Unlike Heroes and Heroines of Bollywood movies, the real life characters possess limited abilities and skills. The truth is even though so called ‘abled people’ fail to exhibit expertise in all trades we do not brand them as incapable, But same logic is not applied to physically and mentally challenged brethren. A Sports Star, Martina Navratilova quotes, ‘Disability is just a matter of perception’ and many differently able personalities have proven this time and again.
This post is about Mrs. Sumithra Prasad mother of a boy by name Srinivas Prasad who is challenged with autism. She is the focal point of this post for two reasons. 1) As a mother of a boy with a disability, she fulfilled his dream to start a Bakery. 2) The Sai Bakery started by her is a place for many adults with a disability to groom their skills in Baking, Packaging and Marketing home grown products.
Mrs. Sumithra’s idea is simple; Small children with disability have numerous schools to get trained and educated. But parents of disabled young adult children are in an awkward situation of providing their wards with a work place to hone their skills and lead a life of self-esteem and respect. Initially, Sumithra Prasad was also in the same position. But she took her son Srinivas Prasad’s desire to start a bakery with utmost care, trained him in intricacies of bakery and started Sai Bakery. The team at Sai Bakery solely comprises of differently able interns. The Sai Bakery is not a place with a profit motive. It is a place to hone the strengths of these mates in physical, mental, social, psychological and economic domains so that they can feel contented for being productive members of the society. The important pointer about this Sai Bakery initiative is it particularly targets children with developmental disabilities which impair their neurological functions like autism, cerebral palsy and mental retardation. Even readers will be aware that physically disabled children can overcome their limitations with fewer impediments compared to neurologically impaired ones. The entire mission of Sai Bakery is parent-centric and is supported by an organization called DORAI-(Developmental Opportunities Resources Access Insight) Foundation.
A Typical Day at Sai Bakery
Sai Bakery is located in Chennai city of India and was started in September 2013 as a neighborhood initiative. A typical day starts here with all religion prayer by all members, followed by Yoga sessions and physical work outs. Sumithra Prasad and her team do not impose strict rules and regulations for these disable crew to stretch their bodies like sportsperson. But at the same time, the importance of prayer, yoga, and exercise for their well being is made clear to all members. Once the daily routine is done with, interns will get into their days work in baking, packing or marketing the products. The most important activity of the day is Lunch-Break. Every internee enjoys this session of the day thoroughly and is referred to as—“Sharing and caring time.” Also, they thoroughly enjoy weekend outings.
Apart from preparing and marketing delicious bakery products the team gets involved in craft works designing Thanks-Giving cards, up-cycling used bottles and provide them with aesthetic value in the market. They also get involved in terrace-gardening, newspaper reading and quiz sessions testing their general knowledge. Except for the daily commuting expenses rest of the needs of all interns is looked after by Sai bakery. Most interesting aspect of this mission is every intern’s abilities, interests and skills are assessed before training them in the appropriate domain.
Heart touching experiences with interns
Sumithra Prasad has rich everlasting experience by interacting with each member of this Sai Bakery. Shameena is one such internee at Sai bakery, who in her initial days was reluctant to even to go to the toilet alone and needed her mother as a companion has transformed so much that she travels alone to Bakery from her home. “Is it not a positive development?” asks delighted Sumithra.
“Anand who was a timid and shy person during his initial days at Bakery, Today dance, sing and make merry with his friends.”—adds Sumithra; her son Srinivasan has mastered the art of blending dough with perfection, which is, of course, a delightful sight for any mother. She has similar experiences with other members like Babu and Shoma.
Sumithra urges all of us to identify any particular day in the calendar and invite her folks to our work places so that they can get a platform to showcase their products and she also makes it a point to tell that selling the products for profit is not the sole intention.
Today many others across the nation have drawn inspiration from this initiative of Sumithra Prasad and her Sai Bakery and have started to tread the same path. We at Kalam Fan Club wish such personalities cherish and succeed to reach greater heights.