|A Marathi language biography titled Manashri — Eka Drishtiheen Mulichi Netra-deepak Yashogatha (‘Manashri — A visually-impaired girl’s enlightening success story’), narrating an against-the-odds success story of Mumbai-based Manashri Soman (16), has just gone into its second edition after 2,000 copies flew off shelves in 90 days after its release in July (2008). Authored by Sumedh Risbud, the bio is the story of Manashri who despite crippling odds including blindness, a cleft lip and disjointed vertebrae, completed her secondary education averaging 80 percent in her class X SSC board exam, and established herself as an all-rounder by also winning the prestigious Balashree Award 2004, for musical accomplishment.
A celebrated champion of the physically challenged, Manashri recently toured Aurangabad, Nashik and Jalgaon where she was invited to interact with the media and people inspired by her story. Recounting a function for 1,200 visually-impaired students in Jalgaon which she addressed, Manashri says: “I spoke to the students and encouraged them to develop their self-confidence which makes all the difference. I also briefed them about the National Association for the Blind (NAB) and its several initiatives. I don’t believe that physically challenged people are disabled; they’re just differently-abled,” says Manashri.
Despite her numerous physical challenges, Manashri has some enviable achievements to her credit. She plays the harmonium and synthesizer and is preparing for her fifth level Sangeet Visharat exam of the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Delhi. She is also a malkhamb (traditional Maharashtrian gymnastics performed on ropes) exponent; a senior NAB trekker and has run the Mumbai Marathon twice.
Yet the accolade closest to her heart is the Balashree Award which she received from former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in 2004. To qualify for the award Manashri won the city, state, zonal and eight national level competitions.
Currently a first year (junior college) arts student of Mumbai’s prestigious St. Xavier’s College, Manashri wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps and qualify as a counsellor/ psychologist.
Speaking on behalf of the challenged population across the country whose number is estimated at a massive 21.9 million, Manashri makes a strong case for school and college managements to adopt and practice inclusive education. “Schools and colleges need to be more sympathetic to the needs of challenged children. We don’t need charity, just a fair deal and modest helping hand to become contributing members of society,” says Manashri, whose life is her message.
Harshikaa Udasi (Mumbai)