As I open the gate, I am
enthralled by the sheer talent and charm oozing from Rohan's paintings to which the walls
in his house bear a mute testimony. ("Some of them are incomplete", says Rohan
very defensively, "due to the lack of a bigger ladder"). I try to break away
from the profusion of brilliant paintings and a trail of exotic images that assail my
senses, as I am ushered into the house by a tall and affable lady who's played a pivotal
role in Rohan's life. "My older son is not mentally retarded contrary to what people
label him to be. He had a very normal birth and a normal childhood where he went through
the usual phases of swimming, cycling, climbing trees, turning things upside down, with
curiosity getting the better of him. Those were the days filled with sunshine and
laughter," she explains.
Initially, school was a haven
for Rohan, a paradise of sorts. Though later over the years teachers complained that Rohan
was very restless and would never keep still. Come adolescence and Rohan's whole world
came crumbling down, as if there was no tomorrow! He was becoming increasingly aware and
conscious of the fact that he was different and he could neither comprehend nor overlook
this painful yet growing awareness. Unfortunately, even some of his teachers began to
discriminate and expected him to meet the same standards as the rest of the boys in his
class. That's when he started feeling persecuted and started throwing tantrums in school.
Isolated and at the receiving end of many a nasty joke, he started receding into a
shell. His autistic tendencies made it difficult for him to comprehend the abstract, it was
only the concrete he could hold on to . As years slipped by, his problem with communication
skills which was getting more and more pronounced, pushed him to a point where he felt
every finger was pointing accusingly at him. He imagined that every remark was made to
belittle him. Unable to cope with the pressure he finally dropped out of school and this
is Rohan's biggest regret, an open wound which time has not yet healed and which still
evokes painful memories.
They tried to capture
Rohan's interest in music, typing and various other maze of interesting activities.
Eventually their patience and perseverance paid off because Rohan learnt typing and
discovered a passion for singing as well. He had just begun a new chapter in his
life when a family friend suggested that they should contact the legendary Mr. Wad who was
then tutoring his kids to paint. The optimistic couple decided to give it a try, yet were
so scared of rejection, that they sent him across with a well wisher and prayed for the
That day marked the turning
point in Rohan's life. Suddenly his palette of life was brimming with colours. His canvas
turned out to be a sheer release for all that unchanneled raw energy and fire in him. In
Mr.Wad, Rohan found a mentor, a teacher who helped him touch new heights and experience
the sheer joy that painting brought.
Each painting is a portrayal
of a different emotion, each evoking awe and is a tribute to the artist. Painting and
drawing is sheer pleasure and delight for him. He is so engrossed and enthralled in his
own world that he loses touch with everything around him. Such is his power of
If Rohan is a thorough
gentleman today with all his impeccable manners, it's due to his father Mr.Sonalkar.
"To be accepted and live in society you have to follow certain norms and rules. You
have to be disciplined," avers his father. The Sonalkars believe that they have
started looking at life differently, thanks to Rohan. They have become more sensitive and
aware of other people's problems and this has also reinforced their faith in human nature.
In the final analysis, they perceive that if you are ready to acknowledge your problem,
people are ready to bail you out of a tough situation.
Though concerned about
Rohan's future, their attitude radiates their tenacity and pluck, as they take one day at a