Aditi Shah is a Therapist and part of the Mental Health Team at Ummeed Child Development Center, Mumbai. Along with holding a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology, she has been trained in Narrative Ideas and Practices and her work involves working with children with disabilities and their families and providing them with mental health support on an ongoing basis.
Aparna is one of the most memorable names in badminton. She is a 2-time Olympian and has won 4 medals at Commonwealth Games. With a silver medal, she became the first Indian to win a medal at the World Junior Championships in 1996. She has won 16 titles in 17 years At the National Championships including 9-consecutive Senior National titles (equalling Padma Shri Prakash Padukone national record). She was Conferred with the Arjuna Award in 2005 and retired as India’s no 1 player who remained undefeated at the National Championships. She was one of the 17 participants to be selected from around the world and the lone Indian to be selected for the Global Sports Mentoring Programme 2012, an initiative promoted by Hillary Clinton, former US Secretary of State and EspnW. This prestigious programme was aimed at empowering women and girls through sport. Today she gives back to Indian sport through coaching, mentoring, tv commentary, sitting on Government committees and has served as the Executive Director of the Olympians Association of India.
Farah Maneckshaw is a Junior Therapist at Ummeed Child Development Center. She also freelances as a journalist writes about mental health-related subjects from a sociopolitical lens
Krishna Patel is a founder/choreographer at Krishna’s Choreography.With over 9 years of teaching experience, he has worked with many NGOs such as Aashiyana Foundation, Salam Bombay Foundation, MSWC Street Children Project, Happy Feet Home and schools – American school of bombay and Kids Concept through dance. He is also an Arts-Based Therapist.
Parul Kumtha is mother to Kabir who has set up and runs his entrepreneurial venture ‘Kabir’s Kreations’ with help from his parents. She is a founder trustee of Forum for Autism and has co-founded Adult Support Kendra (a project with Yash Charitable Trust). ASK provides mental health support to persons with developmental disabilities and their families. Parul is also a practicing Universal Design Architect.
Pravin is a therapist and a trainer with Ummeed’s Mental Health team. Guided by the Narrative Ideas and Diversity & Inclusion, he co-creates multiple possibilities with children, families and communities. He uses art, technology, imagination and playfulness to make visible people’s lived realities and expertise. He loves spending time with kids, talking to plants, bike rides and evening Chai!
Ranjana Chakraborty has done her Masters in Microbiology and had worked in the pharmaceutical and education sector for 8 years. She is an enthusiastic parent professional who has been working in this field since 2011. She is a special educator and a proactive board member at Autism Society West Bengal. Her current work is being highly influenced by the narrative ideas, where she strives to bring forward the wonderfulness in other’s lives. Her main focus area is individuals with Autism and their families across different array of work. She is also the coordinator for YAAR (Young Adults with Autism Reachout)-a social club for young adults at ASWB.
Smita works at the intersection of gender, sexuality, and technology with a focus on digital rights, holistic digital security, and digital storytelling. Based out of New Delhi, India, they can generally be found wandering the cyberspace, or hunting for good coffee.
Sushama Nagarkar has her doctorate in Special Education from the University of Missouri and is a nationally certified school psychologist in the US. Six years ago, Sushama and her daughter returned to India after spending 15 years in the US where she worked as a psychologist in the public schools. In 2014, she set up Yash Charitable Trust, an NGO with the vision that persons with developmental disabilities will live and work in the community of their choice with dignity and self-respect. She works in an honorary capacity as the Managing Trustee. Besides this, Sushama has been a registered Rehabilitation Psychologist (RCI) and currently works as a technical consultant on a part-time basis with the Morris Foundation, Pune. Morris Foundation provides support services for students with learning disabilities. Sushama has also worked with other educational entities such as the Gateway School, Mumbai; and the Bubbles Center for Autism in Bangalore. Sushama is a resource person for the Forum for Autism and travels to conduct workshops and training activities. She also consults with and does counseling for families of persons with disabilities. Sushama additionally has taught graduate and undergraduate level classes for U.S. universities in an on-line format. Being that she is a parent of an adult with autism, Sushama brings to her work a rather unique perspective of walking the walk and not just talking the talk. Sushama considers herself a life-long student of Yoga. Other interests include reading, trekking and the outdoors.
