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On A Wednesday morning, little Purba Shikari woke up early and was ready for a big day ahead. Hours later, as she put on her Lord Krishna costume, applied make-up and listened to last-minute tips, excitement to perform on stage took over the jitters. What followed was a masterpiece with Purba and her friends delivered a nearly flawless Yashoda Maiyya performance for a packed house at Kalamandir. They also danced to a rakhi number and showcased a mime piece.
The little performers were all students of Care and Counselling Centre — a school in Kalighat that teaches mentally challenged, and hearing and speech impaired children.
Established in 1973, the school has more than 80 students from the lower middle class and underprivileged families. "They can't hear the song to which they are performing. If they miss a step, the whole performance can go awry. So, literally hours and hours of practice are done to put up a five-minute performance. But the smiles on the faces of the little ones, once it's over, make it all worthwhile," dance teacher Nilashree Ganguly said with a big smile after the performance.
Nilashree, who was standing on the right wing encouraging and instructing her students, has been a weekly visitor at Care and Counselling Centre for the past 10-odd years. Apart from being a full-time dance instructor, she also teaches these special kids and also takes classes for underprivileged children at Basti Welfare Centre in Ballygunge, where she has been sent by an NGO, which sponsors artistes to many needy schools.
"I have all kind of students, which include the so-called mainstream children, physically challenged, mentally challenged and even underprivileged kids. However, these special students of mine put in a lot more effort and determination in learning steps and routines," she said.
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