Grandma's Tales

July 25, 2007

Kalam is a friend of disabled people

Filed under: My Other Avtaar — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:42 am

You must have heard of this quote: You must go when people ask “why” and not wait till they say “why not”. Well, Kalam is going and the whole nation (with some notable exceptions) is asking “Why?”
In a recent issue of Success & ABILITY, I carried three stories in which Kalam was the hero. Every disabled person that met him came away with the feeling that they had just met a long lost friend. It will be good to meet with him at Anna University. when he takes up his teaching post.
Here is the speech he delivered at an event to honour people with disabilities.
03-12-2005 : New Delhi
Empower the People with Special Abilities

I am indeed delighted to participate in the National Award function for the Welfare of people with special abilities. I realize that it is very important to recognize outstanding employees, employers, placement officers, individuals, institutions and creative disabled persons from different walks of life. My greetings to all the awardees, who have worked consistently for many years, to achieve this recognition. I would suggest the Ministry may request all the State Governments to nominate a Project Director or a full time commissioner who will be responsible for ensuring the filling up of 3% reserved jobs by suitable special ability candidates under the supervision of an overall coordinator in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. When I am with you I would like to share with you an incident which took place yesterday.
<a href="http://presidentofindia" rel="nofollow">http://presidentofindia</a>

My experience with a special boy
I met Shri Siddharth Jayakumar at Chennai airport, who was born in Chikmagalur in Karnataka in the year 1980. He gave me a presentation using a laptop. His Fatherýs name is Shri Jayakumar and his Motherýs name is Komala. When he was born the doctors did not know what he was suffering from. Later on, they said he is mentally retarded. After detailed examination, it was found that he was suffering from Cerebral Palsy. As a result of this disease he has difficulty in co-ordination between his mind and body. He studied in Vidyasagar at Chennai. Though he studied very well, he has to dictate the answers to another student while writing the examination. In spite of this process in the 10th class examination he had scored 80%. He says he could not score more just because he was not allowed to do the practical and could not draw the diagrams. In the plus two examination, he had secured an overall 90% and scored 100% in computer science. It is pertinent to note that he is the only boy to score 100% in this subject. Later he studied B.Com and scored 75%. He wanted to study Master in Social Work whereas he was given M.A. Economics in the Loyola College. He has scored 78% in his final examination. Shri Siddharth after completing his M.A., worked as a teacher in Vidyasagar itself. Later he attended Disability Job Fair organized by Ability Foundation, an NGO working for the welfare of the disabled. In the job fair he was selected by ABN Amro looking at his academic track record. ABN Amro has designated him as an Officer for verifying the export and import documents of the clients. To enable him to perform this job ABN Amro has trained him to learn the banking and import and export procedures of countries like Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and Australia. He is the first student to be employed with Cerebral Palsy outside Vidyasagar. He loves Mathematics. He has a mission of carrying out social work particularly for uplifting the life of special people with multiple disabilities. What a beautiful thought. The experience of Shri Siddharth clearly brings out the special strengths available with certain people with some disabilities. Our social system and the educational institutions must recognize the strengths of the individual and provide the opportunity for these flowers to blossom. Here I am reminded of Ramanujan’s early experience.

Friends, the genius in Ramanujan had to be discovered by Prof. Hardy. This has been cryptically remarked at that time by Poondi Namasivaya Mudaliar with anguish, “It is the destiny of our nation that an Indian brain requires an acknowledgement from a foreigner. Why our people are hesitant to appreciate such a personality.”

In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that it was Prof. Hardy who discovered Ramanujan for the world. Professor Hardy rated various geniuses on a scale of 100. While most of the mathematicians got a rating of around 30 with rare exceptions reaching to 60, Ramanujan got a rating of 100. There cannot be any better tribute to either Ramanujan or to Indian heritage. Thus, our past is replete with example of our not being able to recognize our wealth. I am narrating these instances to you so that the teachers, educational institutions, employers, and the societal organizations become sensitive to the strengths of people with special abilities and provide them an opportunity to lead a normal life not through sympathy but through empowerment.

