CHENNAI: Love means nothing in a racquet sport, but for this wheelchair tennis couple, it’s everything in life. S. Alexander James and Ruthu Rajeshwari were both infants when polio took away their ability to walk, but they never let their disability stop them from living their life to the fullest.
The couple is now blazing a trail in the wheelchair tennis circuit. Alex entered the quarterfinals of the AITA ranking tournament held in Chennai recently, while Ruthu was the lone representative from Tamil Nadu in the women’s section.
Life has been cruel to Alex. His mother died soon after giving birth to him. And his father left him at an orphanage.
Alex, now a computer operator in a private company, took to wheelchair tennis in 2005 with reluctance, but soon found himself getting hooked on to it.
“My friends forced me to try the sport out, and once I picked up the racquet I started liking it. As a kid, I used to look at the boys of my age play cricket, volleyball and other sports. I felt left out and wanted to play some sport desperately. When I realised that I could also enjoy playing using a wheelchair, I was delighted,” added the 35-year-old.
Ruthu, who was making her ends meet as a tailor, met Alex for the first time at the Andhra Mahila Sabha, the home where he was raised. “We were best friends for long before we fell in love and married in 2010. “The struggles we have gone through because of our disability, helped us strike a strong bond. Now, we support, encourage and help each other in every possible way,” said Alex.
Alex inspired his wife to take up tennis. Ruthu has made significant progress within a year. “He persuaded me to play tennis since the day we got married. Last year, when I accompanied him to a tournament, I saw the way he battled it out on the court. So, I picked up a racket immediately.
He makes my life easier. His encouragement helps me grow,” Ruthu added.
Affected by polio on the right leg, Ruthu was walking using calipers and crutches until eight years ago, but a car accident in 2011 paralysed her other leg. Worse, she was pregnant with her second child when the accident happened.
“That was the worst phase of my life. Luckily, nothing happened to my child,” she recalled. Ruthu said her kids have a maturity beyond their age and take complete care of their disabled parents. “My kids help me in all my household chores. They are just eight and nine years old. They are the pillar of our strength,” said Ruthu fighting back her tears.