Sujeet Desai plays the clarinet in the centre of the living room, his fingers finding the notes with uncanny surety as he coaxes Mozart from the brass flute. This is only one of the instruments that the 35-year-old American Indian, who has down syndrome, can play. Though it began as a part of alternative therapy for his disability, music soon became a passion for Sujeet, who began his journey with violin lessons and soon also picked up the piano and the clarinet. He also taught himself how to play the bass clarinet and saxophone, as well as the drums.
As a young boy in New York, Sujeet not only picked up musical instruments with amazing ease, but also showed quite an aptitude for sports. His parents enrolled him in Taekwondo when he was around eight years old and over the years, Sujeet kept the practice alive. “He has now surpassed even his master and has a second degree black belt. The grandmaster, who is a close family friend, is so impressed with Sujeet,” says a proud Sindoor.
Sujeet’s interest in sports is also varied and includes swimming, skiing and track and field, which he started when he was studying at a music academy in Massachusetts. “I was also a part of the World Paralympic Games in 1999. And in 2009, I performed for the opening ceremony for the World Games with Kenny G, who was a guest there. It was like a dream to meet him,” Sujeet recalls.
Another memory that the musician cherishes is his trip to London where he shot an advertisement for Paralympics awareness. However, one of Sujeet’s favourite memories is not of his performances or shooting for the ad, but the view from the London Eye.
When he is not travelling the world, the musician, with Down Syndrome, enjoys living independently in his flat in Niagara Falls, NY and performs paid gigs at hospitals, churches, schools and other institutions. “I am also part of a band where different members have different disabilities,” says Sujeet.
He admits that his trip to India has been a fun learning experience. “This is the first time I’m seeing my family in over a decade. My visit to Munnar was especially memorable,” he says.
Sujeet is looking forward to resuming his routine in Niagara Falls, maintaining his musical and sports skills, and regularly visiting with his parents.