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