Recently, when I addressed the school children in Delhi, they asked me that why there is no reservation for mentally challenged children. From the examples which I described I consider there is a merit in the observation made by the boy. I would consider that there is a need to examine the feasibility of providing certain reservations for certain types of mentally challenged children also so that they can be deployed on certain jobs which they can perform efficiently. Today I met a girl Aditi Dubey who is hearing impaired and had participated in the roller skating marathon competition and successfully skated between Delhi to Jaipur distance 256 kilo meters. She was the youngest among the 21 participants. She is doing all her activities beautifully. It shows that how a person can defeat the impairment and succeed.

In this connection, I appreciate the action taken by Sakthi Masala, Erode (Tamil Nadu), who are employing physically challenged persons for many of their production activities. Thirty-two per cent of its employees were physically challenged and they are also rehabilitating mentally challenged persons. I would request the other corporate and government establishments to emulate this model. Now I would like to talk about rehabilitation of visually challenged people.
Conquest of vision challenges through technology tools

Last year I had announced about the launching of the Speech Applet by 26th January 2005, during my participation of the awards ceremony for the people with special abilities in December 2004. I am happy to mention that the Speech Applet developed by my friends which provides a speech interface to my website for the visually disabled persons has been launched on 26 Jan 2005. It has been made available to all, through my website for download, so that it can be configured at their web servers to provide a speech interface for the visually challenged persons. It has been used by many institutions that are imparting training to the visually challenged persons for making the content available and accessible. It has also been used by visually challenged individuals. On an average there are 8000 hits on this site and around 4500 used the applet for reading the text. You can download the Virtual Vision software from

In addition, I would like to mention that Arushi, a NGO based in Bhopal has made Braille of the English version of Wings of Fire and Ignited Minds and they are giving to the blind schools at the cost price. Similarly, Shri Gandhi Kannadasan has made the Braille of the Tamil version of Wings of Fire and is supplying free to blind schools and social organizations. Arushi has also made the Braille of 140 exhibits of the Rashtrapati Bhavan Children’s Art Gallery in both English and in Hindi. We have made the Tactile Garden with Braille board to explain about the herbal plants and flowers. Over thousand children are visiting this garden every year.

As a next step, we are working with the R&D institutions to integrate the speech interface with the open source operating systems in English and other Indian languages. In order to make it available in a cost effective manner, we are working towards providing a speech interface through the indigenously developed handheld PC to visually challenged persons. These hardware, software integrated system can be called as Virtual Vision. The government agencies and various private organizations can take up this mission of development and production of Virtual Vision. Now I would like to talk about the problem of hearing impaired.
My Experience with Cochlear Implants

When I visited Vikram hospital in Coimbatore few years back, I realized technological intervention is possible for bringing back hearing to the deaf and dumb children by implanting a device called Cochlear Implant. Dr. Aruna Viswanathan and her You must go when people ask “why” and not wait till they say “why not”. team demonstrated to me about the whole process of implanting the device and the subsequent training procedure to the children. I saw 4 year old deaf and dumb children. After one of month of implanting and training they spoke out few words legibly. After 6 months of computer-aided training, I have seen the children speaking normally. This touching scene moved me. I felt that I have to work to bring the cost of cochlear implant down, so that thousands and thousands of children in India and abroad can afford to have this device and lead a normal life.
Beautiful Mission of Corporate Industry

The people who are otherwise healthy in body and mind get isolated because of deafness. Helen Keller says if ýI were to be born again with physical impairment, I would prefer to be blind rather than deaf, as deafness isolates moreý. Hence it is essential to empower each child or adult with profound hearing impairment with cochlear implant as the child will be able to hear its father and mother apart from music. I would like to narrate one experience, which took place on 2nd October 2005 at Rashtrapati Bhavan. To mark the 60th Anniversary of Mahindra & Mahindra, the management decided to donate 60 cochlear implants to hearing impaired. I inaugurated this programme. The other corporate groups and social institutions spread in different parts of the country can also participate in this noble societal mission and donate a certain number of cochlear implants to the needy patients. The Government on its part can provide 150% weighted deduction of such contribution for purposes of computing income tax.
Indigenous Manufacturing of Critical support systems

