The 16-year-old girl atop the three-layer human pyramid appears a bit
nervous as she takes the coconut, but soon, with all her might, she
breaks the Handi.
Joy erupts from the girls who formed the pyramid and music and dance
ensues. The human pyramid was made up of visually impaired girls.
This is the first time that the girls at the National Association for
the Blind (NAB) hostel in Andheri (W) aged 16 to 20 are participating
in the Dahi
Handi, days before the city celebrates Janmashtami. The girls come
from various places across the state, and some live in the NAB hostel
where the event
took place.

Jyotsna Garde, superintendent of the NAB girls’ hostel said, “The
girls expressed their interest in participating in Dahi Handi after
which we decided
to host the event for them. We will continue this celebration every year.”

Their trainer, 30-year-old Ponnalagar Devendra, trains these girls at
a ground in Matunga. Visually impaired himself, he says he trained
very hard to become
a professional and had been performing during the festival at Nav
Maharashtra Mitra Mandal in Sion.

He said, “I was always passionate about the festival. After talking to
my friends, I decided to start training other visually impaired boys,
and we participated
in 100 competitions with no one getting injured.” He says, “I decided
to train these girls as well, to prove that gender or disability does
not reduce
our goals.”

Heena, 16, who studies at Ruia College, says that she decided to train
because she loved the festival and was happy to train in a place close
to her college.
When asked if she would do it again next year, she said, “Of course,
there is no doubt about that.”

Avinash Shahi
Doctoral student at Centre for Law and Governance JNU
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