The wheel­chair looks like the char­iot of Kr­ishna, the horses, and the an­gels. The crutches look like bows and ar­rows

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - HT Education - - Front Page - Gauri Kohli

When they per­form on stage they leave you awestruck with their in­domitable spirit and unimag­in­able grace. Whether it is a ren­di­tion of the Bhag­vad Gita or the Ma­hab­harata; a Sufi dance or Bharatanatyam per­for­mance on wheel­chairs, this pool of about 150 dancers de­feats dis­abil­ity through an in­spi­ra­tional and en­dear­ing show of dance and drama. The man be­hind th­ese ex­cep­tion­ally tal­ented per­form­ers is their proud men­tor and teacher, Syed Salahuddin Pasha.

He is pas­sion­ate about nur­tur­ing th­ese artistes. “They don’t like be­ing as­sisted when get­ting on the stage. As dancers, they can beat any­one,” says Delhi-based Pasha, who started the Abil­ity Un­lim­ited Foun­da­tion to ed­u­cate and train dif­fer­ently-abled stu­dents.

- Syed Salahuddin Pasha pro­duc­tions like Bhakta Prahlada, Luv Kush, etc. I mas­tered Bharatanatyam and kathak and yoga. I have given pro­fes­sional solo per­for­mances on many pres­ti­gious plat­forms such as the Baby­lon In­ter­na­tional Dance Fes­ti­val in Bagh­dad, and In­dia In­ter­na­tional Day at Mal­dives. Later, I did a few Kan­nada TV shows and films. Dur­ing this time I have been un­able to for­get many in­ci­dents re­lated to dif­fer­ently-abled per­sons. I felt strongly that heal­ing the so­ci­ety is my moral re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Pasha has di­rected more than 100 pro­duc­tions and show­cased more than 10,000 dance pro­duc­tions across the world with sev­eral differentlyabled artistes. De­scrib­ing his ap­proach to­wards his stu­dents, he says, “When I teach them, I treat them like nor­mal stu­dents. I never make them feel they are dis­abled. I see God in them and their aides. The wheel­chair looks like the char­iot of Kr­ishna, the horses, and the an­gels. The crutches look like bows and ar­rows. It was very hard to con­vince their par­ents to al­low their chil­dren to learn dance. They were hes­i­tant be­cause of the way our so­ci­ety treats the dis­abled. I di­rected many ther­a­peu­tic dance theatre per­for­mances for per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties from So­ma­lia, Es­to­nia, Rus­sia, Bri­tain, and many Asian coun­tries. See­ing them per­form on wheel­chairs is over­whelm­ing. Re­cently, we per­formed at Ti­har Jail for the in­mates. I was so happy to hear from an in­mate who said that he will start his life afresh af­ter leav­ing Ti­har.” Prais­ing his stu­dents, Pasha says, “All my stu­dents are multi-tal­ented. One of them is Gul­shan Kumar who set a Guin­ness World Record of most wheel­chair spins (63) in a minute. Sonu Gupta is a 13-time national cham­pion in wheel­chair ta­ble ten­nis. He has rep­re­sented In­dia at the World Wheel­chair Ta­ble Ten­nis Cham­pi­onship.”

From past three decades, Gu­ruji, as Pasha is fondly called by his stu­dents, has been teach­ing var­i­ous dance forms to dif­fer­ently-abled chil­dren from across the coun­try which is a re­sult of hours of prac­tice by him and his stu­dents to de­liver per­fect and breath­tak­ing per­for­mances. “For­mal ed­u­ca­tion is very im­por­tant and I al­ways use in­no­va­tive ther­a­peu­tic ed­u­ca­tion which is a com­bi­na­tion of so many ele­ments like dance ther­apy, mu­sic ther­apy, emo­tional ther­apy, group ther­apy, colour ther­apy and rhythm ther­apy. It is very pow­er­ful and I have got so many suc­cess­ful case stud­ies.”

Whether it is a Sufi dance that has a med­i­ta­tive qual­ity or Bharat­natyam on wheels, it is all about tech­nique and pre­ci­sion. Pasha’s stu­dents mas­ter the var­i­ous dance forms eas­ily. Pasha com­bines male dancers on wheel­chairs with hear­ing-im­paired girls. “It is amaz­ing to see the girls not miss a beat as they per­form,” he says. Through his in­no­va­tive ther­a­peu­tic ed­u­ca­tion method­ol­ogy and train­ing, he has brought light to the lives of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

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