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Spinning on wheels: Varun Khullar, India’s first differently abled DJ, was rescued by music

When an accident left him paralysed from waist down, Varun Khullar had to dig himself out of a pit of misery. Music was first his refuge, and then it became his career — and so DJ Aamish was born.

delhi Updated: Oct 22, 2017 15:26 IST
Abhinav Verma
Abhinav Verma
Hindustan Times
Varun Khullar,India's First Ever Disable DJ,Kitty Su
Varun Khullar aka DJ Aamish — India’s first disabled DJ — is all set to open Time Out 72 music festival in Goa.(Raajessh Kashyap/HT Photo)

At first glance, 26-year-old DJ Aamish aka Varun Khullar looks like your regular disc jockey — making the crowd dance to his tunes, and enjoying himself hugely while doing so. But if you move a little closer, you see something that’s completely unexpected, so much so that it takes a few moments for the brain to process the information relayed by the eyes.

This DJ, who’s making everyone groove, is sitting in a wheelchair!

The first thought that flashes across your mind is: what’s his story? A brief conversation reveals that this man is something of a pioneer. He’s India’s first disabled DJ, and only the second such person in the world after American house DJ and producer Paul Johnson. And, he’s all set to open Time Out 72 — a multi-genre music festival in Goa (December 27-29) that will have International artists such as Wiz Khalifa and Martin Garrix.

Varun recounts, “In June 2014, I became paralysed from waist down after a car accident. I was on a road trip with my friends, when my car suddenly went off the hill, and was crushed from one side. My friends suffered various injuries; I barely escaped death.”

Unconscious for three days, Varun woke to the news that he wouldn’t ever walk again. “I was [at first] in denial, but then my mother started crying and I couldn’t see her shattered like that. In that moment, I suddenly felt this wave of determination in my body, and I told my mother, ‘Everything is fine. I am fine.’ The memory is still fresh in my mind, like a wound that’ll never heal,” says Varun.The next two years were spent in being a “prisoner” in his own home, going out only for physiotherapy. Music became Varun’s only release; it also gave him an idea of what the future might look like.

Its the only nightclub that is fully accessible for the differently abled. I wish there were more people with a vision like Mr Suri’s. And may be more nightclubs, though there can’t be another Kitty Su

Being a disc jockey (DJ) is something that always appealed to Varun. From his college days to his post-graduation, he spun records for friends’ parties. “Also, while doing my Master’s in mass communication from Amity, I decided to take up DJing as a career. I joined a DJ school in south Delhi, called Sounds of Soul,” he says. After the accident, stuck at home, he held on to his DJ dream. “I used to spend my time reading and researching on how to be a DJ. With time, as I got better, I slowly started to socialise with friends. I also learned to drive, which gave my confidence a huge boost,” says Varun. As his confidence returned, Varun was ready to kick-start his career, and he wanted some more DJing lessons. But rejection was waiting for him. “I was looking for institutes to join, to resume my training for being a DJ. In the beginning, some of them rejected me because of my condition, while some institute buildings were not accessible to people in wheelchairs. After a while, I finally got accepted in ILM Academy, Gurgaon, and went there for three months,” says Varun.

I have always believed in equal opportunities for all. I want to change the perception of India being a non-exclusive country. And as they say, charity begins at home. Varun is a talented, passionate and hardworking, I am glad he is a part of the Kitty Su team now: Keshav Suri, executive director at Lalit hospitality group

The next battle was fighting preconceived notions: that a disabled person can’t be a disc jockey. Also, Varun wanted to be hired for the right reasons. “I didn’t want people to give me a job just because I’m in a wheelchair. I didn’t want people to see me as a hapless victim. If I got a job, then it would be because of my talent and hard work,” he says.His tenacity paid off — Varun has been one of the resident DJs at Kitty Su, The Lalit, Connaught Place, for the past one month. He says that being a DJ, playing to a large crowd, gives meaning to his life. “I’ve had the best nights of my life here,” says Varun, in his avatar as DJ Aamish. “People appreciate me because of my music, not because am in a wheelchair.”

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First Published: Oct 21, 2017 18:03 IST