World Music Day: Music is the strength of these specially abled people
“Being a musician is still not accepted as a mainstream profession in India”, says 28-year-old DJ Varun Khullar. However, to convince people that he wanted to carve a career in music wasn’t the toughest part, to negotiate his life’s path with just half of his body working was. After Khullar suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident, he became paralysed waist down. When Khullar woke up after the accident, he found himself bedridden. He was dependent on others for everything. And that’s how he spent the next two years of his life. He had to leave his MA midway. His hopes of pursuing music engineering in Singapore were dashed. Before the accident, he would throw house parties for his friends to hone his skills. But now it all looked like a distant dream. But one fine day, he decided to just focus on music and forget about everything else. He taught himself the nuances of music and production through YouTube. Music gave him a purpose and helped him through this phase. “Those two years of my life were a blessing in disguise because it made me focus on my music... Everything happens for a good reason.” he says. Today, Varun is a professional DJ and has just one request, “I don’t want any sympathy. Don’t look at me as someone sitting on the wheelchair trying to make music. See me as a musician and if my work is not good, say it to my face so that I could prepare myself for the next time”. Varun is also planning to release his music soon.
NEETU SINGH, 43
Neetu Singh loved dancing. She would teach Bhangra and practice her Kathak moves daily. Until a tragedy struck
her and changed her life. About 20 years ago, she lost both her legs in a train accident. And after a few years, she lost her husband, too. Neetu remembers that her life was full of struggles but she had no choice. She had to get her life back on track. Even though her family took a step away from her, there was one man who didn’t shy away from being a father figure to her. Sardar Balbir Singh, a family friend, helped her get back on her feet when no one did. “I raised my son all by myself because the family wasn’t supportive of me starting my life anew with the guy I loved,” says Neetu, who uses artificial legs. She took up a job at a school in the administration department. She also took up the string instrument – Ukulele – to find refuge from the challenges of the world, after finishing the household chores at night or at the weekend. ”Ukulele is my happy place.” she says. Having conquered challenges that came her way, she now wants to show the way to others. “I want to start a music school to teach disabled people for free, because I know life can be tough for us. Music gave me a purpose and happiness,” she says. Neetu adds, “I lived a normal life before my accident. Now I am living a life where I am learning to walk again. All I want to say is that every disabled person is strong enough to live their life independently.”
TANMAY SIKRI ,19
Nineteen years ago, there wasn’t much awareness about chromosomal disorders. And that’s when Tanmay Sikri was born with a genetic disorder known as Down’s syndrome, which is caused due to an abnormal cells division resulting in extra genetic material from chromosomes 21. “His teachers would often complaint about him, he was facing adjustment issues,” informs Sujata Sikri, his mother. Gradually, his parents realised that the regular schools weren’t for him. “He was shifted to a school for kids with special needs,” says Sujata. Well, he wasn’t like the other kids in the locality of his previous school, but he had great memory power. “And he grasped music quickly,” she says. His parents recognised that and enrolled him at the Tansen Sangeet Mahavidyalaya where he learns to play the drum. His mother accompanies him to his class everyday. “He listens to music all day long and is one of the brightest students there. Thanks to the drums, Tanmay seems to have found his passion. “From a shy boy, he has now turned into a confident young boy. It helped him make friends. He has also performed on stage that motivates him to improve his skills more and more.” smiles Sujata.
SUDHANSHU KHURANA ,19
Life is beautiful and full of wonders. But what if you realise that one day your sight will be taken away from you? That’s what happened to Sudhanshu Khurana, who was in Class 3 at that time. His parents learned that their son was suffering from eye macular degeneration that leads to irreversible vision loss. “That was a jolt to the entire family,” says Sudhanshu, who has already lost 40% of his vision and is progressively losing more. But life must go on. And it did, for Sudhanshu, who is now 19 years old. He plays the keyboard and is terrific at it. “I wanted to become something. In Class 10, during the summer break, I took some keyboard classes. That day I realised, music was my calling,” he says. The next two years were spent listening to the instrumental versions
of his favourite songs. He even started producing music on his own. But life kept throwing challenges at him. He
wanted to pursue music at the undergraduate level, but his inability to read the musical notes hampered his grades. But that could not dampen his spirit. “I can make better music than those who know how to read notes., Sudhanshu says.
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