Artist Mahavidyalaya dance and music academy is located near a metro railway station in New Delhi. The academy waives the fees for some students, says Krishna Basumatary, the academy co-founder. “We don’t charge any fees for disabled or poor students coming to the academy. We only charge people who are able to pay the fees.”
21-year-old Pramod contracted polio when he was a child. He’s here to learn how to dance with his physical condition.
”People think that I’m a handicapped person who can’t do anything with my life. They’re full of negative opinions, while I’m a proud physically-impaired person. I’m turning my weakness into a strength. To dance well, one should first have a strong heart, and the legs come afterwards. Vinod demonstrates dancing steps to us by using his strong hands.”
26-year-old Vinod Thakur is the founder of the dance academy. “I was born without legs. My family used to worry a lot about my future. But if God doesn’t give you everything, then he gives you some special gifts, all you need to do is find them.”
Vinod’s passion for dance started when he was a child. He was working as a mobile phone repair man and his friends persuaded him to join the TV talent show... it changed his life dramatically. He made it through to the semi-final as a contestant on “India’s Got Talent” in 2010. Since then he’s become known as the “legless break dancer”.
“I never thought of myself as a limbless person. I use my hands as my legs. Earlier, I was very interested in sports, but I slowly became interested in dancing and I participated in a TV show as a hip hop dancer. I have also taken part in reality shows in places like South Korea and Taiwan.”
He became famous overnight and was headline news in newspapers and on news channels across the country. In 2013, he founded his own dance academy to teach other disabled students how to dance. This is where he met his wife, Raksha, who is also a dancer. “I don’t remember how this love story started… but I met him for the first time in his dance academy. He was very popular on TV, and at that time I was also a big fan. I joined his academy to learn how to dance. During the training, I saw that he wasn’t dependent on anyone, but rather he takes care of the rest of the trainees at the academy. I fell in love with his caring nature.”
An Indian private TV station heard about Vinod and Raksha’s story... and organised a live broadcast of the wedding celebration. To their surprise, all their family members were there to give their blessing. At first, both sets of parents didn’t want them to tie the knot.
“Where ever he goes, I always go with him. I never allow him to go anywhere without me.”
“This is what you call real love. She doesn’t even allow me to go the bathroom alone!”
And now the couple are in a dance-based reality show together...
Back to Vinod’s dance academy….
Of the 80 students here today, around 20 of them are disabled, says Vinod.
“I have established a trust called “The Indian Disabled Talent Hunt Trust” to help disabled children in any way possible. I don’t call them disabled, but children with special abilities.”
Every day new students come here to learn hip hop and western dancing. 14-year-old Chaitnya dreams of becoming a dancer one day. “I have seen them dancing. I love their dancing so I want to learn from them.”