Published on August 7, 2022
In a classroom for children with multiple disabilities at Blind People’s Association (BPA), in the first row sit Mansi Thakar and Kruti Sabhani, both 14 years old. While Mansi has limited grasping power and speech ability, Kruti cannot speak. Their challenges have not affected their bond.
Through their teacher, Nitin Parvaliya, Mansi said she loves Kruti sitting besides her and sharing meals. “We chat about the lessons and I discuss subjects with her if she has difficulty understanding,” said an enthusiastic Mansi. Parvaliya said the duo show that learning is easiest from peers. “The children often devise their own signs that go beyond conventional sign language,” said Ranjan Thakor, another teacher working with children with multiple disabilities.
The first Sunday of August is celebrated as Friendship Day in India. These friends share a bond that doesn’t require standard communication or the exchange of cards. For example, Maheshwari Dodiya, 14, a native of Godhra, teaches life skills to Pinki Sharma, 11, who stays at the BPA hostel, away from her parents who live in eastern Ahmedabad. She not only helps Pinki in her studies, but also teaches her life skills such as combing her hair and crossing roads.
Bhushan Punani, executive secretary of BPA, said the institution introduced the ‘buddy’ system long ago. Under it, a senior child mentors a new entrant. “The kids and their parents have a lot of apprehensions. These buddies help them settle and make sure they’re not overwhelmed,” he said.
One of the alumni of BPA, Jaydev Vankar, 38, has forged a friendship with Kishan Raida, 33, who cannot speak or hear. “He can do lip-reading, but we primarily work at the Vision in Dark where we give the experience of a blind person. I cannot see and he cannot hear. Thus, we talk through touch,” said Jaydev, who comes to work with Kishan and has family ties with him. “Friendship doesn’t come through reasoning, it comes through heart,” Jaydev said.