Would Simran help us break mind-sets

Simran Pujara is 22 yrs old and hails from Bilaspur a city in the state of Chattisgarh. For Simran her mother is her friend & her role model. She is a Senior Dietician and a Director at the Diet Clinic in Bilaspur. Simran wants to be a Dietician. She has put together a Diet Plan for her teacher, in consultation with her mother. Ms Kavita Pujara, Simran’s mother, has been associated with a Centre of Occupational Therapy for the past 20 years, which has given her ample experience of working with Persons with Special Needs.

When you meet Simran, the greatest memory that you carry back is her heart warming smile. Her favourite colour is green and the colour reminds her of the grass in her terrace garden where she walks regularly. Zumba and drawing are her favourite activities which have kept her occupied during the lock down. Her mornings are spent attending online classes. From amongst all the webinars that she has attended so far , she found the one on Zumba the best- led by her co-Athlete leader , Sumant Kale

The power of her smile successfully conceals the countless moments and instances that left her feeling isolated and bullied. When she was an infant the unbearable pain was felt by her mother,which was later shared by Simran as she grew

 “Till date I face remarks which , in retrospect, have made me strong. What I can’t stand is when people express sympathy for my daughter. They have no reason to. I also face barbs from persons not far off” – says Ms Kavita Pujara. Simran appeared like any other child at birth but in a few months she started to reveal a deflection from the established milestones- neck holding, eye contact etc. Amidst an allegation of giving birth to a girl child, the fact that Simran would require Special assistance, became added fodder for her family to hold against Kavita. A neighbour’s child was born at the same child and Simran’s comparison with the child never abated. “Your child is MR (Mentally Retarded) is what the doctor told me. His diagnosis ,spoken so matter-of-factly, left me shell-shocked” Conveying the same to her family , beginning with her husband, threw one aching challenge over the other. Even her own family advised her not to ‘invest’ too much in Simran. After overcoming her own reaction of disbelief, she geared herself to embark upon a lonely journey.

Bilaspur had no therapists.The city offered no therapy, no opportunity , even the few that emerged over a period of time started to fade away. However, the few persons who Ms Kavita came across , even though for short periods of time, helped the situation. She travelled often to Nagpur for Simran. She attended every session to learn and apply when back in her hometown.

Simran attended a mainstream school in Bilaspur. Sitting alone during recess, eating alone, sometimes having nothing to eat (as the other students would finish her tiffin), getting pinched by the students who would call her ‘Pagal’ (mad), being laughed at, having her books torn,  became the life that she knew. One day her mother visited the classroom only to see her daughter eating alone. She even approached a group of girls and invited them to her home to be ‘friends’ with her daughter. That was too, of no avail. Ms Kavita visited the school frequently, speaking to a few Special Educators who although understood the situation, could do very little to help. They advised Kavita to pull Simran out of the school where , perhaps, Girl-Safety could also be a concern. Kavita was relieved to have another girl child, Dhriti ,after Simran, who she felt would always be there to support Simran. The two sisters are the greatest of friends

Two years back Simran joined SO Bharat. She participated in Athletics & Bocce, under the guidance of her Coach, Mr Hem Pandey and her constant mentor – Ravi Jain, who also is a Youth leader. She attended the Athlete leadership Workshop held in Delhi in February 2019 and the National Youth Summit in May 2019. Under the guidance of her mother she conducted a round of quiz on Nutrition during a session that she had planned as part of the workshop

Simran passed her 10th Class from the Open school in the year 2019. Her mother only has to tell her about a webinar and Simran makes that her priority.

“I have seen a sea change in Simran. She is getting better with each passing day. At a Young Athletes festival held earlier this year , she assisted me with the drills. She has started communicating so well” – Ravi Jain