Mumbai

Stringing it together for a cause

Pillar of strength: “This is not a business, we simply want him to enjoy what he does,” says Vignesh’s mother, Usha Ramachandran.  

With a great deal of concentration, Vignesh Ramachandran (21), meticulously picks up beads of different colours and sizes from a bowl placed near him and arranges them one by one on a string. He has already made two necklaces but intends to make three more in the day.

What sets Mr. Ramachandran apart is not just that he has Down Syndrome; it is that he will sell these necklaces and his other creations, and donate the proceeds to charity. “This is not a business, and we simply want Vignesh to enjoy what he does,” says Usha Ramachandran, his mother.

The Ramachandrans had Vignesh after many years of marriage. “We were shocked when the doctors told us on the second day of his birth that he has Down Syndrome,” says Mr. Ramachandran. However, the family was very supportive, and Vignesh soon becameeveryone’s centre of attention. Getting him admission into a regular school was difficult, as such children are still not accepted in the mainstream.

Vignesh was sent to a special school run by Posat Foundation, Borivali where he studied till he was seven, and was later shifted to ‘Vallabhdas Dagra School for Mentally Handicapped’, Malad till he was 19. A voracious reader, he also developed an inclination towards painting, art and craft.

Tapping talent

Around the time he turned 19, however, Vignesh was reluctant to continue with school, and his mother decided to keep him engaged at home. “We decided to boost this talent,” she said. “Diwali was round the corner and we bought diyas for the pooja.”

She encouraged Vignesh to paint these diyas and to everyone’s delight, he not only did a good job of it but also enjoyed himself in the process. “That Diwali, we proudly gifted the diyas to all our friends and family members, who asked for more of them,” said Mr. Ramachandran.

From then on, Vignesh started making colourful diyas and adding decorative beads to them. “The demand for diyas started growing but we had no desire to turn it into a business. Our sole aim was to keep Vignesh happy and keep him creatively engaged,” said his father.

The couple decided to give the products to some voluntary organisations to sell, and use the proceeds for their activities.

“We were given 80 pairs of diyas for Diwali two years ago, and within no time, all were sold out. As desired by Vignesh’s parents, the proceeds were used for our activities where we work on providing underprivileged children with interactive study materials,” says Shridhar Lokanathan, President of the NGO, weCHANGE. Gradually, Vignesh began to make necklaces, decorated CDs and even greeting cards.

A pat on the back

Vignesh’s works have won all-round appreciation, especially from those who have purchased his products. Says Dipti Bane (31), a laboratory assistant at NMIMS: “A necklace that I bought has been made with perfection. I feel so good while wearing it, especially when I realise the boy is doing it for a good cause.” His parents, needless to say, are proud of him. “We are blessed to have a wonderful child like Vignesh and are happy that he is able to work for society through his creativity. All children have hidden talent, and if discovered and tapped, can do wonders with them,” said his father.


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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 1:58:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/stringing-it-together-for-a-cause/article19157365.ece

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