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Real Life Stories

Sudha Chandran An orthopaedically handicapped dancer and


actor

Despite amputation of one leg, Sudha Chandran has established herself in the film line
and got a reputation as an ace dancer and actor. She was born into a Tamil family in
1964. Her father K.D. Chandran was an employee of the American Centre in Mumbai.
Mrs. Thangam and Sudha's father were lovers of art hence since childhood; Sudha was
exposed to a rich cultural heritage. At the age of three, she started dancing on her own
and it was then that her family decided to provide her formal education in dance.

Seeing the dedication of the child, Sudha's father took her to a famous dance school in
Mumbai ‘ Kala Sadan ' at the age of five. The teachers of ‘ Kala Sadan' refused to admit
such a young girl but Chandran kept on persuading. He discussed the matter with the
principal of that school, K.S. Ramaswamy Bhagavatar. He requested him to at least see
the child dance once. The principal was surprised to see Sudha's perform so beautifully
and finally admitted her in the prestigious institution.

Sudha practiced with much zeal and dedication. The dance classes started delivering the
results and she gave her first dance performance on stage at the age of eight. She
continued her general education along with dance. She used to go St. Josephs Convent
School where she was awarded the first prize for her first dance appearance. Her
enthusiasm was increasing continuously. By the age of 17 she had presented 75 stage
programmes which had all been widely appreciated.

On May 2, 1981 , Sudha was traveling in a bus to Tiruchi temple along with her parents.
Suddenly at midnight a serious accident took place. Her bus collided with a truck killing
the driver on the spot. Sudha was sitting two seats behind the driver. When the accident
occurred, she had stretched her legs out straight. The collision was such that Sudha's legs
were stuck. Almost all the passengers were injured. Some college students who were less
injured saw the noted dancer and tried to help her out. After a long struggle, they were
able to pull her out but her right leg had been injured critically.

She was immediately taken to the nearest hospital. Here the doctor made a mistake. He
plastered the leg. If it had been left open, the gangrene could have been prevented. After
few days, Sudha noticed that the color of her skin on the leg was changing. After
examination doctors concluded that, her leg had developed gangrene. In order to save her
life the leg had to be amputated.

Sudha's position was at that point in her life was like that of Eklavya, the famous archer
who was asked by his guru, Dronacharya to cut his right thumb to him. It was as if
destiny had confronted Sudha in the form of Dronacharya as her right leg was amputated
7 ½ inches below the knee. Sudha remained in a state of shock and for some time.

However, gradually her confidence started returning. She began walking with the help of
a wooden leg and crutches. In the meanwhile, she continued her studies in Mumbai. Her
father at that point of her life was a major source of motivation for her.

The circumstances that she was then placed in affected Sudha's lifestyle for some time.
She was unable to sleep for several nights. Nevertheless, she drew strength from the pain
and pledged that she would become even stronger. On the advice of people, her father
bought her a wheelchair but she did nor use it. Despite facing severe pain, she
continuously practiced walking and one day she even went out for a movie with her
friends. Now everybody was convinced that this girl would regain normalcy very shortly.

After six months since the amputation, Sudha read in a magazine that Dr. Sethi of Jaipur
has started manufacturing artificial legs. The qualities of these legs were such that a man
wearing the leg can work on an agricultural farm and even climb a tree. Sudha wrote to
him. Meanwhile her family visited a company in the Opera House in Mumbai where they
saw this artificial leg (Jaipur foot) in a showcase. Her confidence and desire for dance
was again revived.

Her father took her to Jaipur where they met Dr. Sethi a specialist in artificial limbs and
recipient of the Raman Magasassay Award. Dr. Sethi examined Sudha's amputated leg
and assured her that she could walk again normally. Sudha's face brightened on hearing
this. Her father informed the doctor that Sudha was a good dancer before the accident,
sending him in deep thought. When Sudha inquired whether she would be able to dance
with the Jaipur foot, the doctor promptly replied, “Yes, why not? When using this, a
farmer can work in wet soil and climb a tree, then why can't you dance?”

