The Optimist Citizen

From desolate confinement to a healer, the AAYAM of Viva Joshi never ends

It took her 2 years and tremendous amount of courage, to come out of her situation and face the world. But when she did it, she brought smiles on many faces. Studying in the best school and college of her city, gave her a vibrant personality, but not any inner peace. Just like any other privileged child, Viva too followed the beaten path, working with MNCs, and leading a married life in a loving family. Until one day, a beauty product reacted with her skin, landing her in a life and death situation. After 6 months of treatment, she confined herself within the four walls, with shattered confidence and an uncertain future.

L-R Aaaayam School building
L-R Aaaayam School building

The trauma continued for 2 years, with many failed attempts at regaining her confidence. And when one day she got an invitation to attend a prestigious conference in Mumbai, she grabbed it. Coming out of the shell, was as if getting reborn. In a crowd, where every face had some trauma behind it, Viva found her’s to be the happiest one. As she tried to console others in distress, the conversation with a mother of a disabled child changed her world, when the lady responded that her child was not disabled, but she was disabled herself for not being able to help her different child.

Students of Aaayam learning through play and study
Students of Aaayam learning through play and study


Viva had found her new mission in life. Under the guidance of the renowned Professor, Vibha Krishna Murthy, she understood everything about Autism and completed her Diploma in the subject. The next step was to start an inclusive school, that had disabled, autistic and normal children, all under the same roof. ‘AAYAAM – The school for All’ was based on a simple concept: ‘when they can’t learn the way we teach, we should teach the way they learn’.

After a rigorous survey through the slums of Bhopal, she managed 25 students for her school. “Counseling the parents of these children was the biggest task for me, and just to make these kids attend my school I had to pay Rs 100/- every day to each and and every Parent. But now, after witnessing the improvement in their children, the Parents are coming and returning me that money”, says Viva with teary eyes. Along with proper studies, AAYAAM trains the children into different extra curricular activities according to the inclinations of the children like cooking, gardening, art etc.

Turning her hobby into a profession, Viva sells her paintings through Arunim – a famous NGO in Mumbai, and all the sales proceeds are poured into the development of AAYAM and the little children. The Director of the Forum of Social Justice recently visited AAYAAM personally and registered it under his department, so that the school reaches greater heights. Under this registration in 2015, Viva carried out an overall health check up for every child in her school, got their identity cards made, and opened their individual bank accounts. When asked, how to treat a different child, Viva said: “It’s simple. Encourage his strengths, celebrate his quirks and improve his weaknesses, the way you would do with any child”.

Two incidents unfurled two pages of her life, changing it from a privileged one to a traumatic one, and then to a committed cause. Viva Joshi is a person who doesn’t want her thoughts to die with her, rather she wants to make a positive contribution, and leave something behind.

Story by : Tanima Chakraborty  |  Compiled by : Abhishek Tilatiya

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