Amrita Nair with a Bachelors’ degree in Psychology from Mumbai University, and a Masters’ degree in Social Entrepreneurship from TISS, is a part of the founding team of Apni Shala. Before cofounding Apni Shala, Amrita worked with the Akanksha Foundation and Aasara Home for boys. She has also been trained in personal counseling and Rational emotive behaviour therapy. Since 2013, she has been a facilitator of Theatre of the oppressed. She was part of the DBS-TISS Social Entrepreneurship Programme from 2013 to 2016 and a WIPRO seeding fellow (2017). In 2016, she attended the New Leader’s Week with the National SEED project and has been facilitating Mumbai based groups on Diversity and Inclusion. She is a Library Educator trained at Bookworm Goa in 2019 and currently, she is working as the Director of R&D and Advocacy at Apni Shala.
When Bijal Vachharajani is not reading a children’s book, she is editing or writing one. A senior editor at Pratham Books, she has a Masters in Environment Security and Peace from the University for Peace. She is part of Nalanda Academy’s Abhiyan Library movement and believes that reading and nature have magical powers. She is now a certified climate worrier.
Indrani Basu completed graduation in education and trained as a teacher from thedepartment of education London University. She has eleven years of teaching experience at mainstream schools in India. During the time she was teaching both her sons were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. After the diagnosis of her sons she trained as a special educator. She is the founder and director of Autism society West Bengal in Kolkata. The organization runs a number of services; Parent Training, Early Intervention Unit, Special School, and Vocational Unit. Indrani conducts workshops at mainstream schools creating awareness and understandingof inclusive education for children with ASD. ASWB has a special unit that providessupport and remedial teaching to students with ASD attending mainstream schools.She is a resource person for a number of organizations in India and Bangladesh.She has co authored a number of papers and books on special education.
Lavanya Karthik is a writer and illustrator of children’s books. She is the author of over twenty picturebooks and middle grade novels , and has illustrated for several Indian and international publishers. She is the author of picture books like ‘Neel on Wheels’ and ‘A Walk with Thambi’ that celebrate inclusivity, and the creator of the Ninja Nani series of middle grade novels. Her tactile books Who Am I? and Cat, Come Back! were among the finalists at the National Tactile Book Competition organized by the Chetana Trust in 2018. Where Am I? won a commendation and prize as Best Interactive Book, while Cat, Come Back! is forthcoming as a picture book from Karadi Tales.
Pearl D’Souza is an illustrator and visual artist from Goa, India. Her work reflects her passion for mental health, gender, feminism, body positivity and social good. She also has a keen eye for local design and storytelling, and is fascinated by market places. Pearl is a proud plant mom, and is often found drawing botanicals in her journals. She has a degree in Design from Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore, where she focused on illustration for storytelling.
Rakshita Shekhar is an Autistic self advocate and a consultant for inclusive education. Her special interests are autism, pedagogy and inclusion. She loves to sing, swing and roll on the bed with her husband and son. Her advocacy efforts are geared towards providing safe spaces for Autistic people to express their unique identities, enabling them to advocate for themselves, educating the society on the neurodiversity paradigm and bridging conflicts between Autistic and non Autistic people so that all may live and let live.
Raviraj is an occupational therapist and library educator at Ummeed Child Development Center. His work is informed by occupational justice, sensory integration, narrative practices, queer writings and disability justice. He believes that all the problems in this world are rooted in structures of oppression rather in our bodies or identities. He wonders about hosting his mum cooked dinner and invite Mary oliver, Bell hooks, Rilke and Foucault.
Sanjana Kapur enjoys interacting with children. She has designed and conducted various workshops in different schools across India. She is always on the lookout for new stories to tell and can usually be found scribbling in a notebook. Her first full-length novel, ‘Ruckus on the Road’, was published by Penguin, which she co-authored with her sister, Aparna Kapur. She has also written two picture books, ‘Shh…What’s that?’ and ‘Who Stole Bhaiya’s Smile’ for Pratham Books. She is the Associate Editor at Amar Chitra Katha and never tires of telling people that she writes comics for a living!
The Shor Poetry Group
Shor is a community where different people express their stories through poetry or storytelling. It is an open community where anyone can come and share their story. We are in hope of creating a safe place for expression where people can seek healing and come together for the magic of stories; Shor.
