Monday, March 11, 2013

Pratibha - Celebrating Ability

Pratibha – 2013 by FAME India
The much awaited cultural program Pratibha, the Special Talents Day was organized by FAME India at the JSS auditorium on 2nd March 2013. Like Shefali mentioned, it was a Habba, a festival and a celebration. The colorful event which showcased the efforts of the staff and students in preparation of the props and accessories required for the event left everyone present spell bound. More than anything, the show which flowed smoothly like a knife through the butter with perfect performance by the differently abled children was more than praise worthy. I have attended quite a few school cultural events in my life time because I am involved in preparing children for the programs, but honestly I have never been impressed so much with any event ever in my life.

The Guest of Honor was Mr.Manikandan Kumar, the gold medal winner in para climbing event at the World Sport Climbing Championships in Paris. The young lad, whose right leg is affected by Polio had bolted up the 15 meter wall ahead of 21 professional climbers from across the world to snatch the gold. Not many know about the tough climb of this young man through the wall of poverty which could be tougher than any competition he faces in sports. A humble person of few words he impressed the audience with his simplicity.

The school gives away the Pratibha awards to people who contribute to the society. The award of 2013 was given to Ms.Yvonne Lomax ofBelgaum who runs a Home for the Homeless. Click here to know more about her amazing contribution to the society, as it would be injustice if I write about her in a sentence.

Mr. Nadathur Sarangapani Raghavan an Indian industrialist, one of the seven founders of Infosys Technologies and the founder of the School, Mr S Vaitheeswaran, MD and CEO of Manipal Global Education services, Mrs Janaki Vishwanath the glue that has held the institution together for years were present on the stage.

The introduction was given by a student, who delivered quite a big narration. WOW! That is what I could say. Regarding the crowd, this was a different situation from the one we are used to in Byndoor where Farheena studied previously. I remember how we had to plead with the parents and relatives to come to the cultural program of her school to encourage children, and finally resort to rope in school children as audience. The huge auditorium here was jam packed with excited parents who had almost forgotten even to breathe, as they looked ahead to see their children on the stage. I could see the surprise on Rayyan’s face, when he looked around, for it was clear even he did not expect such crowd.

The Principal of the school Mrs. Kalaivani Raipet deserves accolades for handling the event in such an effective manner that everything went smoothly like a well oiled engine. The challenge for the staff to train their students with Cerebral Palsy, Down ’s syndrome, Intellectual disability, learning disability, autism, and mobility related challenges is not an easy task. I have been hearing about the training and rehearsals from Farheena from past 2 months so I know how it went…

Chauffeuring Farheena to school every day in absence of her regular transport, I have seen the students of FAME India from close quarters.  The attraction of the children is their untouched innocence. Their communication is free of all the style, pretence and artificial flair, so is their thoughts like the special angels. Most of them are very polite and courteous. The wonderful angels like Swati, Pooja, Nikhil, and others have won my heart. I wish I did not have to work so that I could spend more time with these amazing angels from whom we can learn so many lessons of our lives.

The colorful event was not an exhibition of talent by the children, but a festivity to be enjoyed by one and all to repeat the words of MCP Shefali. The program started and ended exactly as scheduled. The annual report showed the diversity and integrity of the program followed by the school, where they prepare their wards to function as much as possible in their surroundings. Like the principal mentioned it was a moment of joy for me when Farheena prepared cucumber salad for my sister’s family, handling knife deftly, for the lunch we had arranged for them. She has gained the confidence by helping out the school kitchen along with her friends. 

The theme was about the journey of India, through her glorious days where she was ruled by wealthy kings, the arrival of British and other Europeans as traders, how they took advantage of the internal conflicts among the Indian rulers and established colonial rule in the land. The scene then shifted to the freedom movement and later on to India after Freedom. The message about acceptance, respect and love for the girl child was also included in the theme without taking it out of rhythm.

Every student was given a part and a chance to be there on the stage. They were shrewdly fitted into the parts which they could manage. A boy who walks with support was smartly given the part of Gandhi so that two of his assistants could make him walk around without it looking out of place. The children who could not follow orders were made to sit in the Durbar or stand as the part of the group. It was not just hard work on part of the organizers, but extremely smart handling of the students.

During one of the performance, a girl tried to get off the stage to join her mother in audience, sending panic through everyone. The incident is an eye opener that the staff does take risk even with their students who exhibit behavioral problems instead of pushing them to the back stage. Putting the interest of students ahead of success is something I appreciate very much.