Some development activity has been initiated to design, develop and manufacture low cost cochlear implants in the country. This should be taken up in a mission mode by at least two groups and we should aim at bringing out the basic cochlear implant without frills. For example, I understand that the number of electrodes needed for realizing reasonable audibility is just seven whereas manufacturers use ten, sixteen and twenty two. Electro Physiologists for ears confirm that the audibility improvement beyond seven electrodes is very marginal and the designers should keep this in mind. I am sure the scientists, engineers, and the medical community of our country will be able to take this challenge and bring out a cochlear implant within the next two years costing less than Rs. 1 lakh. In this direction, I appreciate the initiative taken by DRDO. We must succeed in this development, so that we can offer this product to many needy patients, spread in different parts of the world. I would request the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to catalyze this programme. Here I would like to read out the contents of a e-mail received from Mr. Sudhir.
“I am the father of a profound hearing impaired boy who got his cochlear implant (CI) at the age of two and a half years. CI has saved my child life and two years after his operation now he has joined Eurokids’ world famous pre-school along with the normal children. He is studying two languages simultaneously. I humbly request your good offices to issue necessary orders to
(a) Finance – for abolishing the custom duty and sales tax for import of implants and notifying the income-tax exemption to the corporate who donate CIs.
b) Health – to approve the CI as an accepted treatment and include it in the CGHS list. They can work out the details in consultation with the CI group of India Surgeons.
c) Commerce – to issue a circular to the corporate sector to consider the CI reimbursement cases sympathetically. It can also invite the cochlear manufacturer to set up production in India.”
I am reading out this e-mail so that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment can take appropriate action for helping the people with profound hearing impairment.
Now I would like to discuss my experience in Loni during October 2005.

My Experience in Loni (A Rural Development Complex)
Pravara Medical Trust of Loni (Maharashtra) decided to fit atleast 1000 Floor Reaction ORthosis (FROs) to polio affected patients. Dr. Narendranath of NIMS, Dr. A. Sivathanu Pillai, Chief Executive (Brahmos), Chairman (ALIMCO), Pravara Medical Trust and NGOs worked together and arranged screening of over 3200 polio affected people around Loni village during the month of August 2005. On screening they found that 1200 people will benefit through the fitment of FROs. Dr. Narendranath and his team went to Loni arranged the training of local doctors and created a local FRO fitment centre. With the supervision of NIMS doctor, the local doctor commenced the fitment of FROs during September and completed the fitment of 1000 cases well before the end of September. I met all the people fitted with FROs in an interactive meeting at Loni on 15th October 2005. It was a beautiful feeling to see the smiles in the faces of children and adults with a newly fitted FROs. The creation of a fitment centre will enable Loni doctors to maintain the existing patients and also help fitment of FROs to new patients needing such fitment. Conclusion

Some time back, the National Institute for Mentally Handicapped, Hyderabad, had conducted a sports meet for all the physically & mentally handicapped children at National Stadium Hyderabad. In one race.., Nine contestants, all physically or mentally disabled, assembled at the starting line for the 100 mtr race. At the starting signal, they all started out, not exactly in a dash, but with a relish to run the race to the finish and win. All, others except one little boy who stumbled on the asphalt, tumbled over a couple of times, and began to cry. The other eight heard the boy cry. They slowed down and looked back. Then they all turned around and went back……every one of them. One girl with Down’s syndrome bent down and kissed him and said, “This will make it better.” Then all nine linked their arms together and walked together and finally reached the destination. Everyone in the stadium stood, and the cheering went on for several minutes. People who were there are still telling the story. Why? Because deep down we know this one thing: What matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What matters in this life is helping others win, even if it means slowing down and changing our course. I would say that, you do not have to slow down. Rather by helping difficult areas, the feed back will make you go faster. If you pass this on, we may be able to change our hearts as well as someone else’s. “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle”.

