The Invincible Spirit

The Invincible Spirit

On January 03, 2003, the normally quite and peaceful Golden Swan Club at Yeoor had become a hub of cheers, laughter and ecstasy. About 400 mentally and physically challenged students from all the nine special schools in the Thane were attending the annual New Year celebration organised specially for them by the Rotary Club of Thane. The purpose of the event was to provide children with mental and physical disabilities opportunities for fun, social interaction, skill development and self confidence.

There is no feeling like the feeling you get from watching mentally and physically challenged boys and girls enjoying like normal kids. Most of them seemed to have forgotten that they have any kind of disability. The invincible spirit of these deprived children simply stirs the heart. Consider Pravina, a physically disabled child from Jidd School, who uses crutches to walk. Pravina was participating in the march-past held to honour the chief guest. She was moving very slowly and the entire troupe of children paced forward, leaving her way behind. Soon the salutation was over and the principal of her school Shyamshree Bhosle, asked her to leave the parade. But the child was not to be budged – she had decided that she too would salute like others – so she kept going on, slowly yet determinedly, until she finally gestured towards the chief guest.

Many physically and mentally challenged children also suffer from a weak constitution and as a result cannot tolerate excessive physical exertion. One such girl could not bear the morning heat and fainted. When she regained her consciousness, her teachers tried to persuade her to return home, but she stubborn refused. She stayed back, claiming that she was feeling much better and would not faint again.

The kids were lapping up all the attention they were getting, which they are normally deprived of. Popular TV stars Sudhir Pandey, Gufi Paintal, Yatin Karekar and Suhas Khandke, who had turned up to cheer and support the children, were unanimous in their opinions that it was a great event and that they would cherish the memories of the day. They said that their New Year could not have started off on a better note.

The organisers had arranged for lunch packets and gifts for all the children and while these were being distributed, one could easily tell the gratitude on the face of these otherwise deprived children. Many of these children couldn’t speak, yet they expressed their gratitude through their gestures. Their faces were glowing and they their movements suggested that they wanted to thank everyone who made the event possible.

The staffs of the various participating schools were pleased too. Ashwini Sule from Dilkhush, a pre-vocational/vocational school for MR children, said, "It was a great event. We look forward to such events as it gives our children an opportunity to enjoy". Bhosle from Jidd School praised the event too, "It is a great experience for our students. Rarely do they get to enjoy so freely and thoroughly. It was well organised." Sushma Mandlik from St. John’s felt the same way, while teachers from Kamalini Hearing Impaired School in Thane East said that their students were thrilled to be a part of the event.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German poet, novelist, playwright, and one of the greatest figures in Western literature once said, "If you treat an individual as he is, he will stay as he is, but if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be". Children who are physically or mentally challenged need, more than anything else, to be treated as normal individuals. It’s only then that they can gain the self respect that is so important to their self development. The event provided them a wonderful opportunity to be themselves – nobody was going to judge them or their weaknesses. From this perspective, it was certainly a noble event.

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