Dr. Sethi took this job as a challenge. He got a foot manufactured which was of
aluminum and was very light. An arrangement was made so that the leg could rotate
easily. Sudha thus returned to Mumbai with renewed vigor.

With this a new round of struggle began. First, she began to practice walking with her
artificial leg. On meeting with success at this first stage, she tried to dance as well. This
was however not easy. Although Dr. Sethi deputed an assistant to study Sudha's dance
and make the changes as per the requirements of dance, the changes made by the assistant
could not reduce the problems. Her leg would often bleed and as the movements of the
leg become faster, the pain became more severe. At the end of every dance session, when
she used to see the blood, she would start losing hope. If there had been a used to see her
blood and start losing hope. However, her determination did not falter and she was able
to control her disappointment. She again went to meet Dr. Sethi along with her dance
teacher.

By this time Dr. Sethi was highly impressed with Sudha's will power. He seriously
observed and assessed the various steps of her legs during the dance. Keeping in view the
requirement of the dance, he arranged for a new leg. After fitting the leg, he declared that
he had done his best and now it was Sudha's turn.

Sudha restarted the dance practice. The problems were not yet fully over. The bleeding
started again. There used to be severe pain due to friction of the skin of the amputated leg
and the artificial leg. She used to bear the pain and did not allow her face to reflect her
agony. Once she had mastered all the dance positions, she started to wait for an
opportunity to perform on stage once again.

Finally she got the opportunity. On January 28, 1984 , she was supposed to present a
dance programme along with another dancer Preeti in a hall of the “South India Welfare
Society” of Mumbai. This period was quite challenging for her. This was also important
because she had already been acknowledged as a proficient dancer before the accident. In
addition, she had received two important awards- Nritya Mayuri from the Dance
Academy and Bharatnatyam and Nav Jyoti from the Telugu Academy . Both these
awards were considered outstanding in the field of dance. Now she had to maintain her
reputation. She had come to the stage for the first time after the accident and the painful
practice. She had self-confidence was accompanied by some apprehensions.

However, when Sudha reached the stage, she just forgot that her leg was artificial and
stared dancing swiftly. People kept on staring at her without a blink. At the end of the
show, the hall echoed with the sound of claps.

The programme was considered very successful. Dance reviewers appreciated the
performance. Newspapers and magazine were full of descriptions, appreciation and
pictures. Sudha had become a star over night. The famous Telugu film producer and
publisher of ‘ Newstime ' and ‘ Eanader ', Ramoji Rao, not only praised her but also
decided to produce a film based on her life story. The film was titled Mayuri and was
directed by A Srinivasan. The director and producer both decided to cast Sudha, herself
as the protagonist.

When Sudha was offered the role, she hesitated initially and said that she was fully
devoted to her dance only and that she did not have sufficient knowledge of acting, and
hence she would not be able to play her role. However, they persuaded and finally Sudha
began shooting for the film with much dedication. Since the story of the film was based
on her life story, she did not face much difficulty in performing.

The film was a hit. Sudha's acting won as much appreciation as her dance. Whatever
people had read in the newspaper about her talent, they now saw on the silver screen.
They saw her dance then the serious accident, the struggle and finally her victory. The
entire film was heart rending and people were so moved that they could hardly stop their
tears. The film also conveyed a message that even a disaster and can be fought and
overcome.
Sudha won a special award-Silver Lotus and Rs.5,000 for her acting in this film. This
award was presented by the then President of India , Gyani Zail Singh at the 33 rd
National Film Festival on the recommendation of members of the jury.

On seeing the outstanding success of the film, its producer made the film in Hindi as
well. This Hindi film was titled Nache Mayuri and it spread the news of her talent in the
entire nation. This film easily crossed the borders of India and was watched in several
countries including America and was also appreciated. With this Sudha was established
as a pro actor.

