Tanya Daga, a UPES alumna from the 2017 batch of MBA Oil and Gas, completed a charity cycle ride from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Pedalling with one leg, she concluded the gruelling journey in record 43 days on a road bike
“Count your blessings and learn to appreciate what you have in hand,” says Tanya Daga, who has scripted history along with nine other para-athletes by completing the Infinity Ride 2020 organised by Aditya Mehta Foundation to raise funds and support para-athletes. She is the only female para-cyclist in the group to complete such a demanding ride from the Northern to the Southern tip of India.
In 2018, Tanya met with a fatal car accident. Her family ensured the best of the medical treatment but despite undergoing multiple surgeries and more than six months of treatment, she lost one leg. What made the challenge worse was the lack of funds and poor support from the insurance company due to policy loopholes.
Reminiscing about how she found her calling in para-cycling, Tanya says, “I have been a sports enthusiast since childhood but had no plans to take it up as a full-fledged career. It was after my amputation when I had to choose between a desk job (which everyone suggested me to go for) and sports; I found my calling in the latter. In the process of figuring out my way, life took a beautiful turn when I got connected with Aditya Mehta Foundation through a referral and took up cycling.”
The Aditya Mehta Foundation is an Indian NGO that supports physically challenged people to pursue sports and supports them with all the necessary training, specialised sports equipment, and sponsorships.
“The counsellors at the foundation helped me to gradually gain confidence. Thereafter, I began setting up shorter goals. I worked on my endurance and first accomplished a milestone of 100 km. My coach Mr. Aditya Mehta mentored me all the way. I cannot thank him enough for everything he has done for me. I was shortlisted by the officials of the Border Security Forces in the top 10 list to participate in the Infinity Ride 2020 – a fundraising event that enables the foundation to nurture para-athletes and build a strong Indian Contingent at the Paralympics,” she adds.
Everything was going as planned. However, in the middle of the ride when Tanya had reached Hyderabad, she got the news of her father’s untimely demise. After attending her father’s funeral, she rejoined the team in Bangalore and resumed the ride. She was depressed but determined to realise her goal.
“It was my father who had encouraged me to prove that losing a part of the body cannot stop you from achieving your target in life. It was my father’s dream that I complete the mission. To fulfil his dream, I joined the expedition back,” says Tanya, dedicating this grand feat to her father, late Mr. Alok Daga.
Tanya was conferred with the ‘Youth Icon of Rajgarh 2021 and Brand Ambassador of Women Empowerment’ award by the Rajgarh police, Government of Madhya Pradesh.
Talking about Tanya’s journey of becoming a para-athlete, Priyadarshini Shivkumar, her close friend from UPES, School of Business days says, “Her struggle with self, convincing her parents that she would be able to manage on her own in that training camp and social stigmas around disabilities, it has not been easy. The initial days of para-cycling were crazy and hectic for her mentally as well as physically, owing to her medical history. I am proud of the massive feat she has achieved. What a wonder this girl is! I strongly feel she has a long way to go, and this is just the beginning.”
“I have always known Tanya as a strong-willed and determined woman”, shares Sujit Surendran, her classmate from MBA Oil and Gas at UPES School of Business. “I remember it was during our M Cube program (the orientation program for MBA students), she hurt herself while playing Table Tennis and due to a ligament tear, was advised not to play. But she did not quit. She played and even ended up winning a few matches. She also tutored and purchased books for the kids working at tea stalls near our campus. A never-say-die attitude and a compassionate heart, she is truly a force to reckon with”, he adds.
Talking about her future, Tanya says, “Adaptive devices like prosthetic limb cost a fortune. Like in my case, it took all my father had. I would like to raise funds to support para-athletes and work towards a more inclusive world, where people are not categorised and judged basis their physical disabilities and spread awareness that anyone can achieve anything in life.”
(The writer is an experienced academician with expertise in curriculum development, soft-skills, e-learning and organisational development. In her current role as a marketing communications specialist, she crafts impactful stories about student and faculty experiences as well as business education.)