Don't call us disabled, we are just differently abled!
The first thought that comes to mind when thinking of someone who is disabled is often of
Pity? Sympathy? Or looking at them and then being thankful to God that we are not in their shoes and deciding to stop cribbing about the petty things in life? Or a sense of uneasiness because of not knowing how to react or interact with the person without hurting their feelings? Most of us would experience one or more of these emotions. I was once told by a college friend that we should not refer to them as disabled but differently abled or physically/mentally challenged, for by calling them "disabled we are implying that they are not able bodied, they lack something, something is impaired. In a way we are placing them one notch lower than others, than what we consider normal. I could decipher the meaning of what he said in the true sense only after a few years when I had the opportunity to interact with a few differently abled kids and this changed my perspective to a very great extent.
I would no longer call them disabled in fact they might face some physical or mental challenges but I noticed that there are certain areas where they have skills which are far superior than others and that further cemented my thoughts that they are indeed differently abled. Just like you and me, I write and dance as I love to do that and I think I manage do a pretty decent job but if you ask me to draw or play a sport, I completely suck at it. So am I not differently abled then? Endowed with and worked on some skills while I am a novice at others. So how fair are we sympathising with such people by calling them " oh poor disabled boy why did God do this to you?"
A chance encounter with 5 kids as a part of a corporate initiative had a life changing impact on me. I forged a strong bond of friendship with them and it also gave me a new perspective on differently abled people. About 2 years back, to escape the daily drudgery of work I was looking for some refresher, some kind of club or group within the organisation where I could do something different then sit in front of my computer and blink, and also get to network with new people. All you people working in corporates know how important it is to " build your network" . A friend introduced me to this pillar which works with differently abled people, helping them to get jobs, taking mock interviews, sponsoring their degree education and giving them an opportunity to intern at the company post which, if they do well in their exams and everything is satisfactory they can end up with a job at the company. Sounded exciting to me to be a part of this fabulous initiative and I jumped in. There were 5 kids who had just completed their 12th. The first time I spoke to each one of them on the phone inviting them to attend a session at our office and making arrangements for their travel etc, it just felt like speaking to any other 17 year old kid who was partly nervous party excited speaking to this lady from the big company. I was nervous the first day I was to meet them in person , I did not want them to feel intimated. In fact I wanted to be conscious of not hurting their feelings in any way. My colleague told me " just be normal Akshata" and that's what I was.
After that we met on few more occasions, added each other on Facebook and would whatsapp each other , the one month they spent interning at the company was another time I got to meet them quite regularly .These 5 awesome people who took me down the memory lane- they reminded me about college lectures and spending time at the canteen, about exams and college fests. They are all physically challenged, one is visually challenged with his vision being very low, but he is a fabulous classical singer and dancer. The others are physically challenged but I noticed they possess some great talents which makes them outshine others. Two guys are football players, one of them being a good writer( I keep seeing his 2 liners on Facebook and I go gaga over them, how can a kid wrote such profound things!). He is a good buddy as well! Among the 2 girls one is the brilliant at studies girl who is the 90% scorer and she loves drawing. The other is that one special friend who is the one you want to go running to when you feel the world is such a bad place, she always has that warm smile and open arms. When they came in for internship they all had their own inhabitations like any of us - such a big place, so many new people, will we make friends , will we be able to cope up with the work? One month down the line I saw so much change. They were more confident and were already looking forward to the to next year of internship which would much be much longer and more intense. I took a break from the pillar when I went on maternity leave and did not join back given I wanted to balance my work life and get home on time to be with my baby, but I do have this occasional hi-hello from them. Like one of them who read my blogs and told me " Ma'am you write very well don't stop writing ever, I loved your 'The Iron Lady' blog post. And the other to whom I sent my entry for 'Every day is Mothers day' to promote my post and he infact pointed a typo there and said- 'but you write well'.
This ones for you my friends Reo, Sherin, Vaishnavi, Sai and Antony for bringing in a new sunshine in my life, showing me that at times life may not dish you out what you desire but finding your path despite the challenges, learning to overcome your fears and live each day to the fullest. I know behind those smiles and childlike laughter is a lot of physical and mental agony that you have endured like falling sick often, getting admitted to the hospital sometimes unfortunately right before your exams when you have toiled so hard , those stares that people give you when you walk on the road or in the elevator and even if you look at them they would still continue to stare shamelessly and some of them might have rebuked you as well. Your happy faces camouflage the challenge you face every other day, I do wish you all pass with flying cours( it's a very important year for you as you are in the final year of degree). I pray to Almighty that all your dreams are fulfilled and you remain humble and happy, just the way you are now. Stay blessed. Lots of love. From the girl to whom you taught optimism and so much more.
3rd December is observed as the The International Day of Disabled People.
Now let me confess- I am really NOT someone who loves watching
daily soaps. I know reading the tile you thought- what the heck, if it’s a
daily soap on TV it is bound to be stereotypical, full of nonsense and drama
and if you watch such stuff why complain, and if complain why watch? There was a
time when I was in college, all naive, and this was when internet was all about
going to the cyber cafe and getting all excited about entering the chat room
and typing asl (age ,sex ,location) and talking to strangers. At that time, the
only source of entertainment for young people like me was the idiot box so I won’t
lie- I used to watch the Ekta Kapoor soaps and probably even like that at that
point, that’s why I use the word Naive. As I grew up, met
diverse set of people, read and experienced new cultures, my thought process
changed. With a hectic job, I hardly found time for any TV watching. My Mom who
is also a working woman used to watch a few Marathi soaps. She always told me
Bhagwan you speak English with your daughter? What is happening these days?
People want to show off and are forgetting their roots”. I have heard this many times. Earlier my
reaction used to be - apologetic. I would keep quiet and try to ignore the comment
and find an escape route. But now if someone dares to talk to me about this
matter, I snap them off then and there. I am unapologetic I don't think I have
done anything wrong which I need to feel ashamed about. So yes I do speak in
English at home and this is my first language. No qualms about it. And
it's not because of an inter caste marriage in fact I have been speaking
English as a first language right since childhood. To give you some background
on how this came to be. My mother’s parents belonged to Mangalore ( it's a
coastal town in Karnataka) they migrated to Bombay in search of a livelihood
when they were young. They married, had kids and their kids were brought up by
a maid. As my mom and her brother lived…
As Aesha tapped her heel restlessly at the Visa Consulate, one
might just think of her as yet another young woman who has set her heart on an
overseas dream, a future in the greener pastures and she is probably nervous if
her visa will be stamped or not as her fate can either be made or broken by
this one seal (or the lack of it). But for Aesha , her tumultuous mind couldn't
be tamed today. While she was at
the cusp of an important milestone in her career and getting the visa would
mean she inches one step closer to her dream professionally- somewhere she
shuddered to think of how it would impact her love life and the very foundation
of her marriage. It seemed like
yesterday- Aman and Aesha met at a sangeet and got talking. They hit it
instantly and never realized where time flew. They would always chuckle when
they got to know later that this had been set up by their parents. Aesha was a young, dynamic, super smart, intelligent woman who was
a great fan of Sheryl Sandberg and truly…