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This Project Is Celebrating People With Disabilities And How!

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How We Can Ally To Build An Inclusive World

I had the wonderful opportunity of being approached by Faisal Ashraf Nomani, who’s been kind and appreciative of my work in the blogging space. Faisal told me about Oddity: Don’t Bend, Don’t Blend, the current project he was part of, and wanted me to meet the team behind the concept. 

When I learned about the innovative and inclusive project, I knew that the message has to reach as many people as possible. It’s a much-needed initiative, which brings into light the subject of people with disabilities, and how, as a society, we can do so much more to make an inclusive society. 

Oddity: Don’t Bend, Don’t Blend brings together the potent talents of various individuals to break the common myths around people with disabilities. Let’s understand the project better and learn how our participation can make a difference in their words. 

What is Oddity: Don’t Bend, Don’t Blend? 

Oddity: Don’t Bend, Don’t Blend is not just a regular calendar for 2021. Launched on 3rd December 2020 supported by UNV. The International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD,) the project focuses on the empowerment of persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable, and sustainable development as anticipated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which pledges to ‘leave no one behind’ and recognizes disability as a cross-cutting issue, to be considered in the implementation of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The observance of IDPD aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from integrating persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life. 

The inclusive calendar highlights models to spread awareness regarding their disability, journey, and personal efforts within the disability sector. This initiative aims to give them their due recognition for their inspiring work and efforts to bring a change in our society. 

The purpose is also to raise funds and distribute them to organizations working for the betterment of people with disabilities. 

Meet the Organizers and Models 

The concept designers of Oddity: Don’t Bend, Don’t Blend are Rishab Dahiyaand Purva Mittal. The two co-organizers pulled off this feat by making their vision turn into reality in a quick turnaround.  The initial plan was to include 12 models, but because of the pandemic restrictions, they could shoot the calendar with six models, including Purva herself. 

The 6 models featured in the calendar include a person with autism, burn survivor and a chronic illness advocate. 

Rishab Dahiya

Rishab Dahiya is a celebrity photographer and filmmaker based in Mumbai.

“It was an exhilarating experience for me. I enjoyed every bit of the shoot. I was anxious about how to pull off this idea amidst the pandemic. We wanted to create a safe environment for all our guest models. I hope I could capture the essence of strength and joyfulness of people with disabilities through my lens. I want the calendar to exhibit diversity in disability and promote inclusivity.” – Rishab Dahiya

Rishab Dahiya is a celebrity photographer and filmmaker based in Mumbai. He has shot with various celebrities like Sonam Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Richa Chaddha, Raima Sen, Sanaa Khan, Late Om Puri, Rahul Dev, Ravi Kishen, and various other Film and TV Actors.


His Instagram account has a following of more than 100K and has been featured in Mumbai Coworking’s list of “Top 50 Instagrammers in Mumbai”.
 He has done over 500 shoots in the last 8 years and has worked with various brands like FBB Femina Miss India, Times Music, Abbot International, Alcatel Mobile, Consolidated Coin Company, Delhi Daredevils Merchandise, Stylior, FHM Magazine, Good Times Magazine, La’officiel Magazine, and various export houses.

What Was The Inspiration Behind This Calendar?

Rishab Dahiya (RD): I always look for opportunities to do something different and socially relevant, and I realised that there weren’t any such photoshoots done in India, especially in the fashion or entertainment industry.

I realised that since I have the resources and I can do it, I will do it. I know Purva from the last 8 years and have tremendous appreciation for her work in the field. I shared my Idea with her, coincidentally, she also had a similar concept in mind and we decided to take it a step forward. That is how Oddity: Don’t Bend, Don’t Blend was born, a 2021 fashion calendar featuring people with disabilities. 

How Different Was This Calendar Shoot From Your Regular Shoots?

