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.”