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India Inclusion Summit 2017 : Disha Chhabra

What does the word ‘inclusion’ mean to you? What are your first thoughts when you hear the words ‘India Inclusion’? How do we move in the direction of making India truly inclusive?

These and many more interesting conversations are what make me visit the India Inclusion Summit year after year. It’s a place where we don’t talk about limitations; where the goodness in everyone is celebrated. It is a day when the possibilities get discussed; instead of pity and sympathy.

India Inclusion Summit was in its 6th edition this year. And the event gets better every year. A lot of differently-abled people from across the country and in fact, across the globe, come together to talk about making India inclusive; in infrastructure, education, job opportunities, medicine, law, policies and even entertainment. Many guests like me come here to learn, absorb and become better humans. Many people, especially parents and friends of differently-abled people come here for inspiration and courage to keep going.

This year’s list of speakers included people from all walks of society: corporate, politics, bollywood and what not. Some notable moments of this year’s summit:

The morning started with a musical presentation by T.M. Krishna. This was followed by soulful stories of courageous friends. Shalini Saraswati knew her leg was going to be amputated. Instead of crying, she spent the night before applying nail paint to her feet, knowing very well that this was her last chance. She chose a bright color to show her acceptance. She said, “After losing my four limbs when I embraced the blades, I feel as powerful as when Superman,Batman and the superheroes come together.”

Then came Ummul Kher whose family deserted her at the age of 10 when they got to know of her brittle bones. Left to die in a slum, brought up in the company of street children and beggars , Ummul did not give up. Her strong spirit carried her forward to crack the UPSC in one go. Her voice as an IRS officer will create a powerful wave in policy circles.

Senator Tom Harkins came all the way from United States to narrate his heartwarming personal story. How he was driven to make inclusion a way of life as his brother was deaf. He spoke at length how we must design for inclusion; how what we build for differently-abled has the potential to help everyone around. Designing for inclusion brings down the overall cost of design significantly. He mentioned how it was difficult even for a young person to cross the road in India, let alone an elderly or a differently-abled person. He stressed the need to think inclusive. His speech made not just social but also economic sense.

Kris GopalaKrishnan, co-founder Infosys came to talk about mental health. This was followed by a fashion show by children with autism. The block-printed clothes made by these children were displayed by the children in style. From T-shirts to suits and sarees, surely there is a lot of opportunity if their energies can be channeled in the right direction.

Many more wonderful stories were presented during the day.

Nagesh Kukunoor, the man behind Iqbal and Dhanak (movies where disability was not portrayed as defect but as any other fact of life); shared how his movies do not evoke pity but respect for disabled people.

Anshu Gupta, Goonj’s founder spoke how he does not believe in charity but in the thought process of being the change he wants to see around him. His story of how his father refused to pay bribe to a doctor, resulting in his leg being defected for life and yet his pride for his father’s ethics goes on to show where Anshul gets his strength and values from.

A blind child learning from a deaf child and vice versa showed how what one lacks, the other excels and beautifully conveyed the message, “Everyone is good at something.” Hum Umeed par nahin, hosle par jeete hain- said special children from Asthagram NGO. These children had traveled 30 hours in train to come and be on stage.

The evening had an interesting skit by differently-abled people on the idea of inclusion and concluded with a shadow performance by none other than Prahlad Acharya, popularly called as the Indian Houdini. There was a rock band performance by Vasu Dixit, where music brought everyone together and there was no other language than the language of gratitude, love and oneness in the room.

Behind all of this is one man and his team. V.R. Ferose, SVP, SAP is the most humble man I have ever met in my life. His vision to make India inclusive by 2030 has found him supporters from all parts of the country and globe. His team works weekend after weekend throughout the year to relentlessly pursue their mission. For in madness, lies a purpose.

Looking forward to do my bit. May be time for a sequel to my second book “Because Life Is A Gift”.

For more details on the summit, visit  India Inclusion Summit

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