At the same time, Sudha also continued her studies and got a post-graduation degree.
Meanwhile her case for compensation for the accident was also going on in Madras High
Court. The judgment came after 15 years and she was granted Rs. 5 lakhs as
compensation in 1996. By that time, the value of the amount claimed as compensation
had depreciated considerably. Nonetheless, Sudha was content that though justice had
been delayed it had at least not been denied.

Sudha married the man of her dreams in 1995. Her husband, Ravi , is in the film line.

With time her contribution to dance declined but her acting performance rose. She got
more work than she could handle. After acting in the films, she found that working in TV
Soap Operas was more attractive and she could reach common people more quickly and
frequently through this. She started accepting more TV serials and less number of films.
Her performances in Kabhi Idhar Kabhi Udhar, Chashme Badhur, Aparajita, and Young
were widely appreciated.

Sudha worked in all kinds of serials: detective serials such as Commander, Marshal , etc
and in children programmes like Shaktiman . Language could not become a bar for her.
Her journey of acting started with Talugu films but she worked in Hindi and Tamil film
as well.

With time Sudha diversified her roles, she appeared in popular count down film songs
such as Avval Number , etc. She also acted in a programme called Nagme from Patna
Doordarshan. Despite being Tamilian, she is able to speak Hindi clearly and fluently.
Despite spending a long time in Mumbai, the local language of Mumbai could not affect
her accent. She has a deep interest in Sher-O-Shayari and uses it in her TV programmes.

Sudha is progressing well and her disability has now been left far behind. She has proved
to the world that despite a disability one can touch the peak of success.
"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the
Night-Time"
"My memory is like a film... And when people ask me to remember something I can
simply press Rewind and Fast Forward and Pause like on a video recorder... If someone
says to me, 'Christopher, tell me what your mother was like,' I can rewind to lots of
different scenes and say what she was like in those scenes."

An interesting story entirely based on the point of view of an autistic 15-year-old, the
author ventures to take the reader into the chaos of autism and creates a character with
graphic detail and enormous empathy. Many a reader would begin (perhaps for the first
time) to understand the chaos that reigns when there are no filters to eliminate or set to
order the many bits of information that impinge on our minds throughout the day. The
person with autism register most stimuli with equal impact, and because these little pieces
of information cannot usually be processed effectively, life becomes a very confusing
mess of constantly competing signals.

Christopher, at fifteen, has been attending a special school for most of his life, living at
home with his father, a heating contractor who works long hours. A savant at math, he
sometimes calms himself by listing prime numbers and squaring the number two in his
head, and he tells us that his "record" is 2 to the 45th power. His teacher Siobhan has
been showing him ways to deal with his environment more effectively, and at fifteen he
is on the verge of gaining some tenuous control over the mass of stimuli which often
sidetrack him. Innocent and honest, he sees things logically and interprets the spoken
word literally, unable to recognize the clues which would tell him if someone is being
dishonest or devious or even facetious.

"I find it hard to imagine things which did not happen to me," he says. He can understand
similes ("[The rain] was falling so hard that it looked like white sparks.") because he can
see the similarities in appearance between the heavy rain and white sparks, but he cannot
understand metaphors, which omit "like" and "as" and simply make statements, which, he
feels, are not true. As he explains, "When I try... [to imagine] an apple in someone's eye,
[it] doesn't have anything to do with liking someone a lot and it makes you forget what
the person was talking about."

When Wellington, the pet poodle who lives across the street, is stabbed with a pitchfork
and killed, Christopher decides to solve the mystery and write a book about it. Using his
favorite novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as his model,
he investigates the crime, uncovering many secrets involving his own family in the
process. As he applies the lessons which Siobhan has given him for dealing with his
overwhelming outside world, he also embarks on a most unusual, if not unique, coming-
of-age story, and ends the book a much more mature 15-year-old than he was when he
started.
Using the simple subject-verb-object sentence pattern in which Christopher tries to order
and communicate with his world, Haddon tells his story with warmth and often humor,
making us see and understand Christopher's problems at the same time that we
experience everyone else's frustrations in dealing with him.

