NOTHING FOR US WITHOUT US is truth, not just a slogan – V.S. Sunder
I had already done enough decent mathematics before falling victim to Multiple Sclerosis to ensure that I would continue to receive invitations to lecture all over the country and the world. My mobility deteriorated
and in less than a decade, I needed a wheelchair to continue to be functional. Unfortunately, one also needs an inclusive and barrier-free environment to be able to use that wheelchair.
And thus began various attempts (I even wrote a column in ToI for more than a year, and now a blog called Different Strokes) to sensitise people on the need for conditions to enable PwD (NOT Divyang) to stay contributing members of society. To start with, my institute (IMSc, in Taramani, Chennai) had a director who needed no convincing to render our campus accessible to my wheelchair. And I thought, why not try to sensitise others, at least in my academic circles. So whenever I was invited for a conference or to just give a talk somewhere, I would spell out my physical
condition and accessibility requirements, promising to hold my host responsible if these conditions were not met. I do believe I have thus contributed to sensitising the administrations of the IITs at Mumbai, Kanpur and Madras to make small changes.
One of my greater successes started when I went to a conference felicitating Kumaresan, a friend of many decades; in fact, we started the now famously successful MTTS programme. And he promised to talk to his VC
at the University of Hyderabad if needed to ensure my accessible stay there. This VC turned out to be an old friend, Ram Ramaswamy, from the time we were both young post-docs at TIFR. I talked him into getting Shivani
Gupta to perform an access audit of the campus. And UoH was recently selected for the seventh NCPDEDP-Mphasis Universal Design Awards for exemplary work towards the cause of Accessibility.
In contrast, when I, alongside many friends of the Disability Rights Alliance (DRA) in Chennai sought to talk to various Government big shots on matters related to accessibility, they would always ask us to come to somebody’s chamber in the Secretariat, a hideously inaccessible place!
Since then we have been regularly offering and performing the show for schools and the public in Mumbai. Here is the link to the promo https://youtu.be/uUp63jzwczI
The show puts a strong front about the fact that not everyone has the same amount or kind of ability. Some people can be different from others and that, in any way, does not imply that they cannot be acknowledged.
Live musical narration and synchronised puppetry helped rekindle the imagination of the younger generation and allowed us to continue the legacy of our age-old techniques, protecting them from extinction.
Coverage on Newzhook, India’s 1st accessible news app https://newzhook.com/story/21270
We thank the Takshila Educational Society (TES) for sharing The Animal School script and the songs. The play was adapted for the stage by Mr Deepak Morris. We had Ms Charu Prasad from Iris Creative Education and Ms Sudipta Mukherjee Mandal from Meeraki, professional puppeteers training our team of puppeteers. They also designed and created the 13 Marionettes representing 13 animal characters.
YWCA, Asha Sadan, Andheri West, graciously provided us with their venue for our rehearsals.
For the first seven shows our team of puppeteers comprised of Yojana Wavikar, Shaifa Shaikh, Shaikh Saba, Chitra Shirke, Shubhada Pawar. Later, Uzma, Mehak and Ayesha were trained to join us for the seventh show. Our current team comprises of Yojana, Chitra Shubhada, Kimaya Wavikar, Sonal Rai and Ritika Sahni.
The songs were orchestrated by Joy Raha, background music by Arun Krishnan, voices and vocals were dubbed at Boom Boom Studio, recorded by Shridhar Nagraj and mixed by engineer Aman Moraney at Flying Carpet Production.
We are thankful to our friends who lent their voices to bring the puppets to life. Piloo Vidyarthi arranged and coordinated the dubbing and also played the character of the Fish. We thank Mahua Ray, Ashish Kolwadkar, Shridhar Nagraj, Sudipta Mukherjee Mandal, Meera Mandal, Chayan Gupta, Soumya Maradona Ghosh, Danika Saha, Abhijoy Gupta, Errol Rodrigues, Nitesh Kumar and celebrated actor-coach Ashish Vidyarthi for lending their voices to the character.
Songs were sung by Meera Mandal, Aarsha Mukherjee, Sidarth Bhat and Ritika Sahni. Thank you Archana Rao for facilitating the poster design.
Since our premiere, our travelling musical puppet play in English ‘THE LEARNING FACTORY” has performed at the below events and locations:
SNDT University auditorium on 29th Feb 2020.
Future Plans We are now working on yet another edutaining Puppet Play in Hindi titled JUNGLE SCHOOL, to further the reach of the message of equality and diversity in education especially in Hindi medium schools.
The play has been written by Ila Joshi and Vibhav Shrivastav with expert advice from our consultant friend Dr Asmita Huddar of Hashu Advani College of Special Education.
While we will continue to perform the English play in locations, we do realize the difficulty of putting up the puppet play anywhere & everywhere, especially at out-station institutions, at an allowable or affordable cost.
Besides, with the recent global pandemic, after the social-distancing norms coming into practice, we feel it will be quite impossible to reach this message to places where it’s needed most. We are looking at a simple BBC Teleplay kind of a format of the play, shot with three cameras under proper lighting and edited to a compressed film version, complete with subtitles, dialogues and background score.