Kolkata: A jam-packed auditorium is a dream come true for any theatre personality. But the full attendance is even more encouraging when those performing in front of you are specially abled youngsters. On Monday evening Gyan Manch witnessed all that and more when about 46 differently abled youngsters took command of the stage to leave the audience spellbound.
The dance drama, Tai Tai Tai Chand Mama Chai, based on the short story – The Princess and The Moon, saw the little ones dancing to some popular Bengali folk songs and giving a stellar performance. Some of the acts left many in the audience wonder if the actors on stage actually had any disability.
But then to make these kids perform on stage to perfection is no mean task. Differently abled kids have their own strengths and parameters based on which they learn something taught. Most of these children have a diction problem. Hence the show had a narrator, with the kids performing the act seamlessly. Throughout the show, they had their educators patiently waiting in the wings or in front of the stage, to prompt them in case they fumbled.
The hour-long performance concluded with them singing We shall overcome and their teachers rejoicing their success.
Minutes after the show, Tapati Dutta, the coordinator of the show, who is also one of the faculty members of APT, a centre for education and training for the specially abled, speaking to eNewsroom said, “We train kids with cerebral palsy, hearing impairment, autism, learning disorder and the mentally challenged.”
But then, how easy is it to communicate with them? How difficult is it to train them? “The fact that it took us about 6 months to train them to give this performance indicates the effort we have put in. These kids are very selective and need individual attention. Many a time we have to keep repeating a step or thing for weeks for them to get it,” she said.
Interestingly, the centre had included two kids with no disability to be part of the performance. Explaining the move, Bithi Kundu, another faculty from APT, said, “We encourage such interactions to help the kids overcome any kind of prejudice towards such kids. Hence we had two perfectly normal kids performing with our special ones. I bet, none in the audience could have spotted the difference.” APT is a project under the aegis of Dilkhos Memorial Trust, has Mustak Hossain, chairman and managing director of Pataka Group as its sole trustee.
Among those encouraging the participants was a Kolkata-based documentary filmmaker, Mujibur Raham. He said, “I was overwhelmed seeing these kids perform so well. The teachers did a good job in training them. The dance drama performance, needless to say, was perfect.”
Speaking about the dance, it needs to be mentioned that the dance teacher, Tapash Debnath, who by profession is a dance faculty at the Rabindra Bharati University and by vocation a trainer at APT, did a wonderful job to train these kids to give a synchronised dance performance, as and when the script demanded. “We have this event every two years. But to be honest, we keep teaching a thing or two every day to these wonderful kids. The best part of working with them is the lesson that I learn from them – to never give up,” said Debnath. He then added, “They need personalised training. to train them I have to be one of them, else they refuse to absorb what’s being taught. ”
The CEO, GD Hospital & Diabetes Institute, Musrefa Hossain, who is also a key member of APT’s advisory board also praised the kids and their trainers, “We have a vision of enabling these specially abled kids to understand their special talent. We are just helping them polishing their skills. It’s a fulfilling experience to see the students of APT give a performance of this standard. The credit goes to all the trainers associated with this special learning centre.”
However, despite the resounding appreciation that the performers got inside the auditorium, some of the parents when approached to talk about their child’s feat, many refused to talk. Is it still the social stigma associated with such special kids or their desire to stay away from media that made them refuse, perhaps can’t be really comprehended. But Debnath, reaffirms the fact that even today, parents refuse to accept specially abled kids with an open arm, as they believe that they don’t confer to routined ‘normal’. But then, they need to understand, even for Einstein to be what he is known for, had to be born as a special child.