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“I love to watch ‘Indian Idol’ and take photos of people with the cell phone camera”

All Chandrakant Ukarda Chudasma wanted early in life was a gold chain. This 28-year-old from Vanakbara, Diu had been fascinated by people wearing it and been yearning for it since his teens. When he was finally gifted one a couple of years ago by Shyamji, he was moved to tears and hugged his brother tightly. He knew that Shyamji, 12 years older, himself didn’t possess one. All the gratitude and delight he could not put into words must have been conveyed through that bear hug!
Born with Cerebral Palsy (CP), Chandrakant is speech-impaired although he is able to listen and understand. However, together with his extended family comprising his mother Ladubehen (62), Shyamji, his wife Bharti (38) and their four children, they have jointly developed a sign language that has evolved over time. Bharti helped us communicate with him during this interview.
CP has impacted Chandrakant’s limbs and he walks with a limp. He reads, but cannot write since his hand movements are shaky. However he can manage his daily routine on his own. When he was born, the family tried out local treatments such as mud therapy and then took him to larger hospitals nearby. Doctors indicated that his quality of life may not significantly improve. But this did not dent his spirit.
Eight years ago, Chandrakant started attending a vocational school, Vaatsalya, which trained him in making puja items such as agarbattis, decorative garlands for festivities and the like. His niece, Vanshika, helps him improve his craft skills. He also works in the school’s sales outlet which sells the merchandise the students make. He is not being paid though he has been pressing the school to recompense him. Moreover, the school, which used to provide a daily meal, has stopped doing so.
Certainly this is a dampener but his family has been propping up his morale. It is not easy for him to stay the course since he has to commute around 12 km by bus or use his hand-pedalled tricycle to reach the school. He has found a way to manage the routine with the help of his family and commutes by himself. He uses his tricycle for his essential requirements and to run errands for the family too. The family lives above a provision store that Shyamji runs. Chandrakant assists his brother at the store. He learned to count up to 25 early on and is comfortable handling the essential transactions at the shop.
When Chandrakant meets someone he likes to take their photo on the family’s cell phone. In fact he is very fond of taking photos and pretty much monopolises the mobile when the family doesn’t use it. Since his hand is not steady, his niece or a friend or a neighbour helps him. He gets annoyed when his nephew, who studies elsewhere, comes to Diu during weekends and commandeers the phone. After all, it is his connection to the world and he watches devotional songs, Tom and Jerry cartoons and YouTube videos on it. Another pastime is TV. He loves _Indian Idol_ and his favourite singer is Pawandeep Rajan, winner of Season 12 (2022) of the programme.
Chandrakant has a sweet tooth and likes laddu, kheer and ice-cream. During summer he polishes off a good deal of ice-cream from the fridge in their shop, says Bharti with a laugh. A keen dresser, he is never without a watch and the local tailor customises his clothes.
Chandrakant dreams of doing more to support the family and himself. While the crafts he has learnt are useful, setting up his own manufacturing unit will need capabilities far beyond what he can manage now. His family is considering expanding their current business to include the merchandise his school produces so that it can be sold through the year instead of during seasonal sales at the school.


Vicky Roy