Monday, January 30th, 2023 07:19:50

Wheelchair, The Chariot Of Krishna

Updated: October 23, 2010 3:36 pm

Have you ever seen lame persons spinning their wheelchairs accompanied with deaf-dumb girls and a mentally-challenged boy, performing fantastically over the thumping beats of Jai ho! Jai ho!, a most popular Bollywood song? Confused, whether this is a fantasy! But, no, this breath-taking, unimaginative dance performance has been made possible with the sheer hard work and inspirational efforts of Mr Guru Syed Sallauddin Pasha, popularly known as Guruji.

                Having numerous expertise specialties like being an international scholar, professor, special pedagogic dancer, writer, director and choreographer, Mr Pasha is revered as “Father of Indian Therapeutic Theatre for Persons with Disabilities”. He has been working in this noble profession for the last 25 years. He gave his first Bharatnatyam performance at the age of six years in 1973. When asked about the inspiration behind his graceful work, Mr Pasha points out, “I belong to the family of heelers; our ancestors were physicians of Mysore maharaja. From my very childhood, I used to see patients coming to our home for cure, as it’s our family profession. Later on, I realised, we have seventy million disabled persons in the county, who have no access to public places. They are just an invisible minority, and I eagerly thought of how to change the society. Fortunately, I am the first one to develop the therapeutic qualities of dance and music as a heeling tool, to heel the entire disabled community.”

                ‘Women of India—from 6000 BC to 2,000 AD’ by 100 hearing impaired children and adults, ‘Ramayana On Wheels’ by 200 India children and 106 children from Finland, ‘Durga’ based on Purulia Chhau, ‘Martial Arts On Wheels’ based on Manipur’s Thang-Ta, ‘Sufi Dance On Wheel Chairs’, ‘Bharatnatyam On Wheels’, ‘Freedom on Wheels’, ‘Karna On Wheels’, are first of their kind of performances in the world. Making his thoughts clear, he informed, “For me the wheelchair is the chariot of the Krishna, the glitches of the disabled are trishul for me and serving them is like serving to God for me. I see God in them. I never get tempered working with them; instead I feel so much soul-soothing experience. In fact, it is a great tapasya for me.”

                According to him, there is an absence of required awareness about these people. So, he has his own set of methodology to heel the physically and mentally-challenged people. Regarding this therapy he said, “It is basically a dance music-heeling therapy, which involves therapy of light, movement, expression, emotion and rhythm. First, we have to convince the parents of disabled persons, as disables are still not accepted by the society. There is not a respected terminology using for them in the society, as a blind is called an andha, a physically-challenged called a langda and a mentally-challenged called a pagal. It is the need of the hour to change this negative mindset of the society. Mentally-challenged people have an unexpected behaviour, sometimes they bite me and hit me too. And it’s really a very caring and compassionate task to deal with them.”

                Mr Pasha was honoured with a National Award in 2007 by the President of India for his outstanding contribution in the field of empowering persons with disabilities. He has also created a world record of 100 dance theatre productions and 10,000 performances by persons with disabilities across the globe, which is registered in Limca Book of World Records. Earlier, in 2001, he also received a governor’s award from Karnataka government for his exceptional contribution in the field of disability. Down-to-earth, dedicated and devoted to his cause, Guruji divulges, “For me, my children are my awards. However, receiving the awards infuses a feeling of enjoyment but it also entrusts me with increasing responsibilities.”

                Guruji Pasha is the founder and secretary general of Ability Unlimited Foundation. Ability Unlimited is an institution, which brings forward physically and mentally-challenged people to provide them a proper platform and recognition in the society. He, however, laments: “Unfortunately, neither public places nor transport facilities are disabled friendly and this perturbs me a lot. My aim is to make our country disabled-friendly. I am working as a disabled right activist, using art as a medium to heel not only the disabled persons but also the society. Heeling of the society is more important because we believe that today’s children are country’s future. I want them to be an inclusive part of the society.”

                Being a symbol of national integrity, Sankriti Award was conferred on Guru Pasha in 2008 for empowering the disabled persons in the field of education and economic independence. He is a professional-trained Bharatnatyam and Kathakali dancer and choreographer. He graduated as a choreographer from Bangalore University. He has performed lead roles in the dance theatre production of most of the Indian mythological characters. In this context, he said, “Since I am firmly rooted in Indian ethos, I work for Indian therapeutic theatre, not for the western theatre. I work only on the Indian characters, as I have strong background of Bharatnatyam and Kathakali, which is a very rare and unique combination. That is why I feel myself connected to lore of the Indian music.”

By Sonia Chawla

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