Geeta Poduval believes arts has the power to transform the lives of disabled people
DRZYA is an organisation started by Mumbai-based Geeta Poduval. Geeta believes that arts has the power to change the lives of disabled people for the better. Not just artists, even para sportspersons are part of DRYZA.
Geeta Poduval juggles roles with ease. An actor, anchor, mentor and motivational speaker, Geeta has touched many lives with her grace and compassion. But her favourite role is that as the founder of DRZYA, an organisation that empowers people with disabilities. Geeta has been working closely with hundreds of people with disabilities from across India. She has been taking her cause forward through DRZYA. Geeta shares her inspiring journey and what she has in store for India’s disabled community.
Building bridges with the disabled community
Brought up in Ahmedabad, Geeta was working as a government employee for over two decades. She decided to take an early retirement to follow her dreams. By chance, she happened to work in two Malayalam films which did fairly well at the box office. She was flooded with shows to anchor in India and abroad. But until then, she never had a close interaction with a disabled person.
In 2014 I was anchoring a show and I came across a wheelchair dance group. The group had six wheelchair artists and three other artists who were deaf. Watching them perform was an emotional experience for me. I was touched by what I saw. Their mind-blowing performance is what made me start to think about the disabled community- Geeta Poduval, Founder, DRZYA.
Soon, the group was invited over to the Middle East to perform for a show through Geeta. But her interaction with the founder of the group was an unpleasant one. “I realised that if he could behave to me in an unpleasant way, he could do that with the disabled girls in the group. Especially those who are deaf. Upon my return back to India, I moved on from it. In 2016, I got a call from one of the team members seeking my help. They had lost their confidence and I had to get it back”, she says. Thus began Geeta’s journey as a mentor with the wheelchair dance group.
Launch of DrZyA to empower disabled people
In order to empower more people with disabilities, Geeta decided to start something on her own. That is how DRZYA was formed. “After being successfully associated with the wheelchair group, I started getting calls from a lot of disabled people in India. They wanted me to mentor and empower them. So I had to start something on my own. I’am glad that DRZYA was formed. It was a turning point in my life”, she says.
DRZYA has spread their reach across India in a short span of time. Geeta and her team ensures to connect to each person in a personal manner to make them feel comfortable. Those who are interested in arts are given a whole new platform to experiment. They identify dancers, musicians and para sportsmen, especially those who have been side-lined by the society in spite of showcasing their talents. DRZYA aims to open new doors of opportunities for such disabled people. “Isn’t it our fault that we do not know such talents? Our mainstream actors and sportspeople are given so much hype. But talented people from disabled community face discrimination”, says Geeta.
New Drzyashakti Trust for disabled children
DRZYA hopes to empower disabled people and provide them with economic independence. Even disabled children are given education and other opportunities through the recently started Drzyashakti Trust. They have been running classes for communication and social skills for children with disabilities. It is mostly volunteers who train them.
“Parents come and tell us that their kids have improved after being a part of our trust. Their skills are enhancing. Hearing this is an over-whelming experience for me”, says Geeta. “More than technical skills, a person needs the will-power, empathy and patience to reach out to their fellow beings. DRZYA has touched the lives of ten thousands of disabled people from across India. I want to break stereotypes. I undergo so many rejections every day. But all that won’t stop me from empowering the disabled community”, says Geeta.
Success story at DRZYA
Chandrayee Dutta from Kolkata is visually impaired. A student of masters in social work, Chandrayee is an artist who has been a part of DRZYA for the last few years. A proud Chandrayee says, “I recently paid my semester fees of up to Rs 30,000 from the money I earned from DRZYA performances. That was such a happy moment for me. I came to know about DRZYA from another visually impaired friend. I’am glad I’am associated with them. Now, I’am a dancer, singer and theatre artist with DRZYA”.
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