HSY joins hands with NOWPDP and brings celebrities such as Mahira Khan and Humayun Saeed, along with activist and person of disability, Imran Ghanchi to launch a very special Tuk Tuk March.
It was a beautiful Sunday evening in Karachi, filled with hope and celebration even though circumstances nowadays allow little room for either of those. The pandemic may have dampened the spirits of many around the world but despite the hardships, fashion designer Hasan Shehryar Yasin (HSY) and NOWPDP, a disability inclusion initiative working in the areas of education and economic empowerment, pushed through the limitations and brought together an experience that was worth living through for mediapersons, activists, persons of disabilities and even celebrities.
A Tuk Tuk March was conducted on the streets of Saddar, where celebrities got a chance to be seated with their captains in customized, one-of-a-kind, hand-controlled rickshaws in a bid to promote the need for transport and economic empowerment for all persons with disabilities. The word khud-mukhtari (self-reliance) was echoed by everyone present at the event.
It was delightful to see the number of celebrities to come out in support of the initiative and what a starry affair it was! The likes of Humayun Saeed, Waseem Akram, Mahira Khan, Sanam Saeed, Ayesha Omar, Bilal Ashraf, Maya Ali and Feroze Khan had all flocked down to People’s Square and took out time in their busy schedules. At a time when most celebrities are monetizing everything they do on social media, their participation in the Tuk Tuk March was purely out of goodwill and zero monetary compensation. They all wanted to highlight the need for creating conversation around disability and to reduce the stigma around persons of disability so that they may be included in all social and economic developments.
A panel discussion, hosted by HSY, had celebrities discussing the matter at length. Mahira Khan suggested that disability needs to be normalized in popular culture, free from ridicule or pity. “There was a character in my film Verna who had polio, and that was a small attempt at normalizing disability on screen. But we need to do that so that persons with disabilities can be shown doing ordinary things that others can. They too can fall in love and marry and work and do all the things that they aspire to do,” she said, while also adding that something as simple as ramps are missing from most public spaces in Pakistan. Sanam Saeed shared that parents need to do their part in teaching inclusivity to the next generation. Humayun Saeed spoke about his brother’s experience with disability and how the only thing that mattered to him was economic independence.
HSY conducted a panel discussion in order to create awareness and a conversation but also went one step further by ensuring that all celebrities offer pledges for what they could do in their scope of influence to keep challenging the current scenario for persons of disabilities. Mahira Khan offered promotion on her digital platform, Mashion, Wasim Akram offered mentorship sessions and Ayesha Omar said she would use her social media influence to talk about the issue regularly.
Imran Ghanchi, the mind behind these retro-fitted rickshaws, was then invited to the stage. A person of disability and a member of NOWPDP, Ghanchi painstakingly designed these rickshaws himself and announced to anyone who was listening that persons of disabilities are even capable of flying planes, if only they are given a fair shot.
The event truly was a success in every possible way. Each celebrity was taken for a ride in one of these customized rickshaws and it was a treat to see celebrities equally excited at this initiative and its implications for people who are often marginalized in our society. And as HSY pointed out, this strata of society is a considerably large one - nearly 15 percent of Pakistan’s population, 30 million people suffer from disabilities and the stigmas and economic impairment that come with it.
Mahira Khan took pictures of and with the captains, while Maya Ali made the effort to individually give her thanks and support to all the captains, especially Ghanchi, and called him her hero. Bilal Ashraf kept everyone’s energy and spirit up by dancing to the dhol walas and HSY was beaming with positivity, as he should be, for lending his and his powerful friends’ influence to a much-needed conversation. Not only did he bring some very powerful names together, he did so with so much vigour and enthusiasm, which only someone passionate about the cause could muster.
Speaking with Aamna Imam, Senior Associate of External Management at NOWPDP, one learnt that currently there are 11 rickshaws available that are being driven by trainees of NOWPDP but others can donate money to the cause and sponsor either a rickshaw or nominate a person of disability by connecting him or her to the organization.
It was a celebratory mood because not only did NOWPDP and HSY create awareness and opportunities for those who are often marginalized, they did so ensuring everyone had one heck of an evening too. The entire tuk tuk ride around Saddar was filled with sounds and sights of laughter, whistles, clapping and marching to the beat of a different drum.