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A chance to live. It is something we take for granted, but a chance that
the mentally challenged are often denied.

I was lucky enough that I could get chance to spend time and serve the mentally and physically challenged kids during the summer break at Bala Vihar, an NGO in the city of Chennai.

Often I used to complaint about the challenges I face in my daily life. Always thought that my life is a tough one as I am doing so many things – trying to complete a school research project, practicing for upcoming game of cricket or taking a SAT mock test. After meeting them, I realized what real challenges in life are. Real challenge is not that I could not score well in my cricket match or in my recent exam, actual challenge if I am not able to play cricket like others or I am not able to even read a word or see a thing like a normal child. It was an emotionally draining experience to start with.

It felt a bit weird to teach basic mathematics to children of my own age. I could however feel that each child was unique in his or her own way. One 10-year-old girl “Lakshmi” was so competitive in her wheelchair and dreamt of winning a gold medal for India in a para Olympics. Another 14 year old boy “Sarvanan” surprised me with his opening moves in a Chess game. I wondered how with some nurturing, these kids could contribute in a massive say to the society.

The best part was having a lunch with them in the common dining hall every day. No pizza or pasta, the simplest lunch you can imagine made them so happy and playful. My mom would say they were better mannered than me and my sister at home.

A summer which has changed my perspective of life, made me more thankful for the privileges I have, strengthened my resolve to serve the society and amplified my belief in God.

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