Once again I congratulate all the award winners and wish you all success in your mission of bringing smile on the faces of all the people with special abilities in the country through technology.

May God bless you.


June 13, 2007

Make a one-minute movie – win one lakh

Filed under: Movie,My Other Avtaar,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 6:08 pm

60 Seconds to Fame!
       Ability Foundation, a Chennai based cross-disability NGO has, for the past twelve years, been working towards mainstreaming disabled people. Its major activities include publishing a magazine, training qualified disabled people for jobs, placing them in suitable workplaces, running a weekly radio programme, holding workshops and seminars and emphasising the need to recognise human rights. In its constant efforts to make the society more equitable and disabled-friendly, Ability Foundation hosts a number of public programmes which aim to sensitise people on issues of disability.
This year Ability Foundation is holding its very successful one-minute film competition, the first edition of which was held in 2005. The competition is open to all people of Indian nationality.  Prizes amount to Rs. 2.25 lakh rupees. Participants are required to submit an original film on the theme “Celebrating Diversity” and the winners will be selected by a panel of eminent jurors. The last date for submission is August 16, 2007. This competition is part of AbilityFest2007, the India International Disability Film Festival which will be held in Chennai in October.

 For more information and details, log on to www.abilityfoundati

June 7, 2007

AR Rahman performs on stage

Filed under: Movie,My Other Avtaar,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:21 pm


AR Rahman was the special invitee at the CavinKare Ability Awards function in Chennai. Ability Foundation and Rahman have been friends for a while now. He has attended the function as a spectator and has handed over the awards to the winners but this year he came as a performer. From among the CDs sent to him, he selected two disabled girls to sing with him on stage. There hadn’t been much time for practice. Radha Roy, one of the singers is from Mumbai, and you know how difficult it is for a wheelchair user to travel in India. The other singer Heeru is from Bengaluru and is visually impaired.
Well, the instantly-recognised name was announced and the maestro, dressed in spotless white walked up, sat at the piano specially brought in for him and began caressing the keys. When did he last perform solo in public?
He played and the audience was enthralled. The melody filled the hall and the hearts of those present. Heeru and Radha sang Rahman’s numbers when he played and the evening turned magical. As Rahman dinged out the clear notes and Heeru’s voice soared along, every one in the audience felt transported to another plane, another time and space. It was an extra-ordinary half hour.
Now compare this with his performance in the bay area where he is on a tour now. No two shows involving the same person could be so completely different from each other! For a well-written report on the bay area show, log on to

May 16, 2007

My Other Avtaar

Filed under: My Other Avtaar — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 12:25 pm

Ability Foundation PosterAbility Foundation, where I spend my mornings, is organising its bi-annual (a vague word, this. It means “once in two years” here, but it could also mean “twice a year”) International Disability Film Festival. The Festival is held on the lines of any other international film festival, the difference being, films screened over the three days of the festival are about and by people with disabilities. We saw the first edition in 2005 – a galaxy of film personalities including Jaya Bachchan, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Rajiv Menon and Nandita Das came down to judge the films in the competition section. Organisers of similar film festivals came to watch the proceedings and answer questions from the audience when films from their country were screened. Actor Revathy and PK Nair (Former Director of Film Archives) helped us organise the event.
Here is the information you’ll need to enter the competition. The only qualifications needed are: [1] you have to be an Indian national and [2] have an empathetic heart.

