In Conversation with Vedant Harasure
Vedant is a third year BSc student at Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics. A gutsy 20 year old, Vedant describes himself as a “Proud Punekar”. He is currently pursuing CA and cleared his intermediate exam in July 2021. At present, he is doing his articleship. He has loved being active since childhood – be it by running or through games like cricket, football and badminton.
Vedant suffered a significant injury last year. In this interview he talks about
his journey of pain and healing. He acutely dwells upon less-discussed topics like the mental health of sportspersons, the pressure to perform and the unexpected predicaments in life.
1) Can you give us a peek into your relationship with sports? What games do you think you’re best at?
Ans: First of all, I thank the 8:10 for this opportunity. Having read the conversations with Rodhsi, Isha and Manasi I know for sure that I’m nowhere close to the experiences that they had with their sport. But I’ll still try to answer the questions with honest effort :).
Since I was a kid, sports have been one of the most important parts of my life. I still remember I would go to Maharashtra Mandal every day in the evening where they had typical fitness batches for kids. There we would play football, foot cricket, Langdi, etc. But above all, I was so attached to going on the ground because I just wanted to run. I hated sitting in one place and studying or reading a book. My mother still says that the 1-1.30 hour of that daily activity was the only thing that catered to my high energy levels.
In primary school (Hume McHenry Memorial High School), I used to win all the inter-house 100m races and ring races that we had. I was part of the U-10 dodgeball team of my school. We even played in inter-school competitions. Since I was so good at running, our sports teacher even suggested my mother start training me professionally. But that didn’t happen for some reason. In summer vacations, I would go to Cricket Summer camps on the same ground where I started to have a liking towards it. All my childhood has been me being outdoors all the time.
Currently, I play Football, Cricket, Badminton, Handball, Basketball, Tennis, and Volleyball. Out of these, I’d say I’m a bit better at playing football because of the running it needs.
2) How has being a sportsperson contributed to who you are today?
Ans: This is a very difficult one to answer. Even though I’m not a professional in any sport, my whole personality stems from the experiences I had while playing since my childhood. Sports taught me that not all days are the same in your life but yet you have to enjoy the process. Sports taught me that not everyone in your team is at the same level as you, and hence you have to take everyone forward with you. That applies to any aspect of your life as well. Sports made me competitive in every aspect of my life but also taught me to put honest efforts into everything that I do. Be it exams, friendships, relationships, work etc. Playing competitive sports has made me very target-oriented. Even when I play cricket, I always like to bat in the 2nd inning because I love to chase down targets and challenge myself. But most importantly, Sports taught me to
believe in myself by putting in honest efforts. If I think I can do it, no one can stop me.
3) You said you’re recovering from an injury. Can you tell us about it? How has the recovery process been so far?
Ans: So in January 2021, while playing football on turf, I tore the ACL of my right knee. The ACL is one of the major ligaments in the knee joint that helps the knee joint to stabilize itself. This happened just because I was lazy enough to put in 5 minutes of intense warm-up before the game and my knee couldn’t adapt to the high-intensity impact and eventually got twisted. Whoever is reading this, never forget to warm your body up before playing any sport. Anyway, my surgeon suggested that if I have to play in the future, I will have to go through an ACL reconstruction surgery. I couldn’t see my life without playing sports so I decided to go with it.
The real struggle started after the surgery was successfully done. 24 hours prior, I was able to walk by myself and now suddenly I’m told to travel in a wheelchair. It took some time to adjust to these things. Also, my recovery took a bit longer than usual. For the first 3 months, we couldn’t progress to functional training because I had a locking sensation in my knee. So I had to continue with basic exercises like straight leg raises, heel press, abductor exercises etc to build muscle strength. Your operated leg loses so much muscle through the surgery that it looks like your hand. Later, when the locking feeling subsided, we progressed to functional training that had rigorous agility and strength training. Hops, jumps, spot sprints, and running drills were some of the exercises. Then we progressed to plyometrics,i.e high intensity training to build more muscle power. My LESS(Landing error scoring system) score, which was 19/23 when I first started my training, came down to 3/23 in 3-4 months, the less the better. As of now, I’m still at 95% of total recovery and I’m sure I will get back to the field with the same intensity as before pretty soon.
