Music could be one of the best ways to break stereotypes and spread the message of inclusivity for children with special needs in our society. And when it is done by differently abled children who are talent powerhouses, that message is sure to hit home. In its second edition, Brooke Bond Red Label Tea and Y‐Films (the youth films wing of Yash Raj Films’) has launched a ‘Label Six Pack Band’, with the first single track ‘Jhakkad Pakkad Dance’, featuring six children with learning and development disorders.
The title track will be followed by a launch of six songs as part of the ‘Issphesal’ album to bring forward inspiring stories of — Ananya Halarnkar, Anjali Ramesh, Maitreya Matale, Paarth Padhye, Prerna Agarwal, Rishaan Patil — the six talent powerhouses.
General Manager, Beverages, Hindustan Unilever, Shiva Krishnamurthy said, “The brand stands for inclusiveness. We encourage people to overcome their prejudices and find common ground with fellow human beings over a steaming cup of chai. Encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response that India’s first transgender band received, we are back with India’s most special band. We hope that our talented band members receive similar love this time around as well.”
Each of these children has one or more learning or developing disorder which includes Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dysgraphia and more.
To know more about these children, indianexpress.com got in touch with their parents to understand the children and how they responded on being part of this programme.
Fifteen-year-old Ananya Halarnkar, who is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), was all smiles when she was told about the making of the music video. “She was a bit nervous initially because of doubts in her mind about whether she would be able to do it. But she was soon happy as she loves to sing and dance,” said Ananya’s mother Vinda Halarnkar via an email interview.
Oxford dictionary defines autism as a developmental disorder of variable severity that is characterised by difficulty in social interaction and communication and by restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behaviour. Children often face issues while interacting with peer group, which is also the case with Ananya.
“The main difficulty is making friends and interacting with her peer group because of lack of social skills. There are problems with academics also because of poor focus and lack of ability to understand certain abstract concepts. Obsessive and repetitive behaviour is also troublesome as is a lack of interest in certain topics,” explained Vinda when asked about the difficulties faced by Ananya.
“It was a dream come true,” wrote Ramesh, father of 15-year-old Anjali Ramesh. Anjali is diagnosed with dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia, owing to which she faces difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols as well as write coherently. Her keen interest in dance has now turned into a passion that nothing can deter any longer.
Moreover, her father feels that in today’s world while the children are quite confident, it is the parents who need counselling. Elaborating how different a and differently abled child is, he wrote, “Such children have to operate more in a protective / supportive environment, due to which they have to sacrifice the freedom which a normal child enjoys.”
Parth Padhye is diagnosed with Semantic Pragmatic Learning Disorder, which is a communication disorder that makes interaction with people quite difficult for the 15-year-old. “As Parth has a language disorder child he faces a lot of problems while communicating with people. So he needs to be accompanied everywhere,” wrote Namita, Padhye Parth’s mother.
A glitch here and there, however, does not deter this young boy who floors everyone with his voice and is quite comfortable on stage. Hoping that the project spreads awareness, Namita further wrote, “This video would be an eyeopener for society towards mental health issues and awareness.”
“Responsibilities come only to those who have the capability to carry it,” writes Sunita Agarwal mother of Prerna. Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and complete blindness, this 18-year-old’s hearing ability is top notch. Prerna can even hear the numbers you dial on your phone. Making the most of her ‘superpower,’ she has a voice that can hypnotise. Though unlike other kids, Prerna received no counselling while facing the camera, it did not stop her from making the most of it.
Rishaan’s mother Shital Patil says, if given a chance, she could write a book on the difficulties faced by her child. The 12-year-old who is diagnosed with ASD and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). “It’s very very very different. I can write a thesis. I can’t decide where to begin……if you have time to read a book on this, then will write it someday,” says Shital. ADHD is a behavioural disorder with symptoms such as poor concentration, hyperactivity, and learning difficulties. The young star is described as a jukebox without a stop button and an epitome of ‘#NoFilter’ as conversations with him can get embarrassing.
Fifteen-year-old Maitreya Matale took the responsibility of being the ‘big brother’ of the group. Inspired by the superhero Spiderman, Matale makes sure that everyone around him is taken care of. Diagnosed with ASD, this young star has created his own version of a superhero that he calls Maitreya Man.