MAYILADUTHURAI: 17 years ago, a couple from Tiruvarur visited Arivagam Kuzhanthaigal Illam, a home for children with disabilities in Mayiladuthurai. They came with their new-born — a girl without her hands. The couple believed she would be a drain on their paltry income and a burden for life. They left their bundle of joy there.
A life without hands could indeed have been cruel, but Lakshmi wasn’t having none of it. With the help of her guardians at Arivagam and sheer willpower, she fought the disability tooth and nail. She learnt to use her toes to do most of her daily tasks, including taking notes in elegant script. Lakshmi practised Karagattam, a folk-dance form that require a performer to balance a decorated pot on their head.
In September 2017, the then 13-year-old Lakshmi gave a riveting performance before hundreds at the famous ghats of Kaveri Thula Kattam during the Kaveri Pushkaram festival. Among the many more who saw her dance in viral videos were her biological parents too.
Within days, the couple showed up at Arivagam to claim Lakshmi for themselves. The girl, however, preferred to stay back. “I was seeing my parents for the first time, but I told them I liked it here.
”Notably, Lakshmi learnt Karagattam all by herself. She even taught herself to use her legs to place Karagam on her head. J King Faizal, a folk artiste from Mayiladuthurai, said Lakshmi was an inspiration for all folk artistes. “It’s a humbling experience to watch her dance.”
The latest feather in her cap is her victory in Class 12 examinations scoring 277 marks, which won her praise from many quarters. Among her Wednesday’s (June 22) visitors were School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi, Environment Minister Siva V Meyyanathan, and Mayiladuthurai Collector R Lalitha. When they were conversing, Lakshmi sprang a surprise on the education minister by gifting him a sketch of his profile, which she had drawn just an hour before. An overwhelmed Mahesh lauded Lakshmi profusely for being such an inspiration.
Her guardians at the home said Lakshmi used her left toes to draw, paint, and even put mehendi on others’ hands. Again, none taught her to do all these but herself. “I want to be an artist; I want to perfect my skills,” said Lakshmi.Arivagam is happy for Lakshmi and hope to help many like her, despite its financial challenges. M Gnanasambantham, its secretary, said it’s success stories like hers that give them the strength to go on.