A series of monthly meets kick off this weekend to lure the disabled out of their isolation into an inclusive atmosphere to let their hair down
Dhruv Shirpurkar swims for the first time in 16 years
Sunita Sancheti loves the outdoors. The 47-year-old is a badminton player, enjoys travelling - she has journeyed across 90,000km in India - and has participated in marathons. Sancheti has a spinal injury and is wheelchair-bound, and spends spare time from her job - handling administration and accounts at her family business - spreading awareness about people with special needs.
This weekend, she is helping organise a one-of-a-kind meet-up, All In For This, for people with and without disabilities. The event is being put together by Trinayani, an organisation dedicated to creating awareness about disability. The goal of the meet-up is simple: dissolving barriers, taking part in conversations and most importantly, having a good time.
Scenes from Trinayani's treasure hunt
"People with disabilities usually come together only for an occasion - if an NGO organises an event, if it is World Disability Day, or to build awareness. There too, there's very little interaction with people across disabilities," says Sancheti. "The idea of the event is that people from all walks of life come together and enjoy each other's company."
This is the first of what will be monthly meet-ups. Since the entry to the venue is via the Title Waves bookstore, Ritika Sahni, founder-trustee, Trinayani, is hoping attendees browse through, and pick up a few books. "I've invited two visually impaired musicians, and I will be singing. I've been also telling people who have signed up to come prepared with a song if they wish to perform. We are leaving the entertainment for the night open," says Sahni. There will also be snacks and games. Sahni wants the attendees to share details about their life and work so that others get to hear stories they wouldn't otherwise.
The agenda is two-fold. "People with disabilities have to get out of their comfort zone, and explore a new place. I want others to see them doing things you think they wouldn't or couldn't do, like check out a bookstore or go for a movie. It's the quickest way to trash the misconceptions people have about them," says Sahni.
For Rupa Shirpurkar, mother to 16-year-old Dhruv, who has muscular atrophy, this event is a chance to be social, and learn from others. "We were recently in Goa for a festival organised by Umoja (an organisation dedicated to inclusive travel). There, Dhruv got into a pool, and into the sea for the first time. It was a new adventure for him. His socialising has been limited to going for a movie or visiting the mall. Here, we are hoping he can talk to others and share his feelings with people who can relate with him." Shirpurkar, who will be attending the event with her husband and son, adds that it is an opportunity for parents of disabled children to socialise too.
Playing a specially created Snakes and Ladders game
Earlier this year, Trinayani had organised an inclusive treasure hunt, which saw transgender participants, visually and physically impaired people and the non-disabled come together for a day of fun. "I know people like us don't go out too much. We want to show them that their disability shouldn't stop them from having a blast. We need to be seen," says Sancheti.
For future meet-ups, Trinayani is planning a walk down Marine Drive, a day spent at the movies, a visit Sanjay Gandhi National for a nature or bird trail or just a jaunt to Matunga to savour idlis. "I want disabled people attending the event to suggest what they would like to do for fun, so we can incorporate those ideas too," says Sahni.
ON: May 21, 4 pm to 7 pm
AT: St Pauls Institute of Communication Education, St Theresa Road, Bandra (W).
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