April 27, 2007

Grammar – 33 The language of persuasion

Filed under: Language,My Other Avtaar — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 10:22 pm

Richard is an Englishman. He lives in Yorkshire, but you could say he lives in a wheelchair. He is tetraplegic, having been paralysed neck down in a diving accident.  He has this  electronic,  all-terrain wheelchair that looks like a small, open car. He moves by pressing a set of buttons with a stick held in his mouth.  He navigates by turning a joystick. I said “he lives in a wheelchair” because Richard loves to potter about and discover/learn/analyse things for himself. He is always swirling around in his vehicle and since his chair moves quite fast, it is often difficult to keep pace with him. If you go for a “walk” with him, you will find yourself jogging.
Richard does a lot of what he needs himself using his stick, but help, he certainly requires. Richard cannot use his hands to lift things. “Unfortunately,”  he said, “I have to take a lot of help from others.” Richard has made asking an art. His requests never sound demanding. In fact, you feel it is an honour to be able to help him.
There are two reasons why you feel that way. One, Richard is a fund of information. He is  well-read and has an extra-ordinary memory. Talking to him is pure joy. He always has something witty to add to your comments. You learn what “British humour” is when you have a conversation with him.
Two, the words he chooses and the way he constructs his sentences. It is difficult to refuse him anything. I carefully noted down his sentences. His is the perfect language for persusion. Here they are.
[1] “Do you think we could have fried eggs today?” (Clever. He wants fried eggs, but it sounds like it is the listener’s choice too.)
[2] “Would you like to open the window?” (Not “Please open the window” or “Open the window.”)
[3] “Could you help me sort out my desk?” (Richard cannot move his hands, so you will be doing everything, but you don’t mind that at all!)
[4] “May I have the binoculars, please?
[5] “When you’ve got a minute, would you come over to…?” (See the way that sounds. He’s saying “I’m not pressing you to do it now, but find the time to help me.”)
[6] “Do you mind keeping the book open, please?”
[7] “I’d like another piece of chicken, please.” (In his case,  it also means you cut it into small pieces.)
[8] “Is there some salt anywhere?”
[9] Once one of the wheels got stuck in the sand. I couldn’t lift it. Richard waited and as soon as a man came by, said, “Excuse me, there seems to be some trouble with the wheel. Do you have a minute to sort it out?” What do you think the man did?
[10] One afternoon he wanted to play a game of Scrabble. (Richard is a Professor.) He came up to me and said, “I challenge you to a game of Scrabble!” Naturally, I couldn’t refuse.
And when you help him he never fails to say, “That’ll do very well, thank you!” in a cheerful voice. Try these sentences and see if they help you succeed in your mission.

February 28, 2007

Jose reviews “Mozhi”

Filed under: Language,Movie,My Other Avtaar — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 8:18 pm

“Thank you, Geetha Mam,” wrote Jose, “for it’s through your website I came to know about the donor passes and obtained them.”
That was a wonderful gesture, Jose. Believe me, your money goes to a good cause. And from what you’ve written about the movie, I see that you had a great time watching. A win-win all right!
Jose writes a review that borders on the poetic, but the movie has that effect on you. Read what he writes and go watch it!
“I always had respect for Duet Movies (Prakashraj production) since their products have always been refreshingly excellent. I emphasize the word refreshingly since they are not run-of-the-mill kind of movies. They are unique but always make us relate ourselves to the characters be it “Azhagiya Theeye” or “Kanda Naal Muthal”. But with Mozhi, they have surpassed all borders and set new benchmarks. This movie will definitely serve as an epitome for good movie makers.
Mainly revolving around characters lived by Prakashraj, Prithviraj, Jyotika and
Swarnamalya this movie takes you to the zenith of life. Jyotika gets her lifetime role in her supposedly last film and performs to precision. Mozhi gives emphasis to
· Intimate characterization rather than introductory songs
· Witty one-liners rather than withering comedy
· Intimate portrayal rather than item numbers
· Emotions rather than extravagance
· Sensible rather than slapstick
· Respect for others rather than running around the trees
To wake up for a 9 am show on a Sunday morning seems ridiculous and a Herculean task. But once I saw the movie, I wanted more of it. Watching Mozhi was like meeting up with a couple of friends and being in sync with them. (Great writing there, Jose!)
On the whole, it’s glossy without being glamorous.
For once, I am proud of Tamil movies.
Mozhi – Reveals the power of silence.
Apologies for the lengthy post/review. But this movie deserves much more.
My two cents…”

Thanks, Jose. I’m sure you inspired a lot of readers here!

