Omkar Story

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Very excited to have us visit his house, Omkar proudly points to the nameplate before wobbling into his kholi that welcomes you with a big family photograph at the entrance. Just to be sure we don’t miss this prized possession, Omkar points out to this photograph and flashes his million dollar grin, knowing very well that he looks most dashing in the picture.

Omkar Waravdekar was born on 25th July 2000, with Cerebral Palsy. His legs were weak, bent, and the doctor ensured the parents that Omkar would have to go through several surgeries before he would even stand. To add to the already distressful condition, it was discovered that Omkar was also hearing and speech impaired. The family decided to move from the village to Mumbai.

After two successful surgeries, Omkar was finally able to stand and walked with support with a high degree of instability. Finally, at age 8, he was ready to go to school. He was denied admission in a school for the physically handicapped as he was hearing impaired. At a school for the hearing impaired, he was denied admission as he was physically disabled. With no special school agreeing to take him, TULIPS (a special school for children with multiple disabilities run at the time by Saraswati Mandir Trust) welcomed Omkar mid-year in 2009. At TULIPS we had a clear objective of including our children in mainstream schools. Omkar further helped our cause.

When we began working with Omkar, we realised that the 9-year-old disliked being helped. He would rather fall on his face than hold our hand. We learnt to stop pitying him. We learnt to see this struggle as his way of life. Omkar never wore his hearing aid; he was clear; he didn’t need to HEAR, to understand what we were saying. We learnt to communicate with him like we did with the rest.

With the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 in favour of inclusive education for children with disability, in 2010 we got Omkar admission into Sane Guruji, a Marathi medium school belonging to the IES Trust. At first, the school was quite nervous about taking responsibility of a child with multiple disabilities. The first year saw a stream of complaints. Regular counselling for the parents helped empower them to face the school and stand up for their child. With time, the school saw the immense support Omkar’s classmates were giving him and soon they had little reason to complain.

Today, Omkar is studying in Class 5. “Omkar is like any other child today. He has no special rules,” says Mrs. Kavita Doiphode, Omkar’s classteacher. Moving from the primary section to the secondary section has been a big step for Omkar this year but with 100% support from his teachers, peers and his determined parents, the transition has been smooth. “We always thought that he would be intellectually slow. At the special school he was learning basic life skills, but in the regular school he has learnt to write and even do basic maths,” says Omkar’s father.

It was the end of our visit to Omkar’s house and we wanted to take a family photograph. Omkar promptly gestured me to wait as he wore a t-shirt over the vest he was lounging in. As the family got ready, Omkar once again sparked his gorgeous grin that lit up everything around him.

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