I tell this to people as a joke, but due to active participation in the physiotherapy and listening to their diagnosis of me, I can start a support group for people going through the same injury :). I probably know more about our body parts than I ever did in my 10th biology class.
4) Did sharing your feelings about your injury with your support system help you accept it faster?
Ans: Yes, it does. Fortunately, I had more than one support system throughout this phase of my life. I had my cousin and grandparents with me in those initial days after surgery when I needed constant mental and physical support. I never really felt down when they were around me. My close friends would visit me now and then when I was still not allowed to go out. My best friends even stayed with me in the hospital allowing my mother to have the rest she needs.
But let me tell you, it’s not always good and life is not always that kind. There were days through the recovery when I felt I was alone. There were days when the battle was with me even though I had everyone around me. I was vulnerable. I was broken. I was desperate. I was hopeless. But yet, somehow I got through that. I cannot be grateful enough for whoever stayed with me and pushed me through that phase. The Physios, my surgeon, close friends, relatives and all the well-wishers. I owe them a lot and will always be very thankful for their honest efforts for me. But at the end of the day, it is important to self-reflect and have that talk with yourself. Because no one is responsible for and obliged to your progress. You have to push yourself every day. And, I’m still learning to ace that.
5) Often, the frustration of injuries culminates into blaming yourself for the mishap. Did you go through any similar feelings?
Ans: It won’t be true if I said I don’t anymore or never did. How would you feel if someone suddenly told you to stop doing something that you were doing your whole life? To stop doing something that made you happy? It would create the greatest void in your life, right? That’s what it did to me as well. As I said in the 3rd question, if only I had warmed my body up before playing the game, things would have been different. I still cuss myself over this. I still think I should have slept that day instead of going to the game. There were days when I blamed my fate, everyone around me who supported me, my surgeon, my physiotherapist. But then I came across this book that changed my thought process. The seven-time Tour De France winner Lance Armstrong’s autobiography ‘It’s not about the bike’. A cancer survivor who had a less than 5% chance of being alive, goes on to win the deadliest cycle race in the world not just once, but seven times! Isn’t it one of the greatest comeback stories in any sport? It does not matter to me that he took performance-enhancing drugs to achieve that. What mattered to me is the fight that he showed and the “Never give up” attitude in its truest sense. I told myself if someone who went through cancer can do it, what is the big deal about this surgery that I went through! His struggle, mental toughness, and hard work in recovery all inspired me to stop cribbing about my life and get down to business.
6) When sports are an integral part of your daily routine, being forced to stop playing all of a sudden can create a void in your life. How did you utilise your free time?
Ans: Has it ever happened to you that when you are busy, you list down hundreds of things that you will do in the holidays, and eventually when the holiday comes you end up doing none of them? So it is nothing different for me as well. For the first few weeks post-surgery, Netflix and Chill was my only mantra. Later, when the urge of watching something burned out, I shifted to reading books. As mentioned earlier, I read Lance’s Armstrong’s autobiography and was highly inspired by it. After that, I read Life’s amazing secrets and the Psychology of money. When I got bored with that, I would practice on my guitar and sing along.
