THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Some call them mentally retarded. For former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam they are “special children.” On his first visit to Kerala after demitting office Dr. Kalam spent more than an hour with these special children at the Freedom Centre, Kovalam, run by the Central Institute on Mental Retardation.
A cultural programme featuring differently abled children was organised at the centre in honour of the former president.
The Freedom Centre was inaugurated by Dr. Kalam when he was the principal scientific advisor to the prime minister.
After the prayer song four of the Centre’s youth — Sony, Ummar, Arun and Pradeep -- presented the ‘Dasavatharam’ as an Odissi dance. This was followed by a sitar recital where the four youth who strummed ‘Raghupathi Raghava Rajaram…’ Dr. Kalam vigorously applauded this performance particularly after knowing that Ummar and Arun could neither hear nor speak.
Before the quartet came on stage for a kuchipudi performance the CIMR director Father Felix was heard telling Dr. Kalam that the “boys” also taught others kuchipudi.
In his address Dr. Kalam said he had seen how music and dance enrich the brain. “I am sure the Freedom Centre will grow and grow so that the special children will get relief. Freedom Centre…that is a nice name. The special children should be freed from the suffering and various problems they undergo,” he said.
Dr. Kalam also wrote down on a piece of paper a new name for the CIMR. He wanted it to be called the Central Institute for Special Children (M); the ‘M’ should stand for ‘Mind’. Dr. Kalam also did not forget to hand over an envelope to the CIMR; his third such gift. It contained a cheque for Rs. 1 lakh.
“The Freedom Centre is contributing for transforming special children and youth into unique way of learning varied artistic forms. I am sure. Let us all pray and work for the happiness of special children,” Dr. Kalam wrote on the visitors’ book.
The former president left after posing for pictures with his beloved special children.