Walk into Kitty Su, the jewel in the crown of Delhi’s nightlife, on a Saturday night and Varun Khullar’s juggles are bound to thump through your body. His beaming eyes remain fixed on the console as he segues from one groovy track to another. But it’s not just his talent that sets 27-year-old Varun apart from other DJs: it’s also the fact that he’s in a wheelchair. DJ Aamish, as he is known on stage, is India’s first differently abled disc jockey and the second in the world after American house DJ and producer Paul Johnson.
It was on June 7, 2014 that an accident on the Delhi-Manali highway paralysed him below the chest. “I was pursuing a masters in mass communication from Amity University. My friend driving the car didn’t notice a truck coming from the other side. As he swerved to avoid hitting it, the car fell off the slope and got crushed from one side,” he recalls.
On waking up, he realised that his life had completely changed. “Doctors said that I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of things that men of my age would like to,” he says. After endless hours of introspection, he found within himself the strength to carry on with life. “The first two years after the accident, I was completely homebound. I decided to pursue my passion for music as it was my only source of happiness,” he explains.
Aamish loved music since childhood. His eclectic taste had made him familiar with myriad genres. “My dad too was a music aficionado. Growing up, I listened to everything—rock, country and house among others; Frankie Knuckles is one of my favourite artists. I could literally feel music running through my veins.”During his convalescence, he began learning about the basics of DJing and how to break into the profession. He then started applying for jobs but met with a barrage of rejections. Regardless, he didn’t want club managers to give him a gig out of pity.
About three years after his accident—the date, May 27, 2017, is etched in his memory—Amish got his first break at Kitty Su. “It was a crazy night, I will never forget it. I was glad that people accepted me for my talent.” The gig was a hit and he was offered a position as the resident DJ of Kitty Su. “The best thing about my colleagues at Kitty Su is they never look at me with pity or sympathy. They treat me like family.”
Despite his erratic schedule, Aamish tries to maintain a healthy lifestyle. “I report at 10 pm sharp and often play till the wee hours. To stay in good shape, I have a high-protein diet. Since I am vegan, I eat lots of sprouts,” he says. I have to do physiotherapy every day and try to visit a clinic two to three times a week,” he explains.
It’s been five years since he began using a wheelchair, but Aamish rejects the term wheelchair-bound. “I am not bound to this wheelchair, I just walk on it,” he declares. At Kitty Su, though, he soars on it.