On a chilly morning in Amritsar on February 19, 2000, Padmini Shrivastava found a four-year-girl outside the All-India Pingalwara Charitable Society, a home for the destitute and an orphanage, after she was abandoned by her parents.
Nineteen years later, Shalu (who has just one name), a special needs athlete, will represent India by competing in powerlifting at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi from March 14 to 21. The Special Olympics World Games are held every two years for athletes with intellectual disabilities.
“It was eight in the morning. I was at the gate when I found a little girl shivering and crying. I took her into the office. I asked her name but she didn’t reply. I quickly realized she had been abandoned by her parents. Being a mother myself, I can’t even imagine how anyone can disown their own child,” recollects Padmini, who is the principal of the orphanage.
Shalu’s birthday is celebrated every year on February 19, the day she was found by Padmini. “It took us more than a month to understand her problem. She has a speech impairment and also a learning disorder. Since then, I have become her life and she has become mine. We are inseparable,” adds Padmini.