(RD): Normally, my shoots are with actors and professional models. So whenever I get an opportunity to do something different like this, it really excites me. This shoot was different from my regular shoots in a lot of ways, as the challenges were different.

We had to find a studio, which is accessible, understand the requirements of all the featured models, and handle unique situations due to the pandemic and work towards it. But more than that, it was different because I never usually get a chance to interact and work with people with disabilities.

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about how to talk to them or behave around them. I was a bit nervous, but it turned out to be a total blast and we had a lot of fun.

Model 1: Purva Mittal

Purva Mittal is pursuing her PhD in political marketing from FMS and is a marketing consultant for startups.

“2020 has been a challenging and strenuous year for all of us. I wanted to usher 2021 with a slight twist. Our calendar, Oddity, wants to celebrate disability in all forms. We want to promote acceptability in our society. Being a marketer, I saw an opportunity and grabbed it by its horns. I have been part of the disability sector for over a decade now. We need to think of innovating ways to further our cause.” – Purva Mittal 

Purva Mittal has a neuromuscular genetic disorder known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy. She has an active presence on multiple platforms to voice the urgency of prenatal and carrier testing to avoid rare genetic diseases. She has been working tirelessly with pharmaceuticals and the government of India to increase the availability of the drugs for Indian patients.

Currently, she is pursuing her PhD in political marketing from FMS and is a marketing consultant for startups. She has been working with multiple organizations for over a decade in the field of education and counselling. She is carving her own way to increase the presence of people with disability in the Indian political scenario.

You are working with Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Would you like to shed some light on your association with them?

Purva Mittal (PM): Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (India) TRUST, FSMA India aim to create awareness about SMA and strive to get a cure for SMA patients to all in India. It is our resolve to give support to all SMA families.

We stand together to create a better, brighter future for our children and families. We work for pivotal issues like education, employment, and healthcare for our members.  All SMA warriors are extremely intelligent, full of creativity and are high achievers, to say the least. FSMA Trust vows to support the kids and aspirants in their journey and dreams. 

You are doing your PhD in political marketing and consultancy. How does this relate to your work in patient advocacy and health care activism?

(PM): The term ‘politics’ is thought to be associated with negative wrongdoings. But we conveniently forget that politics can never be taken away from our lives. If we aren’t able to reach out to the right people to voice our concerns, our battleship will sink without any trace.

I am trying to understand the language of politics and how the system works. This will enable me to align my efforts and reap better results. Politicians are public representatives. We all need to work in unison for the development of our community and nation. 

Model 2: Faisal Ashraf Nomani

Faisal Ashraf Nomani holds a postgraduate degree in Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy from Jamia Millia Islamia University.

“When someone talks about disability, most people tend to visualise it as something very grim and depressing. I wanted to break this stereotype with my caricatures and quirky humour”. – Faisal Ashraf Nomani

Faisal Ashraf Nomani holds a postgraduate degree in Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy from Jamia Millia Islamia University. He is a bike tinkerer, field researcher, and employment counsellor at v-shesh. He is also known as a disability rights activist,  comedian, innovator, and speaker. He has a locomotor disability in his both lower limbs and uses a wheelchair.

You have been known to use different modes and platforms to raise awareness regarding disability. What is the current project you are working on?

Faisal Ashraf Nomani (FAN): I use cartoons on Instagram to break widely held stereotypes about disability and disabled people. They are laugh-out-loud and always quirky. @Faisalnama01 on Instagram.

When someone talks about disability, most people tend to visualise it as something very grim and depressing. I wanted to break this stereotype with my caricatures and quirky humour. For me, it is a form of expression which I find to be much more effective. My aim is to make people laugh and introspect.

You call yourself a bike tinkerer. Can you elaborate on it?

(FAN): Shaken by an accident while riding a retrofitted bike, I decided to actively look at designing a more stable retrofitted bike. The end result is GWL 01, an inclusive bike that we developed in partnership with design engineer Tigmanshu Bhatnagar, who is currently doing his Ph.D. in designing for people with disabilities in a London-based university.

