Five decades ago after the birth of my daughter Tamana, I had a dream to create a world of inclusion. It has taken more than 30 years of struggle by us to open the minds of Indian society to accept the differently abled. As my daughter Tamana has grown into a well settled and independent adult, so has the organization. This growth has been nurtured by our optimism in drawing out the excellence and potential of each special child. We have observed that nothing is beyond them. They can walk the fashion runway, perform on stage and win medals at international sports events. They can also earn by creating art pieces and handicrafts, as well as work in offices, schools and shops.
Their smile tells us “I can do it, give me a chance but I need you" That is the truth. They need you, give them a hand. You give them an inch, they will run a mile.
A Voice from the Heart
Many, many years ago, my life took an unexpected turn, with the birth of my daughter Tamana. At that time I had no idea what was to be done; all I knew was that I had to do something for my child and future generations to come.
It has been a very long journey from that point of time, till today. As the founder President of Tamana and as the Ex-Principal of Delhi Public School R.K. Puram, which is an outstanding example of a ‘profile of quality’, the journey has been one of discovery with an ever-deepening realization that each one of us can make a difference. All we have to do is to activate that choice to bring about the changes that are so needed. And as we open up to transformation within ourselves, society also transforms; every change that each individual makes, creates a chain reaction that benefits all.
DPS R.K. Puram and Tamana made me reflect, go into deep personal inquiry, that ultimately transformed my entire personal perspective and professional focus. DPS R.K. Puram brought the vision of the future into existence. Along with national and international acclaim, it pioneered the concept of inclusive education in India; and has the distinction of educating visually impaired students in the mainstream.
Many a times, tears have filled my eyes. When my daughter began to chew and swallow at the age of seven; when this special child, after years of physiotherapy could stand up and take a few steps; and when this minimally brain damaged child began recognising colours.
There have been moments that I have wondered in awe at the power of the human spirit. This is what gave me strength and vision to set up Tamana Society. Tamana had pioneered the concept of integrated education, well before it became part of the National Policy on Education.
Our aim at Tamana has always been normalization for our students. Following the high court order for inclusion, Tamana has been a bridge for integrating for high functional special needs individuals into mainstream schools and also integrating the students from the economically weaker sections of the society to the mainstream through the Tamana Kindergarten.
Even with all these efforts there is always a question in parents minds ‘What after us?’ To give these individuals a meaning to life we have a dream. A dream of having a world of their own, an independent living village, a panchayat, run by them and for them. A heaven on earth…
The journey of a dream does not end with the dreamer. It is like the rainbow encompassed by many colours and shades. As the humble recipient of many awards -the Padama bhushan and Padma Shri; the 2 National Awards in both Education and Social Service; the State Award; Woman of the Year; Best Citizen of India Award; Mother Teresa Award -and 80 more awards , and the recommendation by the Guinness Book of Records, to place me as the recipient of the largest number of awards, have little meaning compared to the immense joy and sense of achievement I feel in trying to help others find their rightful place in this world. The personal rewards I experience on a day-to-day basis, through the activities of the three very special institutions, parent’s feedback, along with the letters of gratitude I receive from ex students of Tamana who have found a place of respect in society cannot be greater awards that can be bestowed on me.
George Bernard Shaw had said, “I want to be used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. Life is no brief candle. To me it is a splendid torch, and I must make it burn as brightly as possible, before handing it on to future generations".
So do I