When Bandenawaz Nadaf was born with no arms, a congenital anomaly, neighbours in his village in Solapur where he was born queued up to gawk at the child. Nadaf’s grandmother put a fee of Rs 5 for those who came to ogle at the newborn.
His father, a fruit-seller in Chandivli, almost sold Nadaf to a circus company. A boy with no hands could never be good for anything, the father reasoned.
Nadaf, now 23, has proved his father wrong. At From the Shadows to the Limelight, a painting exhibition of students of Society for the Education of the Crippled (SEC) at Jehangir Art Gallery, Nadaf’s foot-painted Buddha stands out among the 45 frames put up by eight orthopaedically-challenged students of the SEC-run schools.
Works of Rahim Khan (21), Sunil Darekar (19), Yogesh Sawant (20), Nitin Bhise (30), Shubham Paiti (14), Bandenawaz Nadef (23), Shahnawaz Sheikh (16) and Haseeb Chaudhary (18) are on display.
The exhibition coincides with the 50 years of SEC, a non-profit organisation started by Fatima Ismail who found that neither money nor pleading could get her physically challenged daughter admission to the schools in Mumbai.
What Fatima Ismail started as a class for her daughter and two other students in 1959 has now grown into three day schools in Mumbai and a residential one at Lonavala, for physically challenged children from impoverished backgrounds. Over 350 students get vocational and academic training in these schools.
Like Haseeb Chaudhary (18), who beams at the sight of his painting of a horse.
“Ten years ago, I dragged my body along the floor. Today, I don't think of myself as handicapped,” says the polio-afflicted boy who, after a corrective surgery, can walk with the help of crutches.
One of the SEC members, Zarine Chothia, recognised his talent and hired an art teacher for him. Soon there was a thriving art class in the school.
Chothia took the initiative a step further. Four years ago, she invited the Ginger Hotel group to buy these paintings. “The 80 paintings bought by the group was a great encouragement for the students,” said Roda Khambatta, president of SEC.
“These highly gifted students need some help to get their talent noticed. Our art show highlights their journey from the shadows of depression, want and verbal humiliation towards the limelight and an opportunity to earn a livelihood.”