Manisha with friends
Another meeting with the people at “Anchorage” this time at the workshop itself. When we had met a few weeks back during the dance class, Meghna and Shahnaz had suggested I come over for lunch one afternoon so there I was last Thursday. It felt good to be not only recognised but greeted like an old friend by the crew – by Manan, (who beamed at me and pinched my cheeks like I was a five year old!) and Dilber and various others.
Lunch (provided by the staff – that is, by Meghna, Manisha, Bhavna, Shahnaz and Nirupa) was a pretty lavish affair with mountains of teplas, dhokla, two different kinds of chutney, salad and vegetables. And glasses of fresh lassi.
Dilber, Meghna, Dinyar and Yasmin
I got some more information about how the place was initially set up in 1989 – about the handful of parents of mentally retarded children. (I refuse to use the term “mentally challenged”. I don’t like it any more than I like to use the term “physically challenged” to describe myself. Prefer to stick to good old fashioned terminology like physically or mentally handicapped because they are perfectly adequate and anyway euphemisms don’t change a damn thing about the way other people actually see you. I will write more about this later, some time!)
So anyway, a group of parents had got together to found what they call a ‘sheltered workshop’ for their children who were fast growing up and needed to learn to be independent. The five founder members got together with a special educator to organise productive work contracts so that they could train young adults in a small garage. Today this cooperative offers many services which include training in various areas of work, teaching life skills, yoga, arts and crafts, music and dance and so on
During my visit I saw people busy at work putting the finishing touches on costume jewellery and switches as well as involved in packaging products like paper handkerchiefs. As on the previous occasion when I had met them everyone seemed to be having a ball and I had the feeling at the end of it all when I came away, that maybe we need to seriously look at who’s who and who is what. I mean, if those young adults busy at work at the Anchorage are supposed to be mentally challenged (hmmm ok I will make an exception and see what it sounds like to use this term!) – then maybe the rest of us are emotionally challenged or challenged in terms of self expression, generosity, spontaneity and all the rest of it. Let’s put it more simply, the rest of us are “egoistically challenged.”