National Award elevates young achiever

Venkat Raman

More than ten years ago, we told Jaimini and Arun Devta, parents of Muskan that she was ‘A Special Child with Special Abilities’ and that she would bring pride not only to her family but also to the community and the country.

Since then, we have often written about her progress at school and at home. That was until 2013, when she started writing columns in this newspaper.

Even as a five-year-old child, Muskan could read our opinion pages, ask intelligent questions and express her dismay as to why she did not have “as many friends as everyone else did.”

We told her that those who thought she was ‘different’ would discover in due course that she was “a child with a difference.’

Attitude Award

Muskan won the Inaugural Junior Award at the ‘Attitude Awards’ Presentation Ceremony held in Auckland in December 2014.

She was not at the Ceremony- Muskan was in India giving newspaper, radio (including BBC) interviews and appearing on television in addition to pursuing a number of other interests.

TV News Presenter Simon Dallow hosted the Awards Ceremony held at the Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland.

Muskan was born premature and hence carried symptoms of ‘underdevelopment.’

She was diagnosed with ‘Partial Hemiplegia,’ meaning that one-half of her body was weaker than the other.

Hope on New Zealand

Extremely concerned, they migrated to New Zealand in 2004 hoping that Muskan would receive better medical attention and education and become a ‘normal person.’ But adapting to a new country, language and school came with its challenges. She became extremely shy and a bookworm.

Reading led to passion and talent for writing. When she was nine years of age, she wrote and published a story about Lord Ganesha, explaining how the Remover of Obstacles got an elephant’s head.

Proceeds from the book went for purchase of an exercise bicycle for the ‘Wilson Home’ in Takapuna, where Muskan received treatment for her condition.

“I did not even realise when reading and writing became my strength. I loved reading and writing. In fact, I grew so fond of it that my teachers began asking me to help them edit the work of my peers,” she said.

Her Autobiography

In 2013, Muskan published her autobiography, ‘I Dream,’ to raise money for Starship Children’s Hospital where she underwent long-awaited corrective surgery.

Last month she donated $500 of her birthday money to support the ‘Breakfast Club,’ a programme providing breakfast for low decile schools in Auckland. Her future goal is to fundraise to build a girls’ school in the small village of Orissa, India.

Talk Shows

A shy girl no more, fundraising and writing have given Muskan a huge confidence boost. She presents a popular programme on Radio Tarana called ‘Aap Aur Muskan’ (You and Muskan). She was School Captain and even gave a TEDx talk last month.  Now she can add an Attitude Award to her achievements.

TED is a non-profit organisation devoted to ‘Ideas Worth Spreading.’ It began as a conference in California 26 years ago and has grown to support world-changing ideas with many initiatives.

TEDx is a programme of local, self-organised events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.

Rewarding Kiwis

We do not consider her ‘disabled,’ but the National Awards celebrated the excellence and achievements of Kiwis living with a disability.

Mary Fisher, the 21-year-old Paralympic Swimmer won the ‘Overall Attitude ACC Supreme Award.’

The Awards have grown out of the Attitude TV series, which screens on TV One on Sundays at 830 am.

Attitude Awards Trustee Dan Buckingham, a member of the elite national wheelchair Rugby team the ‘Wheel Blacks,’ said that the Awards are about raising expectations around what is achievable for people living with disabilities.

“We celebrated (on December 3) winners across a range of categories, but really the aim of the Awards is to change people’s perceptions about this broad and diverse sector of society. So in that sense, all 24 finalists are winners and fantastic role models,” he said.

Other Winners

Other Attitude Award winners are Matthew Weir (Courage in Sport), Craig Jessop (Spirit of Attitude), Corey Peters (Sport Performer of the Year) Mary Fisher (Youth and ACC Supreme Award), Paul Barrett (Artistic Achievement), Selwyn Cook, SSC Service Stations (ACC Employer Award) and Lyn Cotton (Making a Difference).  John Baldwin Munro was inducted in the Attitude Hall of Fame and Jess Quinn took home the People’s Choice Award.

ACC Chief Executive Scott Pickering said that ACC is proud to be principal sponsor of the Awards for the seventh consecutive year, including sponsorship of the Attitude ACC Employer Award and the Attitude ACC Supreme Award.

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