The Orchestra of the Able-Disabled of Anandwan
In the mid sixties, MSS also began taking care of and educating the blind, hearing impaired, physically challenged, and school and village dropouts, orphans and children of the disabled residents of Anandwan. Apart from formal education, a variety of vocational training activities are undertaken by the Institution to make them capable of self-earning and a respectable livelihood. Musical and cultural training is one of the most important training these children and young adults get.
Swaranandwan is a special platform for the talented leprosy patients and physically challenged residents of Anandwan to showcase their skills and forget their inhibiting handicaps. A unique musical orchestra with special performers, Swaranandwan was initiated with the financial support from 'Share and Care' USA and UNICEF through the Government of Maharashtra, Novelle Planete, Switzerland and several others.
Aims and Objectives
- To harness the untapped musical potential of the disabled.
- To serve a special platform for the leprosy-cured and the physically challenged to showcase their talents.
- To serve as a therapeutic theatre to help the participants achieve self-healing.
- Through involvement in music, song and dance and through stage performances to increase the self-esteem and confidence of the participants.
- Through the medium of music to provide an opportunity to the disabled to lead a normal life.
- By bringing the disabled into the mainstream of society to augment their feelings of being accepted, sense of security, cooperation and solidarity with society.
- On 14th July 2002 Swaranandwan, for the first time, raised its curtains to the public. Or to put it more aptly, on that day, the public were, for the first time, exposed to the marvellous musical talents of the disabled of Anandwan. Ever since the troupe has staged over 500 sensational performances all over Maharashtra, in places such as Nagpur, Pune, Chandrapur, Aurangabad, Thane and even in the Shanmukhananda Hall in Mumbai. Wherever they have performed they have received wide applause from the audience. Responding to demand, over the years, the orchestra has had the privilege to perform more than once at many places. The orchestra has acted as an adhesive in bonding the healthy hearts of the disabled to the society. The orchestra is helping spread awareness amongst the people on disability and a number of allied issues.
- Swaranandwan has received the blessings and appreciation of several celebrities including His Holiness The Dalai Lama, social activist Medha Patkar, film star Nana Patekar, classical dancer Chitra Sukumaran and Ashok Hande of 'Awaz ki Duniya' fame. Approbation from such persons acts as a stamp of approval about the quality of its performances and serves to boost the vision and mission of the orchestra.
- Swaranandwan has received financial support from 'Share and Care'- USA, UNICEF through the Government of Maharashtra, Novelle Planete - Switzerland and from several others which has contributed to its genesis and growth to a considerable extent. The financial support has helped it acquire state-of-the-art musical equipment and requisite accessories to make it one of the best in the field at present in India.
- The multitalented and versatile performers of Swaranandwan present a range of items from tribal and folk dances and songs to popular Hindi and Marathi film songs to classical songs. These are finely interspersed with light comedy and mimicry, all strung together by a compere who keeps the audience enraptured with his pearls of wisdom. What's more amazing, they are now going multilingual and multicultural with songs from other languages and regions now flowing into their hearts. They are thus equipping themselves to take up the bigger task of national and social integration. They are now preparing themselves to step out of the boundaries of Maharashtra.
- Swaranandwan has with its numerous stage performances collected a good amount of money to meet the needs of hundreds of other disabled and marginalised persons of Anandwan and outside. Thus it is not only enabling its artistes to stand on their own feet but also serving its social commitment towards the welfare of others.
Achievements (Special) as a "Therapeutic Theatre"
- Swaranandwan is a classic case of the success of Music and Dance as a Therapy. It is found that Swaranandwan has produced a great impact on the overall health of the performers. Song and dance have contributed considerably to their physical and mental well being. Above all, it has added colour and music to their otherwise dull and drab lives thus making them consider their lives as worth living.
- Swaranandwan is testimony to the fact that Music and Dance have a clinical value as far as psychosomatic disorders are concerned. The disabled who are naturally prone to many such disorders have shown considerable resilience when inducted into Swaranandwan.
