Her parents named her Karishma, which means miracle, and she has lived up to her name. The daughter of Pepsico Viet Nam executive Hariharan Kannan was born with the intellectually challenging condition, Down syndrome, and all her developmental milestones were delayed.
Inspiration: Karishma (centre) at a charity exhibition held last Friday at the Renaissance Riverside Hotel Sai Gon. — VNS Photo Van Dat
HCM CITY — Her parents named her Karishma, which means miracle, and she has lived up to her name.
The daughter of Pepsico Viet Nam executive Hariharan Kannan was born with the intellectually challenging condition, Down syndrome, and all her developmental milestones were delayed.
When the family moved to Viet Nam from India three years ago, Karishma was 17 years old. She attended a special school in HCM City for children with her condition, but communication problems surfaced soon, and she had to quit three months later.
Her parents' efforts to keep the daughter engaged led them by chance to art teacher Cyndy Beaumont. Beaumont agreed to help Karishma although she had no previous experience of teaching special children.
Karishma blossomed under Beaumont's tutelage, discovering different painting and colouring techniques as well as the works of famous painters.
The works of each painter and painting technique she learnt about fascinated Karishma, and to the surprise of her parents, her attention span expanded from several minutes to several hours that she would spend on a painting.
HCM City residents had the opportunity to see Karishma's works done over the last 18 months at a charity exhibition held last Friday at the Renaissance Riverside Saigon Hotel.
The exhibition was attended by senior officials from the municipal administration, Heroic Mother Bui Thi Me, Indian diplomats including Consul General Abay Thakur and hundreds of Indian, Vietnamese and other expatriates.
Karishma's moving and inspiring story as well as the 45 paintings on display struck a chord among the audience, and all the works were sold out within a few minutes, raising VND230 million (US$11,500) that was donated to the Gia Dinh Special School and the Kon Tum Sponsoring Association.
The Gia Dinh school trains children with autism and Down syndrome while the Kon Tum association cares for senior ethnic minority citizens, orphans and Agent Orange affected children.
Karishma's mother, Kalpana Kannan, said the exhibition and donation was the family's way of expressing gratitude for the "priceless gift" that Viet Nam has given their special daughter, as well as the friendship and affection that they have received here.
She said the event was also a demonstration of the talents that are latent in those who are differently-abled, and hoped that it would inspire other people with similar conditions to take heart and fulfil their dreams.
Consul General Thakur, recalled seeing Karishma and her sister, Kajol Kannan, perform a Rajasthani dance at an Indian celebration in the city. He said he did not feel even for a moment that she was different from any other child in any way.
"Later when I met her parents and learnt about her different abilities, I was struck by tremendous grit and determination that she hides in her slight frame. I must say that she is a great diplomat and a great representative for India in Viet Nam," he said.
Although she and her family loves her paintings and wanted to keep them initially, they decided that a better way to celebrate Karishma's achievement was to tell her story and help and inspire others with similar challenging conditions.
Prompted by her parents, sister and her teacher, Karishma herself enunciated the message of the event: "I can, you can, we can." — vns