Hope for a Brighter and Better Tomorrow
By Ranga Chandrarathne
"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." Lao Tzu
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." Winston S. Churchill
One of striking features of the performance by differently-abled children and young adults of the Shankar Foundation of India and the Sunera Foundation of Sri Lanka at the Lionel Wendt theatre was the sheer amount of courage and enthusiasm displayed by the students. Through the performance, they have demonstrated, in no uncertain terms, tomorrow for them is bright and that they can make a lasting contribution to the society they live in. Among other things, the performance reaffirmed the fact that theatre can be effectively use not only as a tool of rehabilitation but also as an effective tool of education.
The performance and the programme were sponsored by the Indian Cultural Centre in Colombo with the objective of strengthening bilateral cooperation between India and Sri Lanka.
Shankar Foundation's students presented a musical based on Richard Bach's enchanting book "Jonathan Livingston Seagull". It was adapted as the story of "Jugnu" who always tries to expand his horizons. It was a tale carrying the moral message that one should always strive to stretch one's limitations, even going against age-old traditions and beliefs that are often held sacred by the society and some communities.
Simply put, the moral of the story is that one has, always, to strive hard not only to achieve success but also to maintain it and to impress upon others to follow suit.
The performance by students of Shankar Foundation demonstrated the hidden potentials in the differently-abled children, sparkling hope that these children can lead profitable lives in the society as fully-fledged citizens. This, in effect, is an eye-opener for the society to reconsider their biases towards differently-abled children and to consider them as productive citizens of society and that the society to help and facilitate them to realise their potentials.
Students of the Sunera Foundation presented a colourful dance performance. It showcased diverse dance traditions of the country and the rich Kandy dance costumes. In essence, it was a proud display of the cultural heritage of this island nation. Students of the Sunera Foundation was able to captivate the audience with their technically perfect rendition of rather difficult and intricate movements which demanded a higher degree of training, concentration, precision and perfect coordination among the diverse members of the group.
At no moment, could the audience make out the differently-abled children from the veteran dancers who presented the performance. Significantly, the intense training that the Sunera Foundation provides with these children has, in fact, made a sea change not only in their physical abilities but also in other cognitive skills. It was obvious that these children are able as any other children and there is ample room for them to develop their talents. They also can be productive as any other citizen.
Voice of Autism
The last segment of the performance was 'Voice of Autism' presented by a student of the Shankar Foundation. He was accompanied by his father on stage. He presented three poignant songs.
The song "Mother of Mine" as explained by his father was dedicated to all mothers. As his father said, "they are the caregivers, constant companions and who sacrifice their lives for their children".
Father and son had jointly composed music for a poem written by the late Indian President Dr. Abdul Kalaam. Student's father further said, "It's a song that speaks of a legacy and represented a future for India."
The last song of the evening was titled "Accept me as I am", which student's father described as "The cry for every child". It was a moving song which virtually summed up, perhaps, the message of the evening.
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