- Disabilities and restriction of movements and activities of the blind and the physically challenged normally develop in them self-consciosness, inferiority complex, depression, feelings of vulnerability and loss of self-esteem. It has been found that Swaranandwan has helped the artistes overcome these to such an extent that the positive frame of mind which the disabled display now makes the non-disabled persons who come into their contact feel ashamed of themselves.
- Swaranandwan has helped develop the overall personality of the performers by increasing their sense of security, sense of cooperation, self-dignity, confidence, ability to socialize etc. It has fostered in them a positive and optimistic outlook on life.
- In Swaranandwan dance and music interventions are seen to have served as an exercise, helping augment the appetite of the disabled performers resulting in better digestion, better metabolism and growth.
- The heightened mind-body coordination demanded of dancing by the blind are also found to develop positive effects on their physical and mental health. The body-mind coordination demanded of dancing by the deaf who are unable to follow the rhythm of music is also found to influence the health of the performers positively. It is found that these lead to increased concentration and psychic control.
- Swaranandwan, by widening avenues of cooperation and companionship, has resulted in greater number of inter-disability and intra-disability marriages. These marriages are seen to have satisfied their desire for a better, fuller and fruitful life.
- Swaranandwan, by serving as a means of livelihood, has enabled the disabled to acquire financial independence. This has boosted their self-dignity, sense of achievement and sense of satisfaction.
- Swaranandwan has opened up doors of much-wanted recreation for the disabled who normally have less access to other forms of entertainment. Music and dance are found to help relieve mental, emotional and physical stress and strain of the performers as well as of the audience.
- Being deprived of the ability to see the objects around them the blind are left to grope even while walking and working. These sluggish body movements gradually deprive the body muscles of their natural vigor and tenor. As such, it was found that the blind when subjected to activities such as dancing and playing instruments which demand dynamic body movements demonstrate a great sense of physical and mental pleasure. Akash, a versatile blind singer and musician of Swaranandwan who has many stage performances to his credit, says: "When I play the octopad, because of the rapid movements I make which is against my normal nature, I sense an electrifying thrill surge over my entire body." The muscular exertion, the intense body movements and the accompanying ecstatic feelings due to dancing and playing certain musical instruments are seen to contribute to the overall physical well being of the blind. This is true to a certain extent with regard to the paraplegics too.
- Singing is found to have augmented the lung-capacity of the artistes considerably consequently adding to their overall physical and mental health. Sherifa, a totally blind singer of Swaranandwan, whose performance has been personally acclaimed by many a great person, says: "If I do not attend the orchestra even a single day I feel as if suffocated, as if my respiration is falling down. Singing keeps me healthy and cheerful."
- Appreciation of performance is found to have a positive effect on the mental aspects of the performers. Kiran, a mimicry artiste on wheel chair says: "Before joining Anandwan and Swaranandwan, although I used to mimic the voice of noted film star Nana Pateker, nobody used to acknowledge my ability. But now when I do the same on stage I receive a wide applause. I love appreciation. Acceptance by the public keeps me going. Now I have discovered that I have the ability to mimic the voices of many."
- It is also remarkable that Swaranandwan has greatly succeeded in exploring the latent creative talents of the disabled. Hema, a paraplegic female singer says: "At first I was totally nervous. Let alone stage fright, I did not even have confidence to handle the mike. My hands would shiver. What's more funny, before joining Swaranandwan I did not even know that I could ever sing. But you see the difference now. After these countless number of stage performances, I feel, now I am a totally different girl. My confidence and self-esteem have grown tremendously. Now I am able to socialize more."
The orchestra has such immense talent and variety in its fold that it plans to hold a continuous 24 hour long musical marathon. Dr. Vikas Amte, the real man behind the show, whose brainchild it really is, plans to use Swaranandwan as a tool for many upcoming outreach programmes and also dreams of resurrecting and rejuvenating Baba Amte's Peace by Peace mission using it as a medium.
Vikas wants Swaranandwan to undertake a 'Pakistan Yatra'. Through the melodious medium of music, he hopes to build strong and long-lasting bonds of friendship and fraternity between the neighbors. He wants Swaranandwan to set to melody Baba's slogan of 'Nafarat Chhodo, Dil ko Jodo'.