Changemakersaathi पिता: The Father’s day special feature
- Cdr Rajendra Pawar (Retd)
My first close interactions with a Special parent happened to be with Akila Vaidyanathan during the period from 2009-11 and later with Sriram Narayan during 2012 – 15. These interactions soon evolved into being associated with each other as lifelong friends. Getting to know them as a Special Mom and Dad gave insights into the world of a Special Family. Until then, my memory of having a polio affected classmate in middle school was the only limited exposure I had of the issues faced by physically disabled individuals.
Being born in a Fauji family with the typical hallmarks of multi-culturalism, flair for adventure, nature and an innate sense of exploration I was fortunate to have gone through my education in 5 different institutions in different parts of the country and residing in 4 different states.
On graduating as a Mechanical Engineer in 1981, I joined service in the Indian Navy where 15 postings in 26 years brought me in touch with individuals from almost all parts of our great country. These evolved into insights to different cultural and religious practices, cuisines from different states, and an opportunity to travel extensively in India as well as visiting 6 international port cities. Throughout these years, I continued my quest for learning newer and varied subjects such as mythology, homeopathy, and reading large number of books on diverse range of topics. I was drawn to being supportive of the needs of the physically and mentally challenged children.
Association with Akila and Ram, and their pioneering Adventure Camps for Special Children and Families at NALS in Connoor soon turned me into an Autism Advocate, though I did not come from a Special needs family. These camps were brought annually to western India, near Pune by me and Akila since 2015. We are joined by Padma Ramani, an experienced Special Educator and a dear friend based in Pune, in organising these camps. Since then, we have done 6 such camps near Pune for Special Persons and Families and Friends.
Whilst organising these Adventure camps for Special persons, we reached out to our personal contacts and friends, whose kindhearted support enabled us to provide the opportunity to about 4 to 5 Special Children from economically challenged families and their caretaker parent/ teacher, to attend each of our camps absolutely free of cost.
It is through the experiences and interactions with the special children and their parents/ grandparents in these camps that I realised the immense void in following areas in our society:
i. Awareness about the world of Special Children
ii. Infrastructure in public places and public transportation systems to cater to the needs of special persons for easy accessibility
iii. Inclusivity in educational institutions,
iv. Inclusivity in recreational and adventure activities at organised camps
v. Difficulty of provisions of several well intentioned Govt schemes to reach the last mile special needs families
vi. Sensitisation of senior level decision makers in Private Industry towards providing support to special persons through training, employment opportunities and policies to allocate funds through CSR budgets
vii. Guidance and counselling platforms for parents of special children
viii. Need for print and electric media to prioritise reporting and writing about events organised for Special Persons.
During the Covid 19 Pandemic with heightened stress levels in all families, Sriram Narayan and I mulled over the need for offering a programme exclusively for Special Dads. A major intent for this was to provide a safe, nonjudgmental space for the Dads to share their struggles, emotions and share their experiences of being a Special Dad.
Sriram always advocated the need for Fathers to be actively engaged with all the caregiving activities for the Special Child, and not just to leave that role to the Special Moms.
While considerable progress has been made, a lot remains to be done for the benefit of Special Persons, by the Government, NGOs, Industry, Society and aware citizens and advocates.
Let us all pull our oars together to enable the Special Persons to become vibrant, independent and contributing members of our society.
Regards and Best Wishes
Here’s the Interview recordings of a candid conversation with Cdr Rajendra Pawar(Retd)
Authored By Cdr Rajendra Pawar (Retd)
Cdr Rajendra Pawar is a multi faceted personality: A Diasbility Advocate by choice; a Post Graduate Mechanical Engineer, a Triorigin Smile Meditations and Mudra Meditation Healer, a Sujok Therapist, and a student of Human Psychology by academic qualifications; who holds prestigious certifications in Advanced Marine Engineering, Personal Profiling, Psychometrics, Career Counselling, CII Assessor for industries and other organisations for ISO Quality certifications, and a UN certified Master Trainer for Awareness of HIV & AIDS.
He is a person who loves the outdoors, travel, camping and savouring the local cuisine of all parts of our great nation.
He has partnered with Akila Vaidyanathan, Founder Director of the Amaze Charitable Trust, Coimbatore in organising the unique Adventure Camps for Special Persons, Families and Friends near Pune.
Along with Late Sriram Narayan, Founder Trustee of Amaze Charitable Trust, Coimbatore, he has facilitated a series of programs EXCLUSIVELY curated for ‘Special Dads’ to help them in the journey of shòuldering multiple responsibilities of a Father, Caregiver to the Special Child and as a Breadwinner for the Family.
Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Morpheus Nag