It was sometime last year that I got a call from one Mrs. Neeta Deolalkar. She said she was calling from an organisation called SWAYAM. I had a concert in Thane that day and she asked me if she and her daughter could meet me during the concert. She said that her daughter was a great fan of my music and would like to meet me. I always try not to disappoint my fans and I conceded to their request. After the concert was over Mrs. Deolalkar met me and said that her daughter was waiting in the wings to meet me and would I come to meet her. I wondered why the daughter could not come along with her mother, but I didn’t say anything. I followed her to the wings and was shocked to see an eleven year old girl in a wheelchair.
Mrs. Deolalkar introduced me to Shreya, her daughter. Shreya was a victim of a condition called Cerebral Palsy. It took me a moment to come to my senses. The girl, Shreya, was confined to the wheelchair. She could not speak, had no control over her limbs. But she showed great pleasure and excitement as I stood by her and bent down. She was laughing and communicating with me and I felt handicapped as I found it difficult to understand what she was communicating. Yes, I was the handicapped one. Her mother understood her perfectly.
“She likes your Marathi Abhimaangeet.” said Mrs. Deolalkar as she translated what her daughter was communicating with me.
Shreya gestured with her hands and head once again with fervour and excitement. Helplessly I looked at her mother again for help.
Trying to learn hope and happiness from Shreya
“She is saying that she also liked your song Man Tu Paar Utar Kahaan Jai Ho. She watched you on TV.”
I was battling hard to keep my tears from showing. I looked at Shreya. She was feeling happy that I was finally understanding what she was trying to say.
It is easy to define a disease. An illness. But how does one define health? How does one describe it? Illness has symptoms. Health, on the other hand, has no symptom! And that is why we are seldom grateful for good health. There are too many things that we take for granted. Not only the fact that I can see, hear, walk, and talk is a blessing, but also that my body listens to my brain and vice-versa is a great boon.
It is an unpleasant realization that not all are as fortunate. To children affected with cerebral palsy and their care-takers every day is a battle. Things that we take for granted, don’t come easily to these children.
In India, awareness and acceptance about this disorder are both low. The battle of these children and their caretakers can be made less painful, if we as members of a sensitive society come forward to contribute and give a helping hand. They don’t need pity. Pity is both, misplaced and useless. They need understanding and togetherness. We need to rid them of the feeling of isolation.
On the 8th of April 2012, I am performing for them. The show is called MARATHI PAUL PADATE PUDHE (मराठी पाऊल पडते पुढे) and will be held at the Kashinath Ghanekar Sabhagruha, Thane (W) at 4:30 PM. The show is for raising funds as well as creating awareness about SWAYAM and its work. I am going to do the show FREE OF COST for SWAYAM, but I realise and feel that this is not enough. I also require your help to do something more. So, 10% of my every CD sold on that day at the venue will go to SWAYAM.
It is not unknown that the world that we live in is not perfect. And mind you, it is not because of these children that it is imperfect. It is imperfect because of our lack of understanding and sensitivity. Take one look at these children and their smiles will teach you a million things. The only thing that we can do, is give them some time. What they can do for you is much more precious. They give you HOPE.