We brainstormed and came up with the idea of a reverse trike, a motorbike with two wheels in the front and one at the back. We customised the bike and the attempt was successful. The bike was stable and looked good. It offered greater stability and safety and attracted a lot of attention when we went out on it for a ride. We displayed the bike at the Red Brick Summit at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A). We have invested a lot of time on the aesthetics and industrial design. The go to market stage will take some time.

Model 3: Manisha Prajapati

Manisha is an artist and teaches art to her students at Ch. Kanhaiya Lal Memorial Foundation.

“The world is full of love and I want everyone to feel its warmth.” – Manisha Prajapati

Manisha is a born survivor. She was engulfed by the flames at an early age of four years. She has never let her scars dictate her life. Manisha is an artist and teaches art to her students at Ch. Kanhaiya Lal Memorial Foundation. She is gearing up for her exhibition in Lucknow to be held soon.  

We would like to know about you and your journey till now?

Manisha Prajapati (MP): I was 4-year-old when I got involved in a fire accident. That was the turning point of my life. I had to go through multiple surgeries. There came a point in my life when I stopped visiting hospitals for surgeries. Since that day I vowed to enjoy my life to the fullest and painting became my passion. I can proudly call myself an artist today. 

What are your future projects?

(MP): I want to organize painting exhibitions. I want to showcase my sketches to the world. In the future, I would like to travel the world extensively. I am glad I got an opportunity to be a part of the calendar. This platform will help me raise awareness and instil confidence in all. I wish to extend support to everyone. The world is full of love and I want everyone to feel its warmth.  

Model 4: Dr. Anubha Mahajan

Working on creating awareness about various chronic illnesses and pain conditions and invisible disabilities, Dr. Anubha Mahajan founded Chronic Pain India in 2017. She is a dentist by profession and is devoted to supporting chronic pain & chronic illness warriors through her organisation. She has a very rare chronic pain condition/illness, CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) which is also an invisible disability.

After facing harassment and bullying during her post-graduation, her condition deteriorated when she was again diagnosed with Central Pain syndrome. Despite her chronic pain condition, she is doing extraordinary work on both ends, with patients and doctors.

Model 5: Soniya Malik

Soniya Malik is currently pursuing post-graduation in the English language from Jamia Milia Islamia.

Soniya Malik, a double amputee, uses prosthetic legs for her mobility. Soniya had to get her legs amputated because of medical negligence during treatment. She graduated from Mata Sundri College in English and after graduation; she got a job in Vfs Global as a Visa Officer for the last 2 years. She is currently pursuing post-graduation in the English language from Jamia Milia Islamia. 

Model 6: Pranav Bakhshi

Pranav Bakhshi is an avid photographer, contributes as a guest writer to a disability based e-mag, possesses extensive knowledge about contemporary English music

Pranav Bakhshi, 20, is India’s first fashion model with Autism. He has delivered TEDx talks twice, been a guest speaker at IIT Bombay e- cell initiative for autism awareness, took part in a podcast started for autism awareness by IIT Madras students and been a part of the India Inclusion Youth Summit 2020 as a guest speaker.

He is an avid photographer, contributes as a guest writer to a disability based e-mag, possesses extensive knowledge about contemporary English music and studies graphic designing. He has received extensive media coverage in India and overseas.

How You Can Make A Difference? 

You can share your story if you are an individual who has a disability, or know someone with the condition. The world needs to hear more stories so that the divide between the so-called ‘normal’ and ‘disabled’ is erased. 

Your support and participation can make a world of difference in removing the stigma and misconceptions around people with disabilities. You can purchase and/or gift the calendar to your loved ones. 

For more details about the calendar, please contact 

Name: Purva Mittal

Phone- +91 9999715802 

Email – purva.m15@gmail.com

 ‘Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/oddity2021/‘ 

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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