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Winning against odds

They are differently abled, who have let nothing come in their way to succeed in life. These true acheivers were recently honoured with special awards instituted by the Ability Foundation.


THERE IS a saying that lighting does not strike twice at the same place. It means that a person who has been extremely unfortunate will not have the same ill-luck again. Pradeep Sinha is living proof that the proverb is based on an erroneous belief. He was born deaf, but lost his vision (he suffers from B1 or total blindness). As a deaf-blind person, Pradeep's environment is without colour or sound. Under "normal" circumstances, someone with such multiple disabilities will simply be cut off from life. But not Pradeep Sinha. He has changed the circumstances of his life and rewritten the script through sheer grit. He has learnt to communicate with his world through the tactile method. You can talk to him through an interpreter who writes in his palm. What seems meaningless to you contains messages for him. He then replies by sign language, which the interpreter deciphers for you. It is rightly said that the disabled are "differently-abled"!

Today, Pradeep is an assistant at a Braille press in Mumbai; he is also a trained masseur. He even trains other handicapped children at the Braille press. He is conversant with computer operations. These are achievements great and wonderful, but there is one more achievement, which (considering his multiple-disability status and the nature of these disabilities) eclipses all of these. Despite his handicaps, he believes in paddling his own canoe; he commutes to his place of work all alone.

The nature of their disability makes Bharatanatyam off-limits for the vision impaired. But Buse Gowda, who is handicapped by B1 blindness (he lost his vision at age five), has pulled off the impossible - he has mastered Bharatanatyam. In point of fact, he is the first ever blind person to learn classical dance. As member of a dance troupe called Natyanjali (which is composed of physically handicapped artists), Gowda has given over a thousand performances, in India and abroad. In 1996, he successfully completed a two-hour ranga pravesham. Gowda has managed to complete his graduation through distance education and today he runs his own travel agency in Bangalore.

Naseema Mohamed Amin Hurzuk from Kohlapur became a paraplegic at 16 when she sustained a spinal injury. Though she herself is bound to a wheelchair, she has freed many others from constricting circumstances. She runs a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called `Helpers of The Handicapped'. Though broken in body, she has strength enough to help the handicapped through this organisation. She has been a tower of strength to 8,000 handicapped children whom she has rehabilitated with medical aid and vocational training. Among other activities, she runs an integrated school, hostel and cooperative credit society.

These people's feats, all the more remarkable because they were achieved against great odds, have been recognised. Buse Gowda and Pradeep Sinha received the CavinKare Ability Awards for Mastery (each of which contains Rs. 50,000, a memento and a citation). Naseema won the CavinKare Ability Award for Eminence (Rs. 1,00,000, a trophy and a citation). These awards, instituted by the Ability Foundation, were given away by Justice A.S. Anand, chairman, National Human Rights Commission, at the Tidel Park recently.

An eminent jury selected these three winners from a short-listed 13 after the evaluation of 170 applicants. The panel of judges included film lyricist Javed Akhtar, film director Maniratnam, former CVC V. Vittal, women's rights activist Mohini Giri and Jayshree Ravindran, director, Ability Foundation.

PRINCE FREDERICK

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