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Bringing smiles, hope back in lives of Gurugram’s differently abled

Gurugram resident GR Malhotra and his group, Bringing Smiles, have made it their mission to make the city’s physically challenged persons self­-reliant.

gurgaon Updated: Sep 13, 2018 12:44 IST
Sadia Akhtar
Sadia Akhtar
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
gurugram,GR Malhotra,Bringing Smiles
G R Malhotra(Centre), is a Gurugram-based social activist who helps differently-abled people build their lives again. (Parveen Kumar / HT Photo )

Wednesday mornings figure prominently on GR Malhotra’s weekly schedule. Every week on this day, the 66-year-old wakes up by 6am, packs mobility aids, including wheelchairs, tricycles, walkers, walking sticks, blind man’s stick, and rollators, into his car and makes his way to the Civil Hospital. He spends the next few hours meeting and helping differently-abled people, who come to the hospital from across the city to get their disability certificates made.

From providing mobility aids to giving food, ensuring they get vendors’ licence from the municipal corporation to helping some get subsidised treatment in private hospitals, Malhotra helps all he can. It’s been like this since 2014. Till now, he said, his group and him have distributed mobility aides worth over Rs 10 lakh to 125 differently-abled persons.

The Sushant Lok-1 resident worked with Indian Oil till his retirement in 2011. Around the same time, he had the chance of visiting an ashram for people suffering from mental health ailments in Haldia, Kolkata. The visit made him realise the challenges faced by the differently-abled, both mentally and physically. It was then that he decided to help such people build their lives again.

“Earlier, I used to pitch in through cash donations, but I realized that there were better ways of supporting the differently-abled. I realised that they’re quite dependent on others. They struggle to get jobs because of their disability; even getting work as domestic helps is difficult for them. I realised that the only way to make their lives better was to encourage and help them sustain themselves,” said Malhotra.

GR Malhotra (second from left) started going to the Civil Hospital in 2014 to help the differently abled people, who come there to get their certificates made. (Parveen Kumar / HT Photo )

He started volunteering for a non-profit organization based in Delhi with the intention of helping differently-abled people in Gurugram. But in 2014, Malhotra and other concerned citizens of the city decided to come together and formed an informal group, called Bringing Smiles. Comprising about 40 citizen volunteers, the group helps differently-abled people live with dignity.

“We collect money through donations or tie up with philanthropists to buy assistive aids such as wheelchairs and crutches. Apart from member donations, we sell old newspapers and use the money generated towards our goal of empowering the differently-abled individuals,” Malhotra said.

The group, which started with a meeting of senior citizens deciding to go to the Civil Hospital and assist the differently-abled in October 2014, also reaches out to government bodies such as the MCG and GMDA to ensure delivery of necessary services to the differently-abled.

Malhotra said that last week, seven differently-abled people associated with their group had received vendors’ licences from the MCG.

One of the seven people was Rajesh Kumar, who was able to secure a vendor’s licence for running a tea stall. The 41-year-old was left partially paralysed five years ago. “I have three little children and no one else to support us. I was worried about their future and was desperately looking for some work. Malhotra ji provided me a walking stick and helped me get a licence. I can now think of going back to work,” Kumar said.

Over the years, many youngsters have joined Bringing Smiles. Anila Sinha Sharma (43) quit her corporate job to volunteer with Malhotra.

“Through our work, we are trying to make a difference in the lives of these people. Apart from helping those who are immobile, we also identify places that are not accessible to the differently-abled and approach government bodies with ideas to improve them,” Sharma said, adding that they are currently hoping the authorities will alter the design of the city buses and shelters to make them more disabled friendly.

Looking ahead, Malhotra hopes that more people join Bringing Smiles. “We are taking little steps to encourage those facing a tough time. More people should come forward to help the differently-abled and ensure they find their rightful place in the society,” Malhotra said.

First Published: Sep 13, 2018 12:44 IST