Dressed in a yellow striped T-shirt, shorts and hat, our social media star Aakash Chiripal is set for an HT Brunch date with his favourite Instagram influencer and our previous cover star, Siddharth Batra.
When Siddharth comes on, Sanchi, Aakash’s sister, announces: “He’s a little nervous around new people but he loves your videos.”
Siddharth gushes about Aakash’s videos and swag. Sanchi reciprocates on Aakash’s behalf about Siddharth’s fashion videos. They even promise that they will shoot a fashion video together when things get better.
“I used to shoot random videos of him and upload them. Initially, however, our parents were hesitant about how it would affect him. Also, he cannot concentrate for long spans of time,” explains Sanchi about Aakash, a 30-year-old with Down syndrome, a genetic chromosome anomaly causing developmental and intellectual delays.
“In March 2021, while scrolling through Instagram, I came across a video by Siddharth. Aakash pointed to it and got excited when I asked if he wanted to recreate it. That’s how it began!” Sanchi remembers.
The Brown Munde recreation video got over 3.2m views, but numbers are nothing compared to the love Aakash is showered with whenever he uploads a trending Reel.
“He does 90 per cent of the shoots because he gets to wear new clothes,” laughs Sanchi. “If he’s up for a video, he will do it during his nap time. That is a big deal as he does not sacrifice his sleep for anything.” A two to three minute video takes about half an hour’s work.
“The response Aakash has been getting online is the opposite of what we get when we take him out,” adds Sanchi. “Outside, people say things like, ‘Yeh paagal hai kya?’ But when people like Siddharth and Dolly Singh respond with hearts, it underlines our belief that the Internet is a more welcoming place.”
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From HT Brunch, August 8, 2021
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