This is Project Why's special class as it is today. And here is how it looked in earlier times.
To be disabled in India is a misfortune but to be disabled and poor in India is a tragedy. If you are a girl it is further compounded. So, when a lady came with four special kids to Project Why in our early days and told us that the school they attended had been shut, we told her that we had a special section just for them. And then we created one.
The Special Section is the most joyful place you can imagine. If you have a touch of the blues, a few minutes with these wonderful souls is all you need. If you look carefully you will see that some of the children are still with us and have grown into adults. But do not be taken in by the happy faces; theirs is not an easy life. For many, Project Why is the only place where they can laugh, dance, shout, play and be themselves. Wonder why?
We did not then have a class but one look at the trusting little faces was enough to ensure that the Project Why Special Section would become a reality. But what do you do when you have no space, no resources, no money?
The first 'classroom' for the special kids was the pavement opposite the tiny jhuggi that was all of Project Why in 2001.
That was the beginning. Since the Special Section has moved to several places, but no matter where the classroom went, it carried its own special touch. From the pictures above it is evident that the children are not all the same though some have stayed with us from day one!
Some students left for a better place, leaving us lost and bewildered. The one person we miss every day is Manu. He was the very reason why Project Why began. His smile lingers on in the Project Why Special Section and reminds us that no life is worthless and that every soul comes with her or his destiny
Then there is Sayeeda whose demise we could never comprehend. She had everything going her way and yet it took a simple fever to take her away from us. How can we not miss her incredible smile
And little Nanhe whose indomitable spirit and will to live defied so many odds till at least his ravaged body gave up. He never stopped smiling
But some have stayed with is all along the way like the formidable friends Munna and Umesh
And then there are some who left for reasons beyond our control, making us realise that there is a lot to be done before society accepts that people with special needs have rights and should be treated equally.
We had big dreams for Preeti and Radha but they were hijacked, leaving us lost and bewildered again. Both these girls could not walk, one having lost the use of her legs to polio and the other to osteogenesis imperfecta. They were the most graceful and beautiful dancers.