Different Dialogues : Dr. Mithu Alur

In conversation with Dr. Mithu Alur - Founder Chairperson, ADAPT (formerly The Spastics Society of India)
Educational background: Ph.D. entitled, 'Invisible Children: A Study of Policy Exclusion' from London University.

It is kind of a recurring miracle, to see Dr. Mithu Alur, every time. I should remember that when I use the word ‘miracle’, it prepares me to compare her dauntless spirit of determination – which did not turn to desperation and self-pity as substitutes. As far as the actual facts and theory go, Mithu comes from a privileged, scholarly Bengali family of Kolkata: who was left completely traumatized by the realities a) that her first born child, Malini, was severely exposed to Cerebral Palsy. b) Malini would be a total vegetable and therefore, to devote time to her development was going to be quite futile. Now to simply describe, Cerebral Palsy, it is an umbrella term encompassing a group of non-progressive, non-contagious motor-conditions that cause physical disability in human development, chiefly in the various areas of body movement.

Forty-four years later, today Malini has 2 Masters Degrees from London to her credit. One in Gender Study and the other in Information Management. For what Malini is today, hugely the credit goes to Mithu-the-mother, whose voice captured an important role in human and social development of other children. ADAPT students and supporters gradually started conducting attention to the right meaning of including the disabled to be given the needed importance to them, which was absolutely lacking before Dr. Alur made up her mind to face her personal challenge in dealing with her own child with special needs. She remembers clearly meeting a Health Minister at that time, who hearing the term Spastics, quipped, “Are you talking about – Plastics?” Well, that’s how ignorance reigned on matters regarding children with disabilities. Slowly and steadily, Dr. Alur has brought about effective public-private partnership in implementation of programmes to make disabled children able.

Today, Dr. Alur’s centers in Colaba and Bandra focus on education for all students with or without disabilities. From a special school started with just 3 children in 1972 by her, she is in a position to provide today services to more than 3,000 children and 10,000 families annually. These include assessment, treatment, inclusive education, counseling, skills-training and job placements. ADAPT is now moving towards creating an inclusive village model in Maharashtra (India) under the aegis of the Mithu Alur Foundation.

Q 1. What has been the turning point of your life?
A. Earlier, I had no cause or focus in my life. The turning point in my life was when Malini was born. It was also a turning point in the life of my family members. I got to know about Malini’s joys, sorrow, needs and her wants. I adapted my life to see what I could do best for Malini and for other Malini’s in the country. It was then that I began my journey… from one child it involved a million children in the country.

Q 2. If you could go back in time, what would you want to do?
A. I would love to pursue something creative, like drama, arts, music, singing, playing tennis and would like to make films.

Q 3. What are your future dreams?
A. I have something in mind… to start a National Centre for Inclusive Arts, and Music. I have a project like that in mind and this will be for the normal person as well as disabled people. I hope to achieve this Dream.

For further information, check website: www.adaptssi.org/home.html

Geeta Chhabra

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