Musical troupe gives performance to raise money for disabled womenÕs hostel in India

by Sally Claunch
The Shorthorn staff

Paul Muddha does not spend his life thinking about his disability, but instead he explores the possibilities.

He has a long list of accomplishments: He is a bank officer, singer and mountain climber and has a master's of business administration degree.

He is also blind.

The center, which began as a student project in 1989, was slated to close early last year due to continued financial losses. However, it has remained open. The Dallas YWCA branch, which had owned the facility since 1991, tried unsuccessfully for 18 months to sell the center.

Community leaders, including those for Arlington Human Service Planning, a partnership between the United Way and the City of Arlington, became involved and tried to create a relationship between the YWCAs of Fort Worth and Dallas to transfer the center's ownership.

Muddha is the founder of Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, an organization that helps the disabled in India by teaching them self-reliance, promoting their musical talents and enabling them to pursue higher education.

"I had no parents, but I was brought up by Christian adoptive parents who kept me as one of their own children," he said. "They said I should help other blind people, and that was the momentum that instigated me to start the organization."

His organization has formed a music troupe that travels around the country performing. The members of the troupe, blind or deaf artists from India, will perform at 5 p.m. Sunday in the University Center Rosebud Theatre.

They will play popular songs from Hindi films while they sing and dance.

"We have beautiful dancers who cannot hear, and blind people who sing and play," he said.

The group is performing here to raise money for a hostel in Bangalore, India, that houses disabled women so they can go to college. The hostel, which is run by the organization, provides the women with tuition, books, food and helps them get scholarships.

"We have a lot of brilliant people who do not have the opportunity to go to college," he said.

There is not enough space in the hostel for all the women who want to live there, so Muddha is devoting his time off working to raise money to expand the hostel.

The Indian Student Association is sponsoring the troupe during its stay in Arlington by providing them with accommodations and food.

Sukumar Bhasker, an alumnus who continues to take part in the association, said the group wanted the troupe to come here because it is a good cause.

"There are a lot of Indian students here," he said. "The performance is for Indian students to get exposure and to do something for the country."

Namratha Gurubasappa, 19, is a dancer with the troupe. Although she is deaf, she can feel the vibrations in the floor and follow the music. She also lives in the hostel and is studying computer science in college.

Muddha said that although the Indian government helps children with disabilities, older people, such as Gurubasappa, don't have the opportunity or the support from the government to attend college.

"In our society, people don't come forward to help the disabled," he said.

Muddha explained that one of the chief differences between India and America is that here, the Americans with Disabilities Act allows students with disabilities to attend college and get accommodations to be successful. He said that is not the case in India.

"In India, we have (disability) laws too, but they're not so strictly followed and are not practiced," he said.

Muddha said the troupe hopes that about 500 people attend the show. He expects to make about $7,000 or $8,000, but it alone is not enough to expand the hostel.

"All together, we need about $30,000 or $40,000 to expand the hostel," he said.

After the troupe performs here, they will go to New Jersey and Washington D.C. to perform and raise more money.

Tickets for the performance can be purchased at the Rosebud Theater at show time and are $7, $10, and $15. University students can get the $7 seats for $4.

For more information or to purchase tickets early, please contact Prakash Bhasker at 461-5200 or Amudha Venkataswamy at 275-3833.

Sally Claunch





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