It was 2008 when Syed Sallauddin Pasha came to live in our apartment building. We soon got to know that he had a dance company for dancers with disabilities.
As I had a keen interest in dance, I became really excited when I was called to showcase my talent one Sunday. I went there with a music DVD and started dancing to a song I had been preparing for the whole week. Everybody clapped for me and I was really happy that I could go and see the practice on Sunday, just like I had always wanted.
During those weekends, I used to sit in a corner and watch some beautiful performances. However, I realised eventually that these performances were all about the portrayal of their disabilities and not their abilities. Everybody needed to perform on wheelchairs or with crutches, even if they could walk without it. I really disliked this idea because I knew that this would instigate sympathy in the audience and this wasn’t me. I was really disappointed and didn’t go there again even though guruji kept calling me to come and watch.
One day in the afternoon, we heard someone crying. As there are lots of children in our society, we didn’t heed the call. It was only afterwards that we realised it was a woman crying. That woman was Pasha’s wife and she was crying because her husband was beating her up.
This incident came as a shock to me but the worst was yet to come. I heard that his wife filed a case against him for domestic violence and that he was also arrested for the rape of a girl with a disability.
I was shell shocked. One day, as I was surfing the internet, I stumbled across this article, and I kept thinking – how can a man, choose to eat bread using the labour of persons with disabilities and not give them their dues? That’s not all. He has exploited girls sexually, mentally and financially.
My mind flashed back to that day, when my father heard that I was going to these dance classes. He was concerned about me and eventually told me not to go there anymore. Later he confessed that he had a word with one of the male dancers, and my father was informed that they weren’t given enough payment. When asked further, that dancer told my father that every time a student asked Pasha for money, he told the students to dance better. It’s the same old story, of the exploiters who say, “You need to perform better!” By these bits of information, my father had concluded that the man wasn’t a genuine teacher.
I think the lesson that I learned from this event was that we shouldn’t sympathise or give funds to people who are said to be working with people with disabilities. We should always look into their procedure, methods of working and the people involved with the organisation with utmost care. I was saved by luck but there were many girls who got trapped. It is always easy to trap the weak and poor because people think they don’t have a voice. People with disabilities have been targeted since ages, mostly the financially weak ones. Awareness is the only method, our lives can be safe from these kinds of people, who want to exploit people with disabilities for their own selfish needs.