All Christopher's conversations and the events he experiences are recalled from his own
point of view, and the reader can easily see how difficult his world is, both for him and
for those around him. As he seeks to order his day by the number of cars he sees of the
same color (four red cars in a row mean a wonderful day, while four yellow cars mean a
bad day, in which case he does not eat lunch and will not speak), we see how desperate
he is to find some pattern which will enable him to make sense of his world. He hopes
that by writing his book about the death of Wellington, he will be able to emulate his
idol, Sherlock Holmes, about whom Watson says, "His mind... was busy in endeavoring
to frame some scheme into which all these strange and apparently disconnected episodes
could be fitted."

Investigating Wellington's death requires Christopher to venture forth from the safe world
of familiar people and places, and this venturing forth is fraught with problems. Strange
places are particularly traumatic. As he explains, "When I am in a new place, because I
see everything, it is like when a computer is doing too many things at the same time and
the central processor unit is blocked up and there isn't any space left to think about other
things... And sometimes when I am in a new place and there are lots of people there it is
like a computer crashing and I have to close my eyes and put my hands over my ears and
groan, which is like pressing CTRL + ALT + DEL and shutting down programs and
turning the computer off and rebooting so that I can remember what I am doing and
where I am meant to be going."

Christopher's difficulties with his emotions are particularly poignant. "Feelings," he says,
"are just having a picture on the screen in your head of what is going to happen tomorrow
or next year, or what might have happened instead of what did happen, and if it is a
happy picture they smile and if it is a sad picture they cry." Removed from his feelings,
Christopher can only respond with logic, or with the anger which sometimes overwhelms
him as result of fear or frustration, and the reader, responding to his difficulties as any
loving caregiver would, cannot help aching for Christopher and empathizing with his
family.

As Christopher investigates Wellington's death, he makes some remarkably brave


decisions and when he eventually faces his fears and moves beyond his immediate
neighborhood, the magnitude of his challenge and the joy in his achievement are
overwhelming. Haddon creates a fascinating main character and allows the reader to
share in his world, experiencing his ups and downs and his trials and successes. In
providing a vivid world in which the reader participates vicariously, Haddon fulfills the
most important requirements of fiction, entertaining at the same time that he broadens the
reader's perspective and allows him to gain knowledge. This fascinating book should
attract legions of enthusiastic readers.
Panchatantra Stories in Braille
In an effort to mitigating the problem of inadequate interesting and fun reading and
learning material for children with visual impairments Arushi, a voluntary NGO in
Guwahati has decided to pitch in. A collection of stories "Karadi Tales" (currently
marketed in audio format) has been expanded into a complete multimedia experience. In
these talking books, music and sound effects have been combined to make story telling
come alive. Books like Laaloo Bandar, Naath Magarmachh and Rangeela Geedhad are
based on the stories of Panchatantra. Children now have the opportunity to read and listen
to the stories simultaneously. The stories have been directed by Shobha Vishwanath and
illustrated by Mandar Kanvinde. Music has been provided by Narayan Parushuram.
Meghna Gulzar also collaborated in the writing . The objective was to inculcate an
interest in the reading process and facilitate language learning. Children are required to
look at the picture, listen to the tape and eventually concentrate on the print in braille.

Arushi hopes that these books transcribed in Braille will prove to be perfect reading
material for the blind children. The Central Bank of India has agreed to sponsor the cost
of bringing out the Braille transcription of the books .

Central Bank of India also has the distinction of being the "first ever disabled friendly
Bank" in the country by starting an exclusive, specially designed counter for physically
challenged at its Arera Colony Branch in Bhopal. The counter is so designed that
physically challenged persons can easily carry out their transactions while sitting in a
wheel chair. Ramps are also provided in the branch premises to make it barrier free for
the disabled.

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