Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Special Normal

How many times have we hid ourselves in fear or made a sympathetic look or laughed at a person who looked different? Someone who has slow mental growth. Someone who isn’t normal but special.
Students engaging themselves in Creative Activities

In search of these special individuals we visited Kamayani School. A school which falls in an upbeat but quiet area of Pradhikaran. Searching for the school wasn’t a big problem. A rusted board then confirmed us that we had reached our destination. KAMAYANI SCHOOL FOR THE MENTALLY CHALLENGED. I could see a playground with boys in an all white uniform playing cricket. For me they just looked like normal kids who played cricket like each one of us play. I still believed that mentally challenged is too harsh a word. We entered the main gate of the school. The children were just surprised to see unknown people enter their school.
Cooking Class

But they welcomed us with smiles. We were amazed. When asked about the principal’s office, they politely denied her presence.

After about a minute the principal Mrs. Sujata Ambe welcomed us into her office. She explained us in detail about Kamayani.

The Rally held in Support of the Girl-Child during Ganesh Chaturthi
The school was started by Mrs. Sindhutai Joshi in 1964 named after her house. Earlier these students were just a taboo and were pelted with stones by the so called normal people and were subject to taunts. Mrs. Ambe continues talking about Kamayani. The biggest challenge was to educate people that such kids shouldn’t be ignored. She then recalls how people started accepting the cause Kamayani had taken up and today the school she is in-charge of has a headcount of 100 with a student to teacher ratio of 8:1 which again is astounding.
Kamayani isn’t just a school; here students are prepared to be practical in life and self-dependent.

Their curriculum is beyond academics. Music, dance, cooking and other activities are part of Kamayani’s time table. Mrs. Ambe pulls out an album which contains photos of their students from an annual gathering held in October 2012. While showing us some pictures of the annual gatherings, Mrs. Ambe calls one of the students to bring her spectacles. She brings it willingly. Mrs. Ambe thanks her. The girl’s Welcome was louder than my Thank You. She isn’t normal? I’m sorry I won’t believe that.

The photos looked expressive and elegant. From candle making to embroidery, sewing to garland making, these kids are capable to do anything which we shy away from. She further adds that many students who have been given vocational training easily earn anywhere between 600 to 12,000 rupees a month. Even at the ZP (Zilla Parishad) Level, Mrs. Ambe insists the officials to include her students in the normal category and she proudly shows us the 2nd runners up trophy they won.
Preparing themselves for the Annual Gathering

During Ganesh festival a rally was held by the children with the motto of ‘Save the Girl-Child.’
As we are prepared to leave, we notice a biometric system which is fixed to monitor the attendance of the students.

Standing near the gate we look into the PMPML bus and are given a million goodbyes by the ever so loving students of Kamayani. I look at the bus as it leaves and wonder about the skills these kids possess. Incredible.

Yes they are mentally challenged. The things they can do with their minds can hardly be challenges by us. The talent they have is special. The next time you meet such individuals go give them a handshake and the smile you receive in return can be treasured for the rest of your life.