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Handicapped Indians shine in Canada

Aided by wheelchairs, prosthetic legs the performers got on stage to enact scenes from the Indian epics.

india Updated: Jun 03, 2006 11:44 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

An audience of more than 1,000 people in this Canadian city were left wonderstruck with a cultural presentation by a group of physically challenged youngsters from India.

Aided by wheelchairs, prosthetic legs or crutches, the performers got on stage to enact scenes from the Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

One of them even displayed his ability to grip and swing swords with his feet.

The 11 performers - who had all the courage in the world but had lost their arms or legs in tragic accidents, or were physically challenged by birth - emotionally touched the viewers at the event, "Colors of Ability: Glimpses from the Epics".

"The performers got a 15-minute standing ovation," Vijay Sappani, one of the organisers, told the agency after the performance last week.

According to him, the show meant more than fun and fundraising. "It was to create awareness of the challenges and opportunities they (disabled) have."

The 90-minute programme at Queen Elizabeth Theatre at Exhibition Place wrapped up the three-week world tour of the troupe.

Supported by the UN and the World Bank, the group began its tour in London with a performance before British MPs in the House of Commons, followed by another in Birmingham.

Then there was a US tour that took them to New York, Washington, Florida, Seattle and Houston before finally coming to Canada.

The troupe members, a majority of them in their early teens, visited several tourist attractions in Canada including the Niagara Falls.

They also got to do their dollar-shop visits as well as trips to the local Hindu temples and ashrams.

A few functions were organised to welcome and encourage the visiting artistes. The Consul General of India here also honoured the young artists by inviting them for a reception.

The Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation was the main organiser of the Canadian leg of the tour that was co-sponsored by Asha for Education and Handi Care International.

The funds raised from the Toronto event will go toward the Amar Jyoti Charitable Trust, which was started by Uma Tuli in 1981 during the International Year of the Disabled.

Tuli got the inspiration to set up her school after her brother lost both his legs in an accident in 1965 at a young age.

She used her savings from teaching at Delhi University to launch the school, which has grown from 30 students to 900 today in its two campuses in New Delhi and Gwalior.

The school integrates children with mental and physical disabilities with able-bodied kids from nursery school to eighth grade. After graduation, many go on to regular high schools.

First Published: Jun 03, 2006 11:44 IST