The dictionary definition of a ceramist is one who makes ‘works of art’. This is certainly an apt description for Shaurya, a 30-year-old ceramist who runs an art studio in Gurugram along with his mother, Nina Mehrotra.
The special thing about Shaurya is that he has Down Syndrome.
Working with clay to make these beautiful works requires patience, dedication, and vast amounts of creativity. All of which Shauraya has.
Named Banana Studio, this place is Shaurya’s little heaven. Having travelled across South Africa, Thailand, and China, Shaurya has been trained by various artists and has got some wonderful exposure thanks to all the travelling.
We, at The Better India, spoke to Nina, Shaurya’s mother about raising a child with Down Syndrome, travelling the world discovering new things, and starting Banana Studio, a place where her son can express himself.
“Shaurya is my only son, and ever since he was born, we kept moving from one place to another owing to the transferable job that my husband had. Shaurya has been in and out of various schools. We realised after a while that academics was not for him.”
“He was about 19 when we figured out that his interest lay in art. We were in South Africa and his interest in clay was something that was coming through very strongly. It was at a residential place for special children that we met Brenda, a professional potter.”
Brenda took Shaurya under her wings and trained him for the three years that we were there, says Nina. His interest in this art form only grew from there.
“The nice part about all the travels was that we managed to find little pockets where Shaurya learnt various styles and techniques. Whether it was in Thailand or South Africa, our experience was always good,” she says.
It was in Thailand that Nina also started learning the art so that she could accompany Shaurya and work alongside him.
In 2013, they moved back to India, and that was when Banana Studio came into being. In building the studio, Nina wanted to have a place where families could just go and chill together.
Shaurya has now started exhibiting his work at various avenues in and around Delhi/NCR. Nina says, “People have started noticing his work and commenting on the distinct characteristic that his work has.”
“It genuinely makes me a very proud mother. Until then I always viewed his pieces as his voice and expression but having people like his work has changed that for me.”
Speaking about how children with special needs are treated in India and other countries she says, “South Africa has such wonderful places where children with special needs can stay and blossom.”
Speaking about Thailand, she says, “Thailand was great as well. It is such a beautiful place for children with special needs. People are so accepting there. There is so much difference between India and Thailand in this respect.”
In India, people already have so many problems of their own that special needs are low on the ladder. So here people have to make an effort to understand these children, she says.
“In India, we have to shout to the world that these guys can do something,” says Nina.
For Nina, Shuarya was her only child, and she focussed all her energy on ensuring that she helped him find a place for himself. Shaurya is a happy person, who enjoys the company of people, and in creating Banana Studio, Nina wanted to provide him with his space.
A few points that Nina mentions we must start practising:
1. Have an open mind
Children with special needs are just like you and me. We need to stop labelling and start accepting.
2. Be empathetic
A little kindness will always take you a long way. Take a step back and look at what lies in front of you.
3. Don’t be fearful
Whether you are a parent of a special needs child or know one, don’t be afraid of them. There might be good days and bad days, learn to embrace them both.
4. Be there for your kid
As a parent ensure that you are your child’s biggest support. Once they find that in you there is nothing that can stop them from achieving what they wish to.
Nina also mentions how as a family they have always taken Shaurya out to all social gatherings.
“My husband and I have always taken Shaurya everywhere, whether the movies or a social gathering. That has instilled in Shaurya the confidence to face people,” she says.
As we end our conversation, Nina says she takes each day as it comes and only wants happiness for Shaurya. “Sometimes in looking at the larger picture we forget to appreciate the present.”
If you are in Delhi/NCR and wish to visit Banana Studio, you could check their Facebook page for all details.