The whole program was a play of colors, innocence of the students and efforts of the staff. Some of the moments that touched my heart were when Kittur Rani Chenamma pulled out her sword with such a vehemence which was enough to scare the British out of India if there were here, when Miss World Aishwarya broke into dance steps as the music started, the cutest Abdul Kalaam peering through his flowing tresses, and the smartest Dr.Ambedkar preparing the constitution of India. The dance and performance of the students was astounding to say the least. They stomped their feet and flayed their arms as though their life depended on it.

Who would have thought of involving special children in a puppet show that brought out the terrible happening at Jalianwala bagh where thousands were mercilessly massacred by the colonial rulers? Hats off to Mrs. Revati who prepared the students for the show.  She also created the puppets, the show appliances and everything required from scratch with the help of students, staff and volunteers.

The program ended with the students holding a giant flag of India and shouting Jai Hind at the top of their voices. A great successful event which left every one thrilled. It almost moved me to tears to see the tremendous performance by children who have been challenged by their lives.

I saw some of the parents walking away with their child as soon as their performance was over. I wish everyone would stay back and enjoy the whole event, as there is so much of effort put by the children to bring out such performance. Every child up there on the stage is a part of the whole unit of which includes our own special child. For me, every scene was special and my hands are still aching due to the loud clapping I did involuntarily.

Now let me write regarding Farheena’s first experience at the Pratibha. I had seen the excitement in Farheena regarding her tiny part as a British trader who looks at the wealth of India and then decides to loot India. She told me that she carries a gun and shoots it in the air. One day she came home and told me that she does not shoot the gun anymore. I did not take her seriously, but encouraged her to do whatever she can as much as possible and have fun. So, she was excited again to try out her outfit in the rehearsals and walk around the stage looking at the wealth, spices and other goods spread there as a staff member helped her.

Where I messed up is that I did not expect her to get jitters on the final day neither did I realize that she wanted to hold the gun. This is my first experience with Farheena going on the stage in front of huge crowd, therefore I failed to inform the school that she could be nervous.  Unfortunately, the big day turned out to be a nightmare for her when she was scared without her support person who she expected to accompany her on the stage. The bright lights, the crowd, the noise and being alone confused and scared her a lot; again this was her first experience in front of such a big crowd. I could see her being very nervous when she took her steps, and then went back. I can just imagine the cajoling that would have been needed by the school to send her on the stage. If this is the case of one student, I cannot imagine what effort had gone to extract such huge performances from rest of their wards.
Rayyan and I were both disappointed that we did not get a glimpse of her pretty face as the scared girl turned away from the crowd. The most beautiful event of the whole evening awaited me when I went to collect Farheena from the back stage. When everyone was busy handling the event, which does demand a lot of attention, her fellow student Pooja sensing Farheena’s fear was trying to pacify her saying everything is going to be alright. Don’t worry. That was so awesome gesture from a special needs child. The love and concern she showed for Farheena is what a school should teach their children.

As Farheena shared the seat with us she pointed the banner Rayyan had created for the school and said that he is more important there …did I sense I hint of anger or jealousy? I am not sure. Anyway it was the stupid Maa who had told her proudly that the banner up there is created by Rayyan. I know this is not to be said the next time. After sitting there with a droopy face she asked Rayyan whether he had got her picture to share with her friends on facebook, especially her American friends who were waiting for pictures. When Rayyan showed her the pictures he had clicked she was more upset that her face was hidden. She pointed at a girl in front of us and said she hated her because she carried the gun instead of her.
Farheena in the light blue dress making her appearance
It took some time for us to pacify her. I took her out on dinner at her favorite place so that I could cheer her up. Monday she did not want to go to school and said she is not feeling well. I allowed her a day off but cajoled her to attend school the next day. The advantage of being a special child is that nothing lasts for long in their mind. She came back home super excited telling me that they served noodles for lunch in her school, her friend was angry with her for being absent because she felt bored without her and one of her classmate took down her phone number and promised to call her. That made up for everything. The school is a beautiful place again for Farheena….

I have seen the affection, passion and effort with which the staff works with their students, which once again made me realize that I had made the right choice for Farheena. There is such a beautiful bond between the staff, volunteers and the students which is not seen very often. Mrs. Kalaivani, Mrs. Janaki and Mrs. Geetha Murthy were standing a short distance from us, and I could clearly see the excitement, joy and sheer pleasure which they expressed as the students performed on stage. I could not be happier for Farheena and Rayyan as a mother than they were for their students. That should sum it up all.  I wish the school more success and good luck in all their coming ventures.

FAME India is setting an example for special education in India with the support of many people who contribute to the organization in whatever way they can. You can help too. Click here to know more about how YOU can help them. 

Pictures can be viewed on the website of the school here


Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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