Lighting up the ramp with starry-eyed dreams

Making the transition from dreaming and imagining to actually living them out seemed at first a gruelling task for the children of the National Association for the Blind (NAB), who are all set to sway in the spotlight at the fashion show,

which will be held on November 11, opposite Bodgeshwar Temple, Mapusa at 6.30 p.m. The children were upbeat and looked an excited lot when Clara Rodrigues of The Buzz got talking to the entire group of participants
“I have never worn high heels before,” says young Marta Dourado, adding, “Since this is holiday time for us, we practice from morning, a few breaks, and its back to the drill till 11 p.m. We simply enjoy it.” As though the long hours spent in practicing the ramp moves wasn’t enough, the girls with a sheepish smile reveal that “there are times when we are so into the ramp walk that even when it has been called a day, we go back to our rooms unconsciously walking the way models do, and much to our embarrassment, unfailingly, one of our teachers will spot this and point it out.”
The president of the NAB, Mr Rozendo Mendonca says, “There was a time when the NAB did not even have a proper office to function from. The Goa branch, which completes 28 years this year, has boarding facilities and follows the integrated education model, which means that our students study in regular schools along with sighted children. We have itinerant teachers who coach them later. Ours students have performed remarkably well academically, so much so that the management of these schools tell us to enrol more students because they feel they perform much better.”
The youngest child to walk the ramp is Mohammad, a standard two student. One of the naughtiest of the group, he gives a freewheeling introduction to the rest of the participants.
Have they got the jitters about walking the ramp and facing a sea of people? 19-year-old Anita Gaonkar says confidently, “I have no fears whatsoever.” She adds, “This is our chance to show others that we are no less than anyone.”
Un till now most had just heard of what a fashion show is all about, come November 11, these kids can proudly boast they have walked the ramp. Stirred with excitement at having learnt quite a few fashion fundas, spirited Sampada Naik, a student of Dempo College, Miramar says “I never knew what a fashion show was. I merely heard that one gets to wear different dresses.” Adding to that 16-year-old Akshay Naik pipes in: “At first it was difficult for us to understand the concept, as it was new to us.”
The excitement has spilled over among their friend circle too. Marta says, “My friends in higher secondary told me that they will come for the show.”
Taha Haaziq, who teaches at the centre, says “The children were at first confused when we shared the idea of holding a fashion show with them. Gradually they warmed up to it. Looking at the fine job the children have done it will be hard to notice that the 20 children walking the ramp are visually challenged.” He adds that while getting things together, they encountered numerous problems, but there were always solutions lurking.
The showstopper for the fashion show is little Sumera Khan, all of 12 years. “I did not know what it means to be showstopper. Now I know. I have to walk in once the programme is over; I get to end the show.” How does she feel being chosen as the show stopper? Sumera blushes and says, “When they see me in my dress, all say I look beautiful.” Hard to refute that!
The fashion show has four rounds - The Traditional, the Ocean, Two Colours and Floral.
Shaheeda and Harshadwiti say that the traditional round is their favourite round, Marta names the two coloured round as her favourites. The reason being she loves strutting to the fast-paced music. For Anita it has got to be the Ocean round as her preferred colour is blue. 
Sai Dhekne, a volunteer at the NAB and the core force responsible for seeing the fashion show through says, “When I first came here, I had a different viewpoint about the children here. I thought they would be shy and slow. But I was wrong. People have wrong conceptions about these children, who I have realised can see much more than the sighted. They are talented and are a joy to be with.”
“When people come to know we have a difficulty doing a task, they make fun of us and tease us,” says Vinod Pandarphale studying in the ninth standard at a school in Santa Cruz. The other children nod in affirmation to this. It is a fact that they are often slighted because of their impairment. “If we get more marks, the students in school say that the writer writes for us,” says Sumera. 11-year-old Abhinav Naik speaks for all the visually challenged when he says, “I would like people to view us in the light that they do sighted children.”