Story of Anjali
November 11, 2016
Sruti's diary……….. 10 Nov 2016
I joined the disability movement in 1996 with the formation of DPI –India chapter. I traveled extensively around the world and visited many schools, attended many conferences, spoke in many meetings and enriched myself on the issue of disability. What struck me was the stark difference in the quality of life of persons with disabilities in India and south Asia as compared with other countries. We were second class citizens who lived to die. Persons with disabilities had no place in the society. They were confined to rooms at homes, in urban areas in special schools or vocational training centers or buildings of various associations for the disabled; or to beds in hospitals. I said no more! I am as much human as you are. Fine I cannot walk, but I can think, speak, see………
My first thought was children, because children are our future. This situation has to change. My friend, Manoj, was the first with whom I shared this idea. ‘Amazing…….much needed.’ We developed a concept for presentation to like minded people and I started talking to friends, well wishers and organizations. My first official meeting was with Sukanya. Why not…… how wonderful………’, was the response. The then (2001) Child Rights and Information Officer of UNICEF, Orissa Office, Ms. Sukanya Rath is a lady of immense vision and dynamism. Enthusiastic and active she said ‘let’s get doing.' I had known Sukanya when we were in college. We were a group of young, bubbly people, who had founded GLASH, an amateur music group which had become the talk of the town in 1980’s. The next supporter was Mr. R. Balakrishnan, then secretary, culture and tourism (GOO). Never before had I met a more sensitive and empathetic government officer. ‘Sruti we should have a world class event, can you promise me that? Was all he said. And thus Anjali was born……….
How it grew…….
From project Anjali to Anjali National Children Festival, the dream has grown large to encompass children from all over India, breaking all man made barriers. It commenced as a five year demonstration project, in 2001, to focus on physically and sensory challenged children. The avid interest of mainstream school students saw it transforming into an inclusive children festival in 2003 and finally the only national children festival in 2004. On the one hand it is an effort to empower children who had been stigmatized and oppressed so they may participate fully in society and on the other hand it focuses on bridging gaps by enabling disabled and non-disabled children discover each other in four days, now five days, camp. In this journey Anjali has also grown into a joyful learning model.