I cannot be grateful enough to my destiny or fate or whatever it is, that I had another goal of clearing my CA intermediate exam. Having a goal other than my recovery, helped me in ways I cannot even fathom. Those who know about the CA course, know that once a person gets stuck in the loop of giving the same exam twice a year, it is hard to clear it. I didn’t want to lose my attempt sobbing over the physical obstacle life had thrown at me. Because I had failed in my first attempt, I had that fire and urge in me to clear it the second time. So I used my anger bilaterally. If something didn’t go my way in the recovery process, I would tell myself that I have to focus on my exam and would direct my anger there. And when I would get exhausted with all the studying, I would then direct that anger and frustration in my recovery by putting in an extra effort. In the last month/month and a half or so, my daily routine had 1-2 hours of physio sessions and 10-12 hours of study. Even in the alternate-day gaps between 8 papers of the exam, I would go to physio for at least 1 hour so that I don’t lose whatever improvement I had achieved. This doesn’t pertain to the answer to the question but still, I would like to state that I cleared that CA intermediate exam as well. I would never forget these 6-7 months of my life just for the learnings and reflections I had about myself throughout the phase.
7) Sometimes injuries like yours can make mammoth tasks out of small chores. How did suddenly having to depend on others affect you?
Ans: Well, to be honest, it was fun :). In the first month, I couldn’t walk without the walker. So, it was breakfast, lunch and dinner on the bed/couch which I had never experienced before. Initially, I felt guilty when my grandparents had to bring my food to me or take away the used dishes to wash. But they made me comfortable with their kind words. I would only get up to get refreshed, a walk on the terrace and the physiotherapy exercises that I was told to do. After 2 and half months, I was even allowed to ride the bike on my own. Other than not being able to walk properly, there wasn’t anything that took a lot of mental and physical effort.
8) After returning to the field, did you face any confidence or self-esteem issues, or feel any pressure to perform, in comparison to your peers. If so, how did you cater to your confidence?
Ans: Yes, very much so. I was always someone who hated losing. Hence, in any sport that I played, I would give my 100% and was always a competitive kind of a guy. The intensity was always right up there. I would cuss myself out if anyone did better than me. But after returning to the field, I realized that I had to hold back a few times so that my body gets acclimatized to the pressures and conditioning that the sport needs. I’ve only played a couple of basketball games and cricket matches after the surgery till now. So it was all about going out there and enjoying what I was missing in my life. As I play more, the confidence and reassurance will kick in!
9) Going through an injury can force you to stop doing certain things, even when you’ve almost recovered. What games have you been forced to give up and what new ones replaced them?
Ans: For the first 6-7 months of the recovery, I was not allowed to play any sport as such. So I developed a new hobby of cycling. Initially, I started with cycling for 20 minutes on normal roads. Gradually, the timing increased to 1 hour. Now, I can cycle non-stop for 3 hours without my legs getting tired. Since the surgery, the statistics say that I’ve completed 600 km in 30 cycle rides. For someone who always loved running and occasionally rode the cycle, that is a lot and I’m happy I could do that. The maximum I’ve gone is 60kms in one ride. My next goal is to touch the 100km mark in the coming months. Now I’m allowed to play every sport that I initially played and don’t have to give up on any sport. If anything, I developed a new hobby out of my physical denials.
10)An injury can predominantly be a setback, but are there any positive things that you realized in this gap?
Ans: We would need another interview for that but I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible! Let me tell you a story. At my physiotherapy clinic, there were two distinct cases that I will never forget in my life. There was a 15-year-old boy and a 1.5-year-old baby who were suffering from neuro-related problems that had led to some leg deformities. The 15-year old boy had his ankles facing outwards and the small baby was made to wear a weighted leg brace to train his legs. Both of them would cry, whine, crib, fall down 99 times to rise back up on the 100th time. The small child didn’t even know what was happening with him. But what struck me the most was that they were always happy after their physiotherapy sessions. They had that big smile on their face that would light up the whole room. That motivated me to do better.
There are thousands of reasons why you can blame your destiny and fate. But if we choose to look outside ourselves, some people are in worse conditions but yet are happy, smiling and most importantly believing in their honest efforts. The worst that can happen is we will fail. The best that can happen is it can change our life. So why not try and make a comeback that we will always cherish?
-Interviewed by Urvee