The Extraordinary

August 04, 2021

A freshly minted teenager, Zehn Kashyap, is currently based out of New Delhi, India. She is a student of Grade 9 at Vasant Valley School. Zehn is a passionate, empathetic, focussed student with an incredible capacity for hard work. She represents the growing population of students worldwide who have special needs. Zehn has developed a special brand of empathy (her own superpower!) that arises from being able to walk for a mile in her fellow students’ (albeit rather painful!) shoes! Her story of rising above her disability and not letting it define her, is exemplary and inspiring for all students. Recently selected to be a member of her schools Outreach Council, she feels strongly about and is committed to giving back to the community that has enabled her to be what she is today. Zehn is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Mental Health Workshop for Girl Up. Having seen how it literally takes a village to pitch in she hopes to be able to pay it forward in a meaningful way by virtue of her rich experiences.

Pledge to Take Action

I was born extremely premature and have a condition called Periventricular Leukomalacia – PVL (a form of Cerebral Palsy). My initial medical prognosis was very bleak with doctors telling my parents that I would never be able to sit up and would be lucky if I had a vocabulary of 400 words. After years of grueling therapy, I have evolved into a staunch advocate of children with different abilities.

Inspired by my experiences, I recently participated in the Belongg Youth Writing Contest and my award-winning poem was titled “L’(Extra)ordinaire” (French for “The Extraordinary.”) In addition to being published by the Central Board of Secondary Education  (CBSE) that is a national level board of education in India for public and private schools, I was fortunate to have been invited by Girl Up to participate in their Global Leadership Summit in the Mental Health Panel Discussion. I got to kick off the Mental Health session with my poem which received accolades from girl leaders, youth activists, thought leaders, and influential changemakers from across the world.

Check out my poem + my recitation of it below!


What is disability; what does ‘different-ness’ mean?
I looked up the internet for some insights to glean.
A societal imposition on those who to normal don’t conform,
A label, a pronouncement, in my opinion, way too strong!
In one swoop, it just calls out how a person doesn’t fit,
Ousting from mainstream and a right at the table to sit.
These sweeping generalizations are senseless, at best,
We should put this labeling once and for all to rest!

The greatest minds of yesteryears, had disabilities galore,
Those fueled their very passions and led them to do more.
Hellen Keller, Frida Kahlo, Einstein and Stephen Hawking too,
Bocelli, Beethoven and Van Gough; just to name a few!
Every one of these geniuses had crippling special needs,
Yet their legacies live on through generations for all to see.

Sometimes well-meaning people don’t know how to react,
With differently-abled people, they’re just thrown off track.
Sometimes they show pity and sometimes sympathize,
They do it out of kindness, and don’t really realize.
No matter how different people may look or seem or sound,
Inclusion through act and deed are needed on the ground.
Rather than do that ‘look-and-look away’ kind of glance,
Smile, be your genuine self, make kindness your stance!

Empathy is the superpower the world needs most today,
For every single person is unique, in a very special way.
Sometimes disabilities are very visible for all the world to see,
But invisible ones are just as terrible, I’m sure you will agree!
Everyone is fighting a battle, of which you have no clue,
And their mighty problems might be unknown to you.
So let us celebrate fellow humans, irrespective of their state,
Appreciate all differences, move from being good to being great!

Pledge to Take Action