A group of boys and girls, who live in shanties where even sunlight hardly gets a sneak-in, feel “liberated” when they get on to the stage to do the hip-hop.
Parent of these children, who come from slums in Garden Reach, often do not have enough money to pay for the kids’ basic demands. The kids at times help the parents in odd jobs at home, but one passion that the children hold on to, sometimes against the will of the family, is dance.
Jashika Khan and Mohammad Azajuddin, who made Nadia Comaneci sit up in another part of the world and tweet about them, are not the only ones who can do a cartwheel or a somersault with such ease.
Most of the boys and girls are equally adept at it and not in the least scared of executing a cartwheel or a somersault as many times as their teacher would ask them.
“Scared?” Akash Rajvanshi, 10, asks. “We practise every day. Why should we be scared.”
Their dance trainer Shekhar Rao has picked these children to give them something that he missed while growing up. Rao had no formal training till he was 20 and after that he started coaching these children and now takes his crew of 60 to various dance reality shows on national television.
“I don’t want any sympathy…but I had requested my parents to let me learn dance. They never allowed nor gave me money to pursue my passion,” said Rao.
AzajuddinPicture by Sanat Kr Sinha Sociologists said that it helps children coming from such backgrounds to nurture their aspirations, which helps them to channelise their energy towards something positive. “This is giving them recognition, confidence and an affirmation of their identity…fame can come much later but maybe the skills will lead to something bigger,” said Shoma Chowdhury Lahiri, assistant professor of sociology at St Xavier’s College.
Choudhury Lahiri said that many of the children might otherwise drop out of school and take up something not very constructive. “It liberates them from the every day monotonous existence and channelises their energy. Else they might otherwise drop out of school and just hang around,” she said.
Most of the children complete their daily chores at home before coming for the evening classes. A few of them, like Azajuddin’s cousin, also had to “give up” dancing because of family responsibilities that had to be prioritised.
Psychiatrist Jai Ranjan Ram said that any form of physical activity helps expend their energy.
“A lot of agitation, restlessness and disruptive behaviour happens in children for lack of available space to play and have fun. Any opportunity that provides them with space to expend their physical energy is obviously helpful rather than if they are constantly cooped up and living in claustrophobic environment,” said Ram.
Rao teaches them free of cost because he knows the children won’t be able to afford it otherwise. Money is a problem in most homes and they cannot spare the little they have on training their children for dance.
Jashika’s mother took up a job at a tailoring shop in Kidderpore because with three girls at home her husband’s income as a driver was not enough.
Jashika with her parents outside her homePicture by Sanat Kr Sinha
“When they were small they needed to be given proper nourishment. I would buy one litre of milk and mix it with water to give all three of them…it would last for a couple of days,” said Reshma Khatoon, holding back her tears.
Reshma did not want her daughter to take up dancing but it was husband Taj Khan who supported her. Azajuddin’s mother, who works in a godown, was also opposed to hip-hop and somersault till the fame it brought to her son two days back.
“Most of the days he would come back with injury and it affected his studies. I was worried if he hurt himself really badly and how would we treat him,” said Ajazuddin’s mother Kaisri Begum.
Azajuddin, however, is grateful to his “Sir.”
“We would not have got this platform without his support. He has found us from our homes at a time when we had no idea what this was about… he has also given money to buy medicines when my mother was taken ill,” he said.
But now the parents are hoping that Nadia Comaneci’s tweet will bring a change in their lives.
“If my daughter gets a proper training in gymnastics, she will be able to prove herself… she is doing her best with very limited resources but we cannot help them on our own beyond this,” said Khan.
Daughter Jashika, who had not heard about Comaneci till two days ago, is now glued to the gymnast’s videos and is aspiring to become a gymnast.
“We are grateful to Nadia ma’am for supporting us and we hope that the support will continue,” she said.
Source: The Telegraph