STAND UP COMEDIAN STANDS UP AT LAST
(Advance story--this story will be shared with the media by Jay Chhaniyara at the north Indian city of Allahabad later in the day)
Jay Chhaniyara is probably the only ‘stand-up’ comedian who used to arrive on stage in a wheelchair. Not that Jay Chhaniyara was fond of using a wheelchair. Jay Chhaniyara used a wheel chair because he could not stand up on his feet.
Jay Chnaniyara was afflicted by a congenital brain condition called Cerebral Palsy (CP) which results in mental and physical disabilities. He has not undergone any formal education. He managed to get to the Kindergarten stage though several schools turned him away because of his brain condition. But, that did not deter him from competing in the mean world.
At 18 plus, Jay Chhaniyara is a popular stand-up comedian who has made over 2,000 appearances in television reality shows and stage performances in India and abroad. While Jay’s father Deepak went about earning the bread and butter for the family, his mother Heena took upon herself the responsibility of escorting Deepak to various shows and carting him on his wheelchair on to the stage for performance. Jay has an elder brother in Ravi who is studying for MBA and is simultaneously working as an Accountant. Like Jay, Ravi too is immensely talented. Ravi has written over a hundred pithy poems in Hindi that moves everyone. Jay learns them by heart and recites some of them in his programs.
Born to Deepak and Heena Chhaniyara at Rajkot district of Gujarat in western India on October 22, 1993 Jay Chhaniyara was one of their twins to be born that day. The twins were born prematurely when their mother was pregnant by just eight months and a few days. While his twin brother passed away the very next day, Jay Chhaniyara survived against heavy odds. Jay did not let out a cry as is usual for new born babies.
It was not until a year after Jay’s birth that his parents began to worry that all is not well with Jay as he was not able to grip anything properly even after his first birth anniversary. Then his parents consulted a child specialist who advised that their child should go in for physiotherapy on a daily basis. But, physiotherapy was excruciatingly painful and the parents could not bear to see their child crying out of pain. “So, we decided to discontinue physiotherapy and did not approach any doctor for medical treatment until he was six years of age,” confesses his father Deepak, on a sad note.
By 1999, Jay Chhaniyara had grown weak both mentally and physically. So, his parents took him to a spastics specialist practicing in Ahmedabad. Both legs were operated upon and Jay was able to stand on his knees with the support of the fingers on his feet after the operation.
It was about this time, that Jay’s elder brother bought an audio cassette containing jokes for him. Jay not only learnt them by heart but also cracked them in the same tone before his friends. That gave him confidence. At the age of six, Jay became a stand-up comedian doling out jokes in Gujarati.
Jay Chhaniyara shot into limelight when he became the runner up in the Great India Laughter Challenge. Overnight he became an international celebrity at the age of ten…thanks to ‘Star One’ satellite television channel which hosted the comedy show. Thereafter, Jay was flooded by media coverage.
The quest for proper treatment of his ailment took Jay Chhaniyara to Ahmedabad and Hyderabad among other places but it was in Allahabad that he finally found a ray of hope that rehabilitation is possible in his case. Jay met many doctors and specialists before coming to Allahabad but it was only when Jay met Dr. Jain that things started moving in the positive direction. It happened quite by chance when Jay was invited to present a comedy item at the National Conference on Cerebral Palsy in 2010 which was attended by doctors and specialists in neurology and also by children afflicted by cerebral palsy and their parents.
Last year, Jay’s parents consulted a renowned Neurosurgeon in Hyderabad. The Surgeon recommended surgery of Jay’s hands and legs. But, it could not be pursued.
For nearly 19 years Jay and his parents ran from pillar to post in the fond hope that he might be able to stand on his feet one day. Seven months of treatment at the Samvedna Trust by Dr. Jitendra Kumar Jain and 18 surgeries later, Jay is finally able to stand up on his feet with the help of a stick. Jay started walking with the help of a walker in three months. In five months he was walking with elbow crutches. And, in seven months he is able to walk with the help of a tripod stick. Not only that, the condition of his right hand is also improving rapidly and he is regaining grip over things. To top it all, he has begun to read and write. The surgical procedure adopted for this treatment is called OSSCS.
After 18 years of anxiety, things seem to be moving in the right direction for Jay Chhaniyara—thanks to Samvedna Trust. ‘Samvedna’ means ‘Compassion’ and, true to its name, it is a charitable organisation committed to improve the lot of children afflicted by Cerebral Palsy. The main objective of Samvedna Trust is to ensure that children with cerebral palsy are not denied treatment for want of monetary resources.
This is the story of Jay Chhaniyara who held on in the face of heavy odds and proved to the world that disabilities cannot stand in the way to success if one is really determined. He has proved himself by setting an example. That should motivate other children with cerebral palsy to undergo corrective treatment to improve their condition and the parents to ensure that their children get proper medical treatment.
Cerebral Palsy can neither be prevented nor cured. But, the condition can be improved by surgery and occupational therapy to help the victim manage one’s daily chores as independently as possible. About 5,000,000 children are suffering from Cerebral Palsy in India and most of them are not getting proper medical attention. That is because the parents of many children afflicted by this brain condition have no clue about what it is and it is late in the day that the children start getting medical attention. Not only that, the awareness among the medical community about treatment of Cerebral Palsy is very poor.
Sharing his feelings on being able to stand up on his feet after 18 long years, Jay Chhaniyara says: ‘it has boosted my confidence level and I enjoy the feeling of independence…the fact that I may not have to depend upon others to move about and go about doing my basic chores is encouraging.
In life many give up too soon. Jay Chhaniyara is a living example of one who climbs the stairs of success through sheer grit and determination.
I am inspired by the indomitable spirit of Jay Chhaniyara. All I can say is: ‘The Stand-Up Comedian Stands Up At Last!’
(Please contact Dr. Jitendra Kumar Jain, Samvedna Trust, 6/8, Elgin Road, Civil Lines, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, INDIA. Mobile No. +919415235159, if you are unsure of your child’s brain condition)