Hers is a spirit no disability could steal away

Leena and Rajiv Khaneja had decided that if their first-born be a girl they would name her Mallika. The much-awaited baby girl was born in 1996 to the couple, but affected by asphyxia — as the umbilical cord wound itself around her neck resulting in damage — she suffered cerebral palsy, affecting both her mind and body.

It was a dismal situation, but Mallika’s doctor father and counsellor mother did not lose faith in trying to make it all right for their child. Today at 22, Mallika has won viewers for her art and is all geared to complete here masters in fine arts from the Chandigarh College of Art this summer.

At a show put together by students some months ago, one was attracted to a panel of six frames of elephants in different movements for its sheer spontaneity and freedom, reminding one of the Baby Elephant Walk song of the 1960s. Thus began the search for this artist with a difference.

Girl with a ready smile

Living with her parents in Panchkula, Mallika is a girl with a ready smile. Her portfolios of works done in the college show her ability with colour and form. She speaks honestly and diction is good. However, reaching where she is now was not easy.

From Toddlers World in Panchkula to Saupin’s School there till Class 8 and then onto Bhavan Vidyalaya, Panchkula, she finally was tested for her ability to take up art as one of the subjects. Raman Miglani who was the art teacher found that she was willing to learn.

“We started from crisscross lines to easy shapes. She moved one step at a time, but did so spending long hours, and I am so happy to see her completing her master’s in art,” says Raman.

Leena, her mother, says, “We learned there was one seat for a special student in the College of Art and she competed for it and got admission.”

She is the first student with cerebral palsy to be availing this facility, for earlier this seat had gone to students who were speech and hearing impaired or with such other medical issues.

Popular with friends

Hugely popular with lots of friends, she is a very accepted person in the peer group. Her classmate Ujjwal Chatle says, “Her spirit is appreciable as also her confidence.”

Gurjeet Singh, a talented sculptor in her class, adds: “For five years, our class has been one family and Mallika is an integral part of it.”

Well-groomed and dressed in trendy clothes, Mallika is the happy-go-lucky girl next door. Her mother reveals: “Her grooming and dressing she owes to Mehar, her sister, who is two years younger to her. Mehar has helped her in every area from studies to clothes and other things.”

And whither now that her art training is being completed? “I would like to rest a little because I have worked too hard and then return to my colours.” Maybe, she adds, that a solo show happens this year. Atta girl, keep it up!

First Published: Feb 19, 2019 21:59 IST

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