Published: 25th January 2019
These Bengaluru Academies have been training the visually impaired students to march in the Republic Day parade
These visually impaired students are extraordinary. We talk to their teachers to find out what went into training the visually impaired students for their march past tomorrow in Bengaluru
Only a few hours are left for the nation to soak in the colours of Republic Day. This year, there are over 2,200 students participating in the cultural programmes at Bengaluru's Field Marshal Manekshaw Parade Ground. Among them, there are two contingents of 67 visually impaired students. This is not the first time that these blind students are going to be part of the Republic Day Parade. Samarthanam Trust for Disabled and Shree Ramana Maharishi Academy for the Blind have been participating for over twenty years now and have won prizes many times for their performance. Every year, the organisations train a different batch of students to be part of the march past group. Similarly, the audience eagerly waits to cheer them on.
Shree Ramana Maharishi Academy for the blind was established in 1969 by T V Srinivasan and his friends. There are over 140 visually impaired children who are getting access to free education, food and shelter. Their performances on previous Republic and Independence days have been exceptional and appluaded by many. P Mohan, Sports Teacher, Shree Ramana Maharishi Academy for the Blind says, " It is a matter of pride for us to be part of Republic Day celebrations. There are 35 students who will be participating in the Republic Day parade from our school. Our uniform colour which is red and yellow represents the Karnataka flag. Usually, we start practising 20 days before the Republic Day and Independence Day. In order to make the march past look perfect and make it easy for our students, rehearsals are onducted for three days."
Proud moment: Visually impaired students from Shree Ramana Maharishi Academy in the march past during one of the Republic Day parade (Pic: P Mohan)
According to Mohan, it was not easy to get permission from the state education department to participate in the march past. He says, "The sports teachers in Shree Ramana Maharishi Academy started training students from 1971 to develop marching skills. In 1979, the organisation had approached the state education department officials to get permission to perform on these days of National importance. But it took several years for the officials to approve. This was mostly because the officials did not want students to commit mistakes during such events. In 1981, our students gave their first performance. That was the day when they won many hearts and there was no looking back."
Meanwhile, there are 32 students representing Samarthanam Group for Disabled and they are aged between 16 to 22 years. This group is also the oldest as they have been performing since 1998. Devaraj, Manager, Public Relations says, "We select 40 students and after few rounds of practice, 32 students are selected for the final group. They are selected based on their performance. They should be able to stand for long hours under the hot sun as the programmes take place between 8 am and 12 pm. According to my observation, if the students have good mobility then they can perform well. We place partially blind students in the front row and last row to lead the group. These students cannot see objects and people clearly but they can see the light and step ahead."
Right Left: Samarthanam Trust for disbaled has been participating in the Republic Day parade since 1998 (Pic: Devaraj)
When we asked him if they follow any specific methods to train students, he says, "Yes, we train them by giving commands like moving their hands right and left. They need to swing their hands to the shoulder level. We also teach them about when they have to turn right to look towards the guest and straight after moving ahead. All these commands are taught to them by using Hindi words. For example, Dahine/Bhah(y)e/Peechhe Mud which means Right/Left/About turn. We tell them the meaning of these words and accordingly they follow it. To see that they don't fall out of their lines, three people are given a cane made of iron rod to hold them in their left hand."
The students are mentally prepared for this even as well. They are also told motivational stories about their seniors. Devaraj says, "Initially, they feel nervous but we tell them that they are very lucky to be part of this group. Hence, they perform well. All they have to do is focus on our commands. For blind students, it is their brain that plays an important role as it records every part of the activity,"
The organisation has won over 40 trophies for their performances in such high key events. "Our students have won trophies several times in the category of visually challenged schools. They feel happy and confident. They appreciate the encouragement they receive from the government and public," says Mohan.