Kerala

Government College for Women in Thiruvananthapuram reaches out to the differently-abled through its forum, Praptha

Medhaj Krishna

Medhaj Krishna   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Medhaj Krishna considers Subhash Chandran’s Samudrashila a unique attempt in Malayalam literature. For Athulya Venugopal, Sara Joseph’s Nilavu Ariyunnu is a perfect representation of the soulful relationship between man and nature. And Dhanya Ravi feels that no other book celebrates the survival spirit of mankind like Kamala Markandaya’s Nectar In A Sieve.

Differently-abled Medhaj, Athulya and Dhanya, all voracious readers, were given a platform to appreciate one of their favourite books at an online competition organised by Praptha, an internal committee for the welfare of the differently-abled at the Government College for Women, Thiruvananthapuram.

The contest, held last month, was open to those in the age group of 18 to 30 from across the country. Entries were invited in both English and Malayalam. They had to send voice notes of 10 to 12 minutes duration to a WhatsApp number.

Ignited minds

“Books have been my companions. It was the first time that I had taken part in such a contest and the experience has been unforgettable,” says Athulya, who came first in the Malayalam category. An undergraduate student in Malayalam literature from Kozhikode, she has brittle bone disease.

Athulya Venugopal

Athulya Venugopal   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Medhaj has cerebral palsy and speech impairment. But this Plus One student from Thiruvananthapuram is a published author with the pseudonym Ayyappan Adoor. “It is his mother who read out his piece for the contest and he won third place. Our society is judgmental about the potential of the differently-abled population and we wanted to prove such people wrong. The contest was an attempt to bring these people into the mainstream,” says Uma Jyothi V, convener of Praptha, and head, Department of Economics.

She cites the example of Mayuri S, an undergraduate student from the college, who took teachers and students by surprise when she posted an appreciation of OV Vijayan’s short story collection, Kadaltheerathu. “Mayuri is autistic and we never expected to see this side of her. The competition was an eye-opener in many ways as we got to know about ignited minds from several places,” says Uma. E-certificates were given away to all participants and winners were felicitated via a Google Meet.

Praptha was formed in October last year as per the directive of the University Grants Commission to all colleges to set up an internal committee for the welfare of the students with disabilities. “We named the committee Praptha [meaning ‘able’] so that it doesn’t have an official tag attached to it,” Uma says.

The committee comprises the college principal, teachers, parents, student representatives and administrative staff of the college. In addition, there are student volunteers, “called Changathees (friends)”, who move around with the Praptha members. The college has 50 students with different kinds of disability on its rolls.

“They have been interacting daily via Njaan Praptha, a WhatsApp group. Earlier, these students were either reluctant or were unable to watch any cultural or art event in college. But things changed after Praptha was constituted. Some of them even performed on stage at the Christmas and New Year celebrations on the campus,” Uma adds.

During the lockdown, the Praptha team came up with initiatives to keep these students connected through online platforms. “The students were upset about not meeting each other. Some of them were emotionally affected by the change of routine. Parents were also worried. So we started Praptha Muttam, a meeting via Google Meet app. It’s meant to cheer them up,” she explains.

Praptha plans to hold a reading session on Praptha Muttam in connection with Independence Day. Participants can read out or speak on a lesser-known freedom fighter. Kerala State Youth Commission’s Youth Icon Award Winner PS Krishnakumar, who has muscular dystrophy, will be the chief guest.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2020 11:26:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/government-college-for-women-in-thiruvananthapuram-reaches-out-to-the-differently-abled-through-its-forum-praptha/article32268189.ece

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