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June 2, 2005

Magic opens doors for disabled

From: Calcutta Telegraph, India - Jun 2, 2005

- Physically challenged troupe of illusionists ready to take the stage A STAFF REPORTER

Guwahati, June 2: His is the classic story of the human spirit triumphing over adversity.

For 23 years, Prince Choudhury lived a difficult life made more dreadful by the fact that he is deaf-mute and unable to use one leg. But the tide seems to be turning for this physically challenged youth — Prince is on the verge of embarking on a career as a professional magician after a successful six-month training stint at the Vocational Rehabilitation Centre in Guwahati.

Prince's formal debut will be with the country's first troupe of physically challenged magicians in New Delhi on September 23. The 15-member group was trained by city-based magician Sudhansu Das under a project financed by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard). An ecstatic Prince conveyed through an instructor at the rehabilitation centre that he was "overjoyed" at learning something he had not even dreamt about. "He is quite excited about the show in New Delhi and hopes to mesmerise the audience with his magic tricks," the instructor said.

Another member of the troupe, Uma Roy, said she wanted to strike out on her own after improving her skills. Uma, who has a partial hearing problem, already feels confident on stage, having performed with the troupe at a few places as part of an "acclimatisation programme" to drive away beginner's nerves.

R. Lakshmana Samy, assistant director of the rehabilitation centre, said: "Physically challenged persons have been professionally trained to perform magic shows on stage for the first time in the country and we are proud to have completed the project successfully."

The official expressed concern over lack of employment opportunities for people with disabilities across the country. "Given the situation, we focus on activities that physically challenged people normally do not participate in. Apart from the batch of magicians, we chose 15 people each for courses in flower designing and beauty treatment. We intend to start new courses in mobile, xerox machine and LPG stove repairing."

The rehabilitation centre has identified over 23,000 physically challenged people under five categories — orthopaedically challenged, hearing impaired, visually impaired, mild mentally challenged and leprosy-cured — for training courses tailored to suit their strengths.

"Our aim is to access the residual abilities of physically challenged people and accordingly fit them into suitable jobs or self-employed ventures through vocational and educational training," Samy said.

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