By Lisha Gomes | Opening Doorz Editorial | April 06, 2021
Bubbly and always eager with a smile that’s both shy and mischievous is what you notice as soon as you meet Gaurav Sehjpal. However, it is when you begin talking to him that you realise how friendly he actually is. Having Down Syndrome has never come in the way of him aspiring to achieve great things and making a place for himself under the spotlight. His speech disorder has not stopped him from being an extrovert and no physical difference can stop him from excelling at dance or striking a pose.
Down Syndrome, so what?
From standing out in group performances, to the audience keeping eyes locked on him during solo events, Gaurav has always managed to make a statement. One thing we can take from this Delhi boy who now resides in the ‘’City of dreams’—Mumbai is that dreams have no limit, so dream the biggest you can.
When his passion for dance ceased, he discovered a newfound love for modelling. “When clicking pictures and taking videos, Gaurav has a completely different personality, unlike other times he even listens and does exactly as he is asked to,” reveals his sister Sandhya Surve. His family is making every effort to encourage and help him turn this passion into something he can pursue in the future.
His parents have been his constant support and encouragement and that is very visible in PoD (Parents of Down syndrome), the organisation they are part of where Gaurav’s father is the chairperson and his mother, the main organizer. They knew that growing up, their son loved dancing and adored the attention, so they began this organisation with a few other parents of children with Down Syndrome. These parents support each other and organize annual shows to showcase their children’s talents.
Love for the spotlight…
Bollywood celebrities like the late Amrish Puri and Anupam Kher among others have been chief guests at the events held at various places. Through these events, Gaurav has walked the ramp for designers and also met various celebrities.
Gaurav has loved the spotlight since he was a child; he in fact lives to be in it. Be it dance, walking the ramp or posing for pictures, Gaurav has always adored the attention that has come along. As a child, he was excellent at dance and was even the star performer at several events right from Shiamak Davar gigs to events organised by PoD (Parents of Down syndrome). He has never been hesitant to take the stage even for a solo performance.
Gaurav’s love for Bollywood has only grown over the years. From dancing in front of the television screen with Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan, to aspiring to travel half way across the world and feature in a photoshoot with Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, Bollywood has been the one constant in his life. Apart from dance and Bollywood, Gaurav, like every other Indian, has been a cricket fanatic and has even tried his hand at the sport. He loves being around people, making new friends and enjoys Bahar ka Khanna.
The beginning of a modelling journey…
Modelling is not something that recently popped in Gaurav’s mind. He has walked the ramp as a kid and loves to be in front of the camera. Since he was extremely dedicated to dance, no one paid much heed to modelling. After his passion for dance died out due to depression and some other issues his family waited patiently for him to develop another interest. A year ago, when passing a bus stop, Gaurav saw a billboard and told his mother, “I want my poster to be there.” That is when his mother placed the challenge of making Gaurav a model in front of his sister. “The reason this is a challenge is because people with Down Syndrome are not considered apt for an industry like modelling,” says Sandhya.
When faced with this challenge, Sandhya decided to do whatever she could to get Gaurav a modelling assignment. After efforts of approaching certain institutions went in vain, Sandhya decided to use one of the most potent tools today—Social Media. In January 2021, Sandhya created an Instagram account @YnotMe2021 for Gaurav, through which she hopes to get some recognition and help him kickstart his career. She uses this account to post throwback pictures as well as have Gaurav pose and upload pictures while tagging various brands that he is wearing.
YnotMe is the hashtag and Instagram name Sandhya came up with after a brief moment of thought. Her belief is simple, “It doesn’t matter who is wearing your brand and modelling, so why should it only be normal people who get an opportunity? Why not people with Down Syndrome and other issues?” The whole idea behind the hashtag was the question, “if you’re giving other people a chance, YnotMe?”
Sandhya seems disappointed when speaking of the response they have received from the Indian social media. Though there have been a few people sketching pictures of Gaurav and responding on posts, the response has not been great. His family has tried to get certain brands to notice Gaurav’s online presence by continually tagging them in his posts but the efforts haven’t paid off as yet.
But that does not deter Gaurav from striking a pose. He is always all smiles and every ready to jump in front of a camera. Now, for the right brand to come his way to catapult the product to top of the heap!
(Lisha Gomes is a third year BMM (Bachelor of Mass Media) student at St. Andrews College, Bandra, Mumbai. She is passionate about reading, enjoys singing and has also participated in a few dance shows. She plays soccer for her college. She was a star performer for her school, Mary Immaculate Girls High School, Borivali).