Anand Kumtha is father to Kabir who has set up and runs his entrepreneurial venture ‘Kabir’s Kreations’ with the help from his parents. Anand is a core group member of Adult Support Kendra (a project with Yash Charitable Trust), which provides mental health support to persons with developmental disabilities and their families and of Forum for Autism. In the college in which he teaches, he heads the counseling cell and the cell for students with special needs. He has worked with adults with special needs to spring their emotional well being through leisure activities and games.
Daisy Daruwalla Bhathena is a Senior Therapist and Training Manager at Ummeed Child Development Center. Daisy has been a part of the Ummeed family since 2008. She has a Masters in Clinical Psychology from SNDT university. Daisy conducts Intelligence Quotient (IQ) testing for children and adolescents and supervises the testing team. Daisy is a trained counsellor and uses the Narrative ideas and practices while working with children and families through individual and group counseling sessions. She has presented her work at the South Asia International Autism Conference in 2015 on the Use of Externalizing Conversations with Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).Daisy has run groups for parents of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. She has also been actively involved in planning and conducting workshops and short term trainings for several organizations / schools like Action for Autism, Anchorage, Aangan, Teach for India, Rotary Club, Euro Kids, J.B Petit High School, Bombay Scottish etc. Daisy has been part of the core team that conceptualized, designed, implemented and supervised long term training programs like the Mental Health Training Program (MHTP) and Community Mental Health Training program (CMHTP). These programs train professionals and community workers in the application of narrative ideas and practices in their context. Daisy heads the year-long Mental Health Training Program. Daisy has been the force behind A Room Full of Stories – The International Narrative Therapy Conference 2016 and has been the lead in organizing and executing the entire production!
Jehanzeb Baldiwala is a therapist, supervisor, trainer and part of the Ummeed team since 2004. She has aligned herself with narrative ways of working over the past twenty years. Jehanzeb is a voracious reader and believes in dreams and magic. She loves to share stories about life with her son, travel and to connect with people and their stories.
Manisha Bhattacharyya is a clinical psychologist who has been working in this field for the last 6 years. She is associated with Autism Society West Bengal, Mental Health Foundation and Crystal Minds. After her exposure to narrative ideas she has been focusing more on enhancing the emotional well being of adolescents and adults with ASD. Manisha resonates with the narrative idea of making agency visible and exploring preferred stories with the people she consults with.
Prachi works at Ummeed in the Mental Health team as a Junior Therapist. She likes working with children and their development. Prachi also holds experience working with elderly experiencing Dementia. In her free time, she likes exploring new places, restaurants and photography.
Rohit Kumar, through his work and education, has come to believe that schools are places for an enriching socio-cultural dialogue that can empower or subvert its pupils, depending upon how the school is imagined, designed and brought into action. Rohit holds an M.A. in Education from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and a Masters in Software Systems from the Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research, Mumbai, India. However, he thinks his most important learning comes from having worked with students and educators at The Akanksha Foundation, American School of Bombay, and Apni Shala Foundation. Currently, Rohit is working as the CEO at Apni Shala and works as a consulting staff at Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) project by Wellesley Center for Women, Wellesley College, USA where he co-facilitates diversity workshops for educators.
Thejaswi Shivanand taught biology and statistics for high school students at Centre for Learning, Bangalore for thirteen years, where he was also deeply involved in the library and nature education programmes. He now consults with various organizations across the country on education and library programmes.
Yashna Vishwanathan is a Mental Health Worker at Ummeed Child Development Center, Mumbai and works with children and young people with disabilities, and their families. The knowledged-lives of the young people with disabilities shape her understanding of disability justice, neurodivergence and intersectionality. She is a mom to two cats and a few plants, and is often found to read her favourite poems to them.
Ananya is a freelance illustrator and visual storyteller with a big appetite for books and snacks. Apart from finding newer ways to hide from the camera, she spends her time exploring newer ways to tell stories.
Darshana is a 19-year old and is studying bachelors of arts in economics. She’s ambitious and driven and loves exploring new things. She likes meeting people and making friends. She has great love for fashion and creation and so, she ran her own YouTube channel on lifestyle, does Instagram fashion blogging and also writes articles on WordPress. For her, family and friends come first. Darshana has cerebral palsy. For her future, she hopes to pursue Masters in Economics and keep working on her hobbies like digital creation.