February 19, 2007

Want to save Elliot’s beach? 5

Filed under: Consumer caution,Games People Play,My Other Avtaar,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:02 pm

I sent David’s opinion (previous post on this) about the plans to “beautify” Elliot’s beach to Mr. Satyanarayanan. Mr. S is the guy who organises the cleaning of the beach and gets men to double as lifeguards.
Mr. S I guess, is not convinced about what David said. He is a stubborn man. He has organised a public meeting on the beach (I asked  David why this was not done by the corporation) . The meeting is slated for 25 February  near the police booth between 5 and 6 pm.  Mr. S wants to have a free and frank discussion on the plans. He is a mild-mannered guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Be there if you are interested.
In this connection, I would like to bring to you this piece of information. Recently, the Delhi High Court was quite caustic while asking the Delhi Municipal Corporation why public toilets had not been made disabled-friendly in spite of the fact that it is a legislated necessity – that is, even if the corporation is dense enough not to realise that public buildings are meant for every person in the society.

February 12, 2007

Update on “Mozhi”

Filed under: Movie,My Other Avtaar,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 11:10 pm

Ability Foundation tells me that the charity (they hate that word, so replace it with “fundraiser”) show of “Mozhi” has been postponed (no doubt due to “unavoidable circumstances”) to 25 February. So you have plenty of time to get in touch with them at 2445 2400 to get your donor passes.
A word about “Mozhi”. Its central character played by Jyotika is hearing impaired. So a lot of the conversation is in sign language – pretty interesting really. Imagine being able to sign your conversation. The possibilities of what you could do armed with this special code are endless!
We once suggested to a group of school Principals that sign language should be made one of the electives in high school. We argued this would help integration of people who are hearing-impaired. The Principals didn’t see it that way. They just went pale and one of them said quickly, “No way! We have enough problems in high school as it is! Think what would happen in an examination hall!”

February 8, 2007

“Mozhi” (Language) in Chennai – Fundraiser

Filed under: Movie,My Other Avtaar,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:00 pm

I got this from Ability Foundation where I spend the mornings bringing out their unique magazine Success & ABILITY.  This is their fund-raising effort for this year.
Dear friends,
Warm greetings. As you may know, Ability Foundation has been working for the last twelve years to integrate people with disabilities in mainstream society. Our work   focuses on information dissemination, training and employment, and advocacy. We believe that there are endless possibilities for disabled people if they are given the right opportunities at the right time. All it takes is an open mind.
We are delighted that Prakashraj has given us his much awaited film “Mozhi” starring Jyothika,  Prithviraj, Prakashraj and Swarnamalya, for a special charity show. This star-studded screening is scheduled for 9 am on Sunday February 18, 2007 at Sathyam theatre.
It’s a chance to enjoy a heart-warming love story … and support a cause as well.
Donor passes are priced at Rs 500 and rs 300.
Do let us know how many passes you would like us to reserve for you and your friends. We look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely,
Ability Foundation, Chennai. 

January 19, 2007

My other Avtaar 3 This is business for monkeys

Filed under: My Other Avtaar — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 5:48 pm

We know dogs are a big help for people with disabilities. Seeing-eye dogs help blind people travel all over the world. Now those cute, intelligent capuchin monkeys have joined the Help Brigade. Once they are trained they can do a number of things a person who is unable to use his arms and legs cannot do. Helping Hands, a not-for-profit organisation trains the monkeys.
I don’t know if the link really works, but I did get to see the story on
Click this link

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