Prateek Khandelwal, an entrepreneur, is Mr January. Pratishtha Deveshwar, a student at Oxford, is Ms February. Mr March is Tinkesh Kaushik, a fitness trainer. The list goes on to feature people in sports, business, fitness, fashion and academics.
In 2016, it was differently abled people from Coimbatore, where the NGO is based. In 2017, it was people from all walks of life, from across India. The third edition was dedicated to people in adaptive sports, the fourth to differently abled women, and for 2020 it was married couples, for the theme Love & Beyond.
The 2021 calendar features six women and six men, costs Rs 350 and can be ordered on the NGO website. Proceeds go towards free treatment. Last year it was free physiotherapy for over 2,000 people. This year it will be hydrotherapy.
While initially the Foundation had to seek out people to feature, as word of the calendar spread, Swarga began receiving applications. Last year they received about 80. This year it was 160. “We received so many applications this time that we decided to have a jury shortlist the final 12,” Swarnalatha says.
The jury of seven was drawn from the fields of photography, filmmaking, education and disability rights activism. “Satendra [Singh Lohia, Mr July, from Bhind] crossed the 42-km Catalina channel. To me he was as strong a contender as Pratishtha [Deveshwar, from Hoshiarpur] who is doing a Master’s in public policy at Oxford. Both require a tremendous amount of will, energy and thinking to achieve,” says Swaarup S Chatterjee, a jury member and photographer from Mumbai. Both made it to the calendar.
On each calendar page is a brief descriptor and sometimes a quote from the featured person.Mr May, Pranav Bhakshi, a model from New Delhi, stares piercingly out of the frame. “Autism is my superpower,” he says. Mr November, Sai Kaustuv Dasgupta from Bengaluru, dressed in a red shirt and a gold bordered veshti smiles up at you from his wheelchair. He has brittle bone disease and is a happiness coach.
Ms October, a visually impaired karate greenbelt from Punjab, Divya Sharma gives us her best kick-punch. Sharma is also an RJ, content writer, motivational speaker and has a Master’s degree in English.
This was not the first calendar shoot for Ms April Priya Bhargav of Noida. She was Ms India Wheelchair in 2017 and featured in the Miss Wheelchair World calendar shot in Poland. The calendar features her seated on a picnic blanket, her wheelchair relegated to the background. “I have lupus, an incurable autoimmune disease,” she says. “I was determined to make this an impactful shoot, so I decided to step out of my wheelchair.”