Jill is a counselor and trainer at Ummeed since 2009 and engages in therapeutic conversations with young people and families experiencing disability using narrative ideas and practices. She is currently a PhD student at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Jill loves to spend time reading books with her toddler and engaging in conversations that are imaginary and magical.
Niranjan Kunwar freelances as a consultant in Kathmandu, Nepal. He used to teach in the New York City school system and in the future, hopes to be more involved in sensitization programs related to gender and sexuality. He is currently taking a one-year diploma course in Narrative Ideas and Practices. Kunwar’s nonfiction pieces focus on – but are not limited to – the interconnections between the arts and education.
A disability and gender rights expert, she is the founder and executive director of Rising Flame a National award winning Indian non profit working on rights of persons with disabilities with a focuss on women and girls with disabilities. She is a researcher, writer, trainer, campaigner and advocate advancing disability rights and gender justice in social as well as policy spaces. She sits on several boards and committees nationally and globally. A global advisor to UN Women’s Executive director, she is also the president of Association for women’s rights in development, and sits on the core group of the National Human Rights Commission India along with being appointed to the diversity and Inclusion task force of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. You can follow her work on twitter @saysnidhigoyal
Prathama Raghavan (she/they) is from Hyderabad, India. She loves languages, knows five and is learning a sixth one. Worlds of books, fantasy and the intricacies of natural ecosystems sustain her. She is unlearning everyday with the support of young people who consult with her. Her work and life is informed by narrative practices, poetry and principles of disability justice, neurodiversity and transformative justice.She currently works at a school in Kathmandu, Nepal doing Mental Health, Inclusion & Access Support for high school students. She is also a Mental health practitioner doing therapeutic conversations using narrative approaches and has recently become interested in working towards building ‘imperfect solidarities’ through group conversations in a far from perfect world. Prathama has a Masters & PhD in Developmental Psychology from Université Paul-Valéry, France (2012).
Shrujana Niranjani Shridhar
Shrujana Niranjani Shridhar is an illustrator and designer practising in Mumbai. She studied Visual Communication at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru. Her practice revolves majorly around children’s literature and illustrations. She is the author of two illustrated books: Aamu’s Kawandi, Chiu’s Power, and the illustrator of Azadi by Kamala Bhasin and That Night by Bijal Vachharajani. In 2016, she co-founded the Dalit Panther Archive, which has been documenting the Dalit Panther movement of the 1970s. Her work revolves around the exploration and definition of marginalised cultures, particularly from the Dalit-Bahujan perpective, that have existed in the Indian sub-continent for centuries in its myriad heterogenous forms. Her work questions socio-political relations at the intersection of gender, caste, and class.
Srinidhi Raghavan is a writer, researcher and trainer. She works at the intersections of sexuality, gender, disability and technology. She works on programme development with Rising Flame and is the Co-Founder of The Curio-city Collective. She has a monthly column in FirstPost about bodies-minds.
Timira is a trained Arts-Based Therapy practitioner and uses different forms of art like music, movement, drama, story-telling, visual art and circus arts to work with children from different backgrounds. She has spent 7 years working with children with multiple disability towards inclusive education and rights of children with disability. Since 2009, she has been working with children-at-risk in various institutions and is currently working at the Boy’s Observation Home in Matunga with children at risk and children in conflict with law. Apart from her work as an arts-based therapist, Timira is currently the Executive Director of Akshara High School (ICSE), a not-for-profit school, and has spent the last 7 years setting up the curriculum and functioning of the school to make it an inclusive space deeply embedded in arts-based processes of learning. In the past, Timira has also been a partner with Junoon, a theatre company, and was involved in designing, curating and conducting their teacher-training programme which ran in schools across the country. Timira has recently had her first children’s picture book ‘Pishi and Me’ published with Pratham books and has two more books for children in the pipeline. When Timira is not in schools or in a bookshop, she is conducting circus arts workshops, teaching children juggling, poi-spinning, clowning and more. She has been working with Teatro Per Caso, an Italian circus arts company since 2006, on a project in Goa called the Laboratory of Smiles which aims at training institutionalised children in various circus arts. The one-month project culminates every year into a series of street performances across the state. While Timira’s heart and soul is immersed in education and the arts, her secret desire is to leave everything and join a circus!