An special Olympic swimming champion, whose presence of mind and courage has helped in saving many lives by preventing a fire accident, a music lover who also plays musical instruments, Sahil Baride is like any other young boy who has many dreams.
It is true that this 25-year-old Andheri resident is living a happy life, but what remains unknown is the fact that he has Down syndrome, which he did not let become a hindrance for him.
“When Sahil was born, he was diagnosed with Down syndrome, a chromosomal combination, which results in delayed developmental growth and impairment of cognitive abilities. Yet they possess certain skills which, if identified and nurtured, could stand out in the melee of contemporary generation,” said Ashok Baride, Sahil’s father.
When Sahil was three-years-old, he was sent to a playschool which didn’t understand his special needs. Taking the advice of his paediatrician, his parents then enrolled him in a normal school when he was six-years-old. But, due to inadequate awareness on how children with special needs required an inclusive-education in school, it became difficult for him to continue in the school.
“So, the principal suggested that we shift him to a special school, which has the required facilities and trained staff,” added Sahil’s father.
Sahil was then admitted to Canossa Special School, where his parents found limitless possibilities for his future. After this, they tried at the National Open School curriculum in 2008-09 and admitted him to Dominic Savio School, where career options for him were plenty.
“Inadequate awareness of inclusive education among the schools led us to send him to a special school for disabled. Hence, awareness among all stakeholders of our society towards special children’s requirement is needed,” said Aishwarya Baride, Sahil’s mother.
At the age of seven, Sahil was enrolled into swimming classes. Initially it was to improve his physical strength, breath control and health, but swimming became his passion.
Sahil received his training under Santosh Rajak, a national level swimmer. He participated in the 1st State Paralympics Swimming Meet held in 2005 at Pune, where he bagged two gold medals.
This was the turning point for Sahil, which opened many doors of opportunities for him.
Unstoppable, Sahil went on to bag 25 gold and 15 silver medals in swimming.
But, for the Barides, it was a moment of pride when their son participated and won medals at State and National level Special Olympics and Paralympics Swimming competitions.
He represented India in Special Olympics World Aquatics Meet held at Puerto Rico where he won two-silver medals. This encouraged him to participate in Indian Team for the Special Olympics Asia-Pacific Games, 2013 held at Newcastle in Australia.
Not just in sports, but when it comes to academics, Sahil is an achiever. After successfully clearing the SSC exam conducted by National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) in April 2009, Sahil went on to complete his five-year course in hospitality and catering from SPJ Sadhana School, Mumbai in 2015.
He is currently working in a customer ‘service’ team of Gourmet Store and is also being trained in the kitchen of Grand Hyatt, Mumbai. Though born as a special child, Sahil’s life journey has been as normal as any other child. Sahil believes that hardships are a part of our life, but we need to find ways to fight back.
Sahil had been an active participant of the Fire Drill lessons conducted at SPJ Sadhana School, which came to practical use in 2014, when Baride prevented a fire with his presence of mind.
“Sahil returned from school and was getting ready to leave for his swimming session, when our neighbour came over with her baby in arm to inform about fire in her AC. Without wasting any time, Sahil rushed to her house and switched off the mains. But by then the fire spread to her curtains and sparks flew across the room igniting the sofa. He asked neighbours to take the stairs and avoid elevators. After escorting the women, he called the security guards to shut the main power switch of the building and raised an alarm for others to vacate the building. With presence of mind and courage displayed by him, he saved many lives,” his father beamed.
“Just work hard, do what you like the most and do not give up till you achieve it,” said Sahil.