Handicapped in body, not spirit

Born without hands, Nadeem Shaikh walked into the world of arts at the age of nine.

Now 17, he is the youngest member of the Indian wing of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA), an international cooperative society run by disabled artists.

While its motto is 'self-help, not charity', the society believes artists are "handicapped in body, not in spirit".

"I started painting in standard IV. It was easy gaining command over the brush since I was anyway used to doing all the chores by foot. I paint whenever someone wants me to or whenever I feel like it. Sometimes, I spend five to 10 hours painting and just two at other times. If you are not interested, painting kharab ho jata hai (it gets spoiled)," Nadeem said.

MFPA members paint with brushes held in their mouths or feet.

The society helps disabled artists sell artwork, primarily reproductions such as greetings cards, calendars, so that they attain "self-respect, creative fulfillment and financial security".

"We replicate artworks into cards, diaries, calendars and mugs. These are sold and the proceeds go to the society, which funds disabled artists. This way, they don't have to be dependent on anyone or turn to begging," said Bobby Thomas, head of marketing and development at the India branch of MFPA.

A part of the organisation since the age of 12, Nadeem said, "My parents have always supported me and given me everything I need, but it gives me great satisfaction to survive on my own."

The Jogeshwari resident recently joined an art class in Dadar but quit it soon.

"It is difficult for me to travel. Now, I paint whatever comes to my mind," he said.

MFPA has 17 Indian members in Kerala, Chennai, Aurangabad, Lucknow and Hyderabad.

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