. I didn’t do anything. I was completely bedridden. I was really depressed.
"I was immobile and it was very hard for me to accept the reality.”
But in 2013, Rafee discovered basketball when he joined a team at the Voluntary Medicare Society in Srinagar, which is dedicated to helping those with disabilities.
He said: “In 2013 I started playing wheelchair basketball. The Voluntary Medicare Society provided us the wheelchairs.”
For Rafee it was extremely challenging to play basketball in a wheelchair.
He said: “Initially, I would think that it is impossible to play basketball in a wheelchair. How would you play? Will you look after your wheelchair or pick up the ball?
“First we learned how to move and handle the wheelchair, and then how to play basketball in a wheelchair.”
“It was difficult in the beginning but now it’s easy."
“I told myself, ‘I must keep going with my life.'
Despite never having played the game before, Rafee progressed quickly with the team and is now a key player in the side.
He said: "I started it just as a game but gradually we started taking it forward and reached national levels.”
“My dream is to play at international level."
Another key player on the team is captain, Waseem Ahmad Dar, 29, who says playing the sport has been invaluable in fighting off depression caused by his paralysis after an accident.
He said: “My accident happened in 2013. I would sit at home and think my life is over now.
“One day a sponsor visited the centre. They suggested we put a team together for wheelchair basketball. It was a great move as almost all of us were depressed after the accidents.”
But Waseem also found it a challenging sport to learn.
He said: “It was extremely difficult to play in the wheelchair. Earlier, we didn’t think about it because we were normal people, we were living a normal life and could walk around anywhere with our legs.”
Soon, not only was the sport helping the team to reduce their depression levels but they were also becoming well known after playing basketball in different states.
Waseem said: “The players got mental satisfaction from this. We are having a lot of fun. Now, girls are also joining our wheelchair basketball team.”
Nasreen Rasool, aged 28, works at the rehabilitation center and is also the team coach.
She said: “Most of the spinal injury cases are due to accidents and the ongoing armed conflict in Kashmir.
“After the accidents, many of them tried to commit suicide but now they are recovering. The sport has made them happy."
After mastering the sport on wheelchairs, the team has received acclaim from across the country.
Team captain, Waseem said: “There are hundreds of people who suffer from back injuries. We played in many states of India.
“People want to join our team now. Girls are also interested in playing basketball with us. This is definitely making us proud.”
“The response of people is becoming our strength.”
A sentiment that Rafee echoes.
He said: ”Basketball changed our lives. We feel like we can do whatever we wish.
"If we can play basketball, we can do anything in this world."