Virtual Engagements continue to build friendships

This has been an unusual year for everyone. Certain things could not be done at all, while those that could be, had to be twisted around the new normal. For Prisha Gaba, a student of Class XII , Apeejay Pitampura New Delhi,  this year has brought a new set of ideas and thoughts making the year very valued as she reflects on her journey with Aarushi Sharma, Athlete from New Delhi.

 “I had not engaged so closely with a Person with Intellectual Disability before. I had a shallow idea about intellectual ‘different ability’ but after connecting with Aarushi I realised that she was just like me and even better than me in some aspects. Since then the meaning of the word has changed for me drastically. According to me disability is name of that mindset that refuses to accept the differences in individuals. I have also realised we just need to smile and accept and not get into ‘sympathy or empathy’.”

Prisha has traversed through the first few moments of awkwardness she experienced when she was introduced to Aarushi, not intentional though; just natural

“I still remember my first virtual interaction with her, I was quite uncomfortable since I didn’t know how to initiate the conversation. Initially I stammered a bit but then I realize that Aarushi was equally shy. I took stock of the situation and asked Aarushi whether she would like to learn calligraphy from me.  I always felt that if I want to empower her, I need to feel empowered myself. Shortcomings existed within both of us and the bridges we built between ourselves strengthened us both in our Individual Capacities”

Aarushi 23 yrs, is an Athlete from New Delhi. (View her self-introduction here, covered by ‘Bridge’) She won a Silver medal in Basketball in the Special Olympics World Summer Games held in Abu Dhabi in 2019. Born prematurely and with one ear, she showed no signs of any ‘out of the normal’ behaviour. Her mother is an Aanganwadi Worker in NOIDA , UP /Delhi NCR and had her join a Main stream School initially. By the time Aarushi joined Class 6, her learning Disability prevented her from scaling heights in Academics, due to which she was made to join the Mata Bhagwanti Chaddha Niketan (MBCN), a Special School. Through the school she joined Special Olympics under the Coaching of Mr Rohit Manchanda and along with Basketball, attempted many other sports too- Net ball, Badminton, Football. She also participated in the Skipping Challenge held earlier this year.

For Aarushi the challenge did not come from people but it came from within. She was aware of her Speech imperfection and attempted all the time to keep the right side of her face concealed. However, sports drew her attention to participating, team coordination, victory, joy. It made her feel important and she started to shed inhibitions, pushing herself to reach out to people around her. Prisha explains me very well. She helps me with my work patiently. I feel comforted when she calls me. I want to roam around with her and dance and do many more activities- says she

“Over time as I saw Aarushi overcome obstacles and finally find her comfort zone with me, I started to like calling her and felt it my responsibility to include her in everything I did within the Special Olympics zone, says Prisha. She calls me often, updates me about her life, sends me her pictures and we together make random plans to visit the best chaatwalas in Connaught place. Since then there has been a drastic shift in my perspective from ‘ We are here to serve ‘ to ‘We are here for each other’ “- Prisha

Aarushi and Prisha have conducted events and talk shows together. “I have realised that she has always had the potential to empower me . I have always had a bias towards people who are timid since I was one of them but after I met Aarushi I have realised that some people may be short of words but they are all full of a million smiles, thoughts and emotions. I am grateful to Aarushi for helping me improve my communication skills , confidence  , self-esteem and inspiring me in the most amazing way”- Prisha

Back home Aarushi gets her father’s full support. She is his favourite out of the three siblings. “I have no words to describe Special Olympics”, says Ms Poonam Sharma, Aarushi’s mother, “there has been too much of a difference in Aarushi. Without sports, without Special Olympics no one would’ve known her. It has made her grow and find her value. All Athletes want to grow and they must get recognition which helps them develop further. The Media must print their stories of success to spread the word about their abilities”

I would like to continue our mutual learning zoom meetings where we dance, paint and have fun. We will be conducting activities together in the future and I will always be there for Aarushi to guide her and learn from her. Also, I would like to visit the best chaatwalas in Connaught place with her. 

From Aarushi:

Special Olympics is very very Special. Stay Fit. Continue to keep yourself safe and to move on. Happy New Year.