‘Our spirits are not disabled’; Purple Festival celebrates diversity   

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More than 10,000 persons with special needs along with Special educators participated in a day long festival inaugurated by President Droupadi Murmu.

Purple Festival at Rashtrapati Bhawan (Image credit Bhawna Malik)

Purple Festival at Rashtrapati Bhawan (Image credit Bhawna Malik)

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By Bhawna Malik

New Delhi, March 6: Poonam Gujral gets up excited and much earlier than her usual time. Putting in an extra effort to dress up, she checks herself in the mirror, smiles blushingly before she moves out to attend a special event.

Her casual attire with a sling bag and a light touch up of makeup is not a regular with Poonam as she is affected by Cerebral Palsy since the age of four that made her confined to a wheel chair. She enters Rashtrapati Bhawan to participate in the Purple Festival as part of Amrit Udayaan, organised by Department for Empowerment of Persons with Disability (DEPWD), Ministry of Social Justice, in collaboration with Deendayal Upadhyaya National Institute for persons with disabilities and Empowerment and co-sponsored by American Indian Foundation (AIF).  

More than 10,000 persons with special needs along with Special educators participated in a day long festival inaugurated by President Droupadi Murmu. The colour Purple symbolises diversity, Inclusiveness, equality and unity. The AIF inked a MOU with DEPwD with a vision to double up the number of PwD’s as the formal workforce thereby creating 100,000 new jobs by the year 2030 under their flagship programme ‘Ability Based Livelihood Empowerment (ABLE)’.

The day-long celebrations had cultural performances, live bands and theatre — all performed on the themes of inclusiveness and diversity celebrating the spirit of creativity and resilience and fostering bonds of solidarity and mutual respect.

“I was mesmerised by the flowers and fragrance at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Got my pictures clicked, interacted with school kids and many persons with diverse special needs. I saw and met hearing and speech impaired persons as performers,” said Poonam.

Celebrating the power of partnerships and harmony as the spirit of inclusion the civil society too grasped the concerns of the ‘Divyaangjan’. The 2011 Census revealed that India alone has 2.68 crores persons with disability, approximately 2.21 per cent of the total population. Nearly 15 to 20 per cent of the disabled children are affected with Cerebral Palsy.

“Charity model is slowly being replaced by employability model. We too can be entrepreneurs. I do retail business using my mobile phone,” explained Poonam while sharing her views on the role of civil society and their attitude towards persons with special needs.

Poonam further shares her journey as an entrepreneur while going through the stalls and getting her pictures clicked by people around. “I don’t need pity. I work hard like any other business woman. I deal in clothing’s, furnishings, accessories and household items. Daily at 11 AM to 8 PM I post pictures in my broadcast group and get orders online. I have my Facebook and Instagram accounts too,” added Poonam.

Himanshu Upadhayay, a 28 year old poet from Delhi, shares his experience, saying: “Twice I performed in ‘open mike’ organised by Sahitya Aaj Tak. People applauded my poetry and presentation. Once I won a tea set too. I also performed at Rekhta, a literary festival.”

Though not a visitor at the Purple Festival Himanshu like Poonam has Cerebral Palsy since childhood and uses a wheelchair to move around. Both Poonam and Himanshu defy their limitations and enjoy full support from their families.

Using ‘SOM’ as a pen name, Himanshu shares his views regarding the choice of the themes for his poems or ghazals. “Ghazals are about emotions, people and daily lives – they can be about love, inspiration or relationships. There is no fixed themes as human emotions are ever evolving. Anything and everything acts as an inspiration for writing,” says Himanshu. Apart from being a poet he acts as a relationship advisor for his friends and neighbourhood children.

He ends with an inspiring couplet written by him

Agar mushkilo se yu haara karoge; Toh jeevan main kaise guzara karoge (If you feel defeated by the problems in life Then how will you sustain your life)” “Our spirits are not disabled,” both Poonam and Himanshu add unanimously. 

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