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India

Meet India's Favorite Hip Hop Dancer, He Has No Legs

Vinod Thakur on a dance competition TV show — Photo: Shimul Hossain screenshot
Vinod Thakur on a dance competition TV show — Photo: Shimul Hossain screenshot
Jasvinder Sehgal

NEW DELHI — Pramod, 21, contracted polio when he was a child, but that isn’t stopping him from learning how to dance.

He goes to the New Delhi dance and music academy called Artist Mahavidyalaya, where fees are waived for students with disabilities and those who don’t have the means to pay, says academy co-founder Krishna Basumatary.

“People think that I’m a handicapped person who can’t do anything with my life,” says Pramod. “They’re full of negative opinions while I’m a proud physically impaired person. I’m turning my weakness into a strength. To dance well, one should first have a strong heart — the legs come afterwards.”

Academy founder Vinod Thakur is also disabled, Pramod says, but “he demonstrates dancing steps to us by using his strong hands.”

Thakur, in fact, was born without legs. “My family used to worry a lot about my future,” Thakur says. “But if God doesn’t give you everything, then he gives you some special gifts. All you need to do is find them.”

Thakur’s passion for dance started when he was a child. He was working as a mobile phone repair man, and his friends persuaded him to join a TV talent show, which changed his life dramatically. He made it to the semi-final as expand=1] a contestant on India’s Got Talent in 2010, and since then he’s become known as the “legless break dancer.”

“I never thought of myself as a limbless person,” he says. “I use my hands as my legs. Earlier, I was very interested in sports, but I slowly became interested in dancing. I have also taken part in reality shows in places like South Korea and Taiwan.”

He became famous overnight and was headline news in newspapers and on news channels across the country. In 2013, he founded this dance academy to teach other disabled students. It’s where he met his wife, Raksha, who is also a dancer. The two are now featured on a dance-related reality TV show.

“I don’t remember how this love story started, but I met him for the first time in his dance academy,” Raksha says. “He was very popular on TV, and at that time I was also a big fan. I joined his academy to learn how to dance. During the training, I saw that he wasn’t dependent on anyone, but rather he takes care of the rest of the trainees at the academy. I fell in love with his caring nature.”

An Indian private TV station heard about the couple’s story and organized a live broadcast of their wedding celebration. To their surprise, all their family members were there to offer their blessings. Inititally, both sets of parents were against their tying the knot.

“Wherever he goes, I always go with him,” Raksha says. “I never allow him to go anywhere without me.”

Her husband jokes, “This is what you call real love. She doesn’t even allow me to go the bathroom alone!”

Of the 80 students at the dance academy today, about 20 are disabled, Thakur says. “I have established a trust called The Indian Disabled Talent Hunt Trust to help disabled children in any way possible. I don’t call them disabled, but children with special abilities.”

Every day, new students come here to learn hip hop and Western-style dancing. Chaitnya, 14, dreams of becoming a dancer one day. “I have seen them dancing,” she says. “I love their dancing so I want to learn from them.”

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Society

Parenthood And The Pressure Of Always Having To Be Doing Better

As a father myself, I'm now better able to understand the pressures my own dad faced. It's helped me face my own internal demands to constantly be more productive and do better.

Photo of a father with a son on his shoulders

Father and son in the streets of Madrid, Spain

Ignacio Pereyra*

-Essay-

When I was a child — I must have been around eight or so — whenever we headed with my mom and grandma to my aunt's country house in Don Torcuato, outside of Buenos Aires, there was the joy of summer plans. Spending the day outdoors, playing soccer in the field, being in the swimming pool and eating delicious food.

But when I focus on the moment, something like a painful thorn appears in the background: from the back window of the car I see my dad standing on the sidewalk waving us goodbye. Sometimes he would stay at home. “I have to work” was the line he used.

Maybe one of my older siblings would also stay behind with him, but I'm sure there were no children left around because we were all enthusiastic about going to my aunt’s. For a long time in his life, for my old man, those summer days must have been the closest he came to being alone, in silence (which he liked so much) and in calm, considering that he was the father of seven. But I can only see this and say it out loud today.

Over the years, the scene repeated itself: the destination changed — it could be a birthday or a family reunion. The thorn was no longer invisible but began to be uncomfortable as, being older, my interpretation of the events changed. When words were absent, I started to guess what might be happening — and we know how random guessing can be.

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