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The history of Om Creations goes back to 25 years when Dr Radhike Khanna started a training institution for mentally disabled children in 1991. After two decades of its foundation and helping ten thousand women through its work, Om Creations has established an exemplary lesson for the country.
In an intimate conversation with Feministaa, Arundhati Bhattacharya, the former chairman of State Bank of India, who has been actively involved with the institute, shares her experience with the institution and how this place stands as the testament of the simplistic joys of life.
“There’s so much of innocence in these people, there is a simple joy. We are not grateful for what we have got. Go learn from this people how to be joyful for whatever you are getting.”
Arunhati has been a part of Om Creations Trust for a number of years now and she shares the foundry beliefs behind the birth of the institution.
“The idea behind the whole Om Creations Trust is that they (the mentally-disabled children) should be made integrated into the society by making them completely productive.”
In your first visit to the institute, a number of emotions swirl past you as you witness one after other brilliant artworks hanging on the walls, maestros busy stroking on the canvas and then somebody reminds you suddenly, these artists are suffering from down syndrome.
Arundhati shares that her first visit to Om Creations Trust was on the day of the salary contribution where she was invited to hand out the salary checks.
“It was a wonderful experience, it was an organization where everyone was overflowing with joy when they received the salary and what’s more astonishing is that, when I asked them what are you going to do it this salary, none of them said that they are going to splurge it on themselves, somebody said “ma ko de denge(I will give it to my mother), somebody said bank pe dalenge(I will put it in bank) or somebody said “aap ko kyu bataye(Why should I tell you)”.
Om Creations Trust works with children with autism such that they conduct workshops, training etc to help them to become productive. Once they are trained, they join the workforce and everyone is equally respected for their part of the work.
“There’s a girl who can only knock the chocolate out of the mould. So that’s what she does. She is given a responsibility and she is doing it. That does not make her a less of a member.”
Arundhati shares how the all-inclusive work-culture of the institution turns it into an integrated work system, a model economy helping the overall GDP of the country to grow. Aiding them to be a part of the work system where they can contribute to the economy functions as the growth of the country overall.
“It overall becomes a situation where there is a lot of understanding, a fellow feeling, so it is good for the institution, and for the country.”
But the views of the society as a collective, how mentally disabled children are still cast aside, is a topic to discuss that even Arundhati couldn’t ignore. According to her, we don’t expose normal children with children with disabilities. So the normally-abled children seem to view children with disabilities as the “rejects”.
“You can not cast aside these people, you need to make them inclusive. You need to find what they do well.”
Yet, Om Creation’s contribution to society doesn’t end in its economical ground. After your first visit, you witness how even today, in the world of materialistic joy, there’s a group of people with challenges so severe but with an immediate understanding of joy.
Arundhati Bhattacharya has confronted the challenges of being a parent of a specially-abled child but she chose a school where all kinds of children were taught together, up to class 5. According to her, keeping her daughter in a regular school made her get challenged and improve.
“The culture of bringing together specially-abled children with the normal ones, you form the basic ideas, you accept the specially abled as they are.”
About being a parent to a specially abled, there’s a bigger sense of understanding that one needs to acquire, she said.
“Initially it is very difficult for a parent to accept that their child is having difficulty and the earlier they accept, the earlier they can intervene, the better for the child.”
For Arundhati, as a parent, she realises that you give a child unconditional love but sometimes tough love is crucial. You have to allow a child to go out there and experiment, fail, get up and get going.
“We accept the limitations but that is not where they will stay, the sky is the limit for everybody and you can push the envelope.”
Arundhati Bhattacharya, known as the first woman chairperson of SBI and also the youngest one to acquire that position has shared her plan post-retirement. She intends to support Om Creations, along with a wish to create a platform, “gifting with a conscience” where all the NGOs can come together and collaborate with each other. She will also work with the Social Justice Ministry in their Skill Development Committees to extend her further support to the community.
Arundhati Bhattacharya has been an incredible model for inspiration for many women of our generation. We asked her to share the secret behind motivating thousands of people to work on their maximum potential on a daily basis.
According to her, the mantra behind great works comes from “being inspired.”
She shared, “At the end of the day, we have to keep motivating people as much as we can but you have to understand, the happiness comes from within. You get a promotion and you will be happy for three days, after the third day, you will go back to look for another two years. Happiness and satisfaction have to come from within. It’s like a spring inside and you keep watering and it becomes a part of you.”
About motivating a plethora of employees, she told us what she learned from her mentor.
“Instead of motivating, inspire them to give. Once you keep inspiring them to give, nobody can take it away. That’s one of the best feelings of the world. Keep giving.”
“Giving doesn’t only mean goods, giving time, giving thoughts or simply smile.”