A Little Ray of Sunshine

It is basic human nature to take many things we are used to for granted. The facilities we have, the things that make our life comfortable, for that matter even something as basic as our body and five senses. We don’t really think about them. Why? Because they have always been there and we have no reason to believe that they might not be there with us. But sometimes it takes just a few minutes to open your eyes to the world.

The Dance Workshop being conducted at Doon School by Kshitij and Anusha from Shiamak Davar’s Institute (SDIPA Mumbai) with the help of Talent Enablers has taken a noble step by sponsoring children from underprivileged background and children with special needs to participate in this workshop. Having heard a lot about the talent of these children, your reporter from DehradunBuzz went to see them live in action.

On entering the large auditorium, two groups of children were visible, a bunch of boys who were with Kshitij and some girls with Anusha. From a distance, it would seem that it was an ordinary dance routine practise – the coaches taught them the steps and the students followed them. A closer look revealed certain subtle differences. Kshitij was not speaking at all. Rather, he was gesturing with his hands. Anusha was guiding them through the steps by holding their hands and telling them what to do. Then the truth dawned. The boys couldn’t hear while the girls couldn’t see a thing. And yet they danced with an ease that made you want to tap your feet along.

I speak to the mother of one of the students, Mrs. Rajkumari Bisht, who was there with her son. She told DehradunBuzz that her son Abhishek loved to dance. He had attended a few workshops before but it was his first time at the Shiamak Davar workshop. “Dancing has given him a lot of confidence and he really enjoys it. I think it has made him more ready to face others with the exposure he is getting here,” she shared happily.

While these children were totally engrossed in the dance, a lone and silent figure was watching them carefully from the doorway. Ravi Kumar had come here from the Bindal Slums with around 20-25 of his mates. As I go up to talk to him, a gaggle of excited youngsters gather around us. Broad smiles are flashed when asked about their experience at the workshop. I ask them if they know who Shiamak is. “Kshitij sir ne pehle din bataya tha” (Kshitij sir told us on the first day.), says Ravi. We ask them to which song are they dancing. Giggles accompany the reply – ‘Pungi Bajake’.

A little later, a group of bubbly kids spilled out of a van. They were from Latika Vihar and had come along with their dance teacher, Sandeep. Even he is eager to learn from such a well-known choreographer’s company members. Two girls, Khushboo and Swati, are here for the second year running. The veterans of the group confess, “We are finding the steps much easier this time around. We practised for almost a year!”

Talking to the coaches about the difficulties in teaching special children, Kshitij says, “Admittedly, teaching them is a different ball game altogether. They have their own constraints and we must adapt to it. Earlier we had volunteers who were also differently abled and they helped us communicate with them. But now I think the rapport has grown strong enough for us to communicate effectively ourselves.”

Anusha, who was teaching the visually impaired children said, “Since they cannot see how I’m dancing, it is necessary to guide their movements ourselves. We need to hold their hands, show them how to move and all. But you now, they are so eager to learn that it becomes quite easy.”

Adds Kshitij, “One thing I have to say is that they have an amazing memory. They have a tremendous retaining power and can pull off steps once they are familiar with them.”

As I make our way out, I see a group of students sitting and gesturing animatedly, probably deep in their own way of conversation. After observing them for a few minutes, I walk up to them, gesturing that I wanted to take a photograph. That done, they pulled up a chair and asked me to sit down. Initial attempts at conversation were a bit hampered due to my inability to use or understand sign language. One of them pointed at the diary and pen I was carrying and motioned me to write what I wanted to say. We had found our new means of communication. I found out that they studied at the Bajaj Institute of Learning, Rajpur Road. Most of them were 16 or 17. Two of them were pursuing their B.A. degree course from IGNOU. Others had given their school exams. It was surprised when they told me that two of them had won gold medals at the national level in athletics. Abhishek had won 4 gold medals while Rajat had won 3.

A little later as I said goodbye, I looked back at their happy faces and felt they maybe at a disadvantage one way, but they have been blessed enough to cherish every moment of life. Hopefully, I can learn from them.