Khadki (Pune), 21st January 2024: Lt Col Dwarakesh, the Army’s sole active-duty officer without sight, stationed at Station Headquarters in Khadki, has shattered barriers and emerged triumphant in national para shooting championships. Despite losing his eyesight due to an accident early in his career, the 35-year-old officer has become a symbol of resilience, achieving success not only in shooting but also conquering Siachen Glacier and excelling in para swimming.
Lt Col Dwarakesh’s journey took a pivotal turn after the accident that claimed his eyesight. Recalling the incident, he mentioned sustaining lifelong injuries while serving in the military. “I was in the hospital for eight months. Other Army personnel lost their lives, and I survived,” he stated. One of his last visual memories is of playing basketball in the military station where he was stationed.
Undeterred by his impairment, Lt Col Dwarakesh has embraced a new identity in sports, excelling in shooting with a remarkable score of 591 points in the visually impaired 10m air rifle event during the national para shooting championship in New Delhi in November 2023. His dedication to representing India on the international stage is evident, as he spends at least six hours daily honing his shooting skills.
The Prime Minister’s Office has recognized his exceptional achievements and extended an invitation for Lt Col Dwarakesh to attend this year’s Republic Day function in New Delhi.
Despite facing obstacles, Lt Col Dwarakesh found innovative solutions to continue his service, now working in office administration with the aid of high-tech assistive gadgets. He expressed gratitude for advanced AI-based software tools that enable him to read computer screens, cellphones, and iPad screens.
Appealing to the Paralympic Committee of India, Lt Col Dwarakesh secured an infrared sensor-based shooting equipment, making it possible for him to participate in visually impaired shooting. Under the guidance of former Olympian Anjali Bhagwat, he practiced at a private shooting range in Pune. Bhagwat emphasized the complexity of visually impaired shooting, requiring new techniques and tactics.
In 2021, Lt Col Dwarakesh, posted in Khadki, embraced para sports at the newly established paralympic node in Bombay Engineering Group and Centre, starting with swimming. He achieved a significant milestone by winning four medals in the national para swimming championship in 2022.
Lt Col Dwarakesh’s adventurous spirit also led him to scale Siachen in October 2021, where he joined a group of eight disabled Indians, setting a world record. JP Nautiyal, chairperson of the para shooting sports technical committee of the Paralympic Committee of India, praised Lt Col Dwarakesh and another civilian woman as the country’s only two blind para shooters, noting that their accomplishments would inspire others.
While India is yet to meet global standards in para shooting, Nautiyal commended Lt Col Dwarakesh’s rapid acquisition of shooting skills and expressed confidence that his dedication and love for the sport would bring glory to the nation.
Undeterred by his visual impairment, Lt Col Dwarakesh remains committed to his rigorous training routine, shooting between 30 and 60 shots in each practice session. His daily routine includes one and a half hours of breathing exercises, emphasizing the importance of concentration in shooting.
With minimal assistance required once he enters the shooting arena, Lt Col Dwarakesh continues to embody the spirit of resilience, determination, and passion for sport, proving that a vision beyond sight can lead to extraordinary achievements.