Monday, October 18, 2010

who is disabled ???

 I met a sweet girl who had specially come to meet me when i was visiting my sister's place .

'Sweet girl' ...this was my first impression for her and she talked to me non stop for a couple of hours together. What i had known about her previously that she works for autistic children and occasionally with blind people. I was so touched by her child like demeanor and eagerness to talk to me about endless topics....all related to the lesser privileged people .

We talked for hours about how satisfying this work can be if we do it from our heart and soul . But she had come to me with a purpose . She had actually come to to tell me not to engage myself into working with disabled and special children . Yes , it may sound weird or even insensitive , but she was talking from experience and i had to give it a thought . She was following me from the very beginning through my sister and often my sister used to tell me to meet this sweet girl i am talking about.

I could understand what her point was . It is really heart breaking to see somebody suffering when you have been at the receiving end yourself . Every time you see somebody suffering the way you have , it revives all the pain once again . More importantly the person is mostly able to deal with the physical pain , but the social stigma ( of being differently able or disabled ) and callous behavior by friends , family and neighbors is most disturbing . The reality is that the closest of people have the most capacity and probability to hurt you . When you see some other person being subjected to the same kind of callousness , it is far more heart wrenching . And that is what 'the sweet girl ' was trying to convince me.

I understand that. Very well . I understand what it is to be ignored by family and friends . As if you no longer exist . As if you exist for a few occasions convenient for them , when they are not ashamed of a 'not so presentable' you . When everybody seems to be associated with you only for a benefit or give and take and you no longer seem to be useful for anybody...... In a country where every kind of disability is associated with beggars ... we are so used to seeing the blind , lame and lepers queuing at temple gates and traffic lights that a person who lost his limbs in an accident is reduced to being a faceless 'bechara' , and 'bechara' here doesn't translate to a 'poor thing' ...... the 'bechara' in this case is a mere subject of charity ( can be different to different people , that i want to discuss in detail some other time ) . Not a competent professional he once was , not a dear friend , not an intelligent thinking mind and not at all a throbbing heart . Not that all of it should happen to me , it's just that i become a bit more perceptive to any of such things happening around ....and even if someone else is at the receiving end , it hurts me to witness the callous attitude. Clearly , it will be all the more painful to intentionally reach out to that kind of people if you are not a heart of steel ( gold is not worth )...

Now about the 'sweet girl ' . In the midway somewhere during the conversation i realized that this girl must be older than me . The wide eyed expression , the fidgety fingers and straight posture with a precarious uneasy back on the sofa was not a young girl's usual demeanor . It was an obscure mind of a grown up woman who was still vacillating between her beliefs and social norms . Her beliefs so pure with a twinkle in her eyes when she talked about how the particular child can only be tamed by her and not his parents when he is violent and it is the touch and a soft voice what is needed to speak to him . The social norms which have alienated this sweet girl from the people she works with and the extended family and everybody who reaches out to her or is hesitated to do so ....

Why ?? What is so special about her . The red head which i thought was a trendy hair color was not so . The covered hands and full sleeve kurta was not due to summer heat ( as any scooter riding girl does these days ) and the dark glasses were not just for the sun and the milky white complexion was not of a parsi or kashmiri origin . In a nation obsessed with fairness , albinism is a disability which is torturous in a girl's life . While she could very well protect her skin and eyes from the scorching sun , the soul so pure was scared to face the world , was unsure of the people's reaction ...always looking for a sense of acceptance....nowhere to be found . I kept thinking about her for weeks and when asked my sister , got to know that everybody in the office makes her the scapegoat and everybody practices the right to pour their own frustration to her , to make her feel inferior .....even feel like a retarded ..... Yes she is often treated like a retarded person in her workplace.

She is not a hard working honest girl , not an intelligent mind , can never be a trusted friend ........... she is just a useless white skin   ......... in a nation obsessed with fairness.

Coming to her advice to me .........which was so important to her that she wanted to meet just to convey this to me for a long time. Yes i agree to the concerns she had , and presently i feel a bit worried about being unprepared and unequipped for being a hard core ' worker ' but i know i have the understanding to handle it . It's a matter of time and i will not be able to stop myself . Still i think i do not stop myself when i see someone being ostracized or deprived because of an inferior status or a disability ....any kind of discrimination for that matter. I am specially sensitive to children being ill treated by their own parents and intervene whenever there is such a situation . For me any small little gesture of being useful for someone is good enough ...... and as i read somewhere i now consider myself as a ' work in progress ' ...


  1. "Work-in-progress" made me smile :) I really like this concept. It matches with my vision of life as a "Going Concern" which is a accounting term.

    You have everything that is needed for working with disabled and special children... senstivity, intelligence. courage and determination. But still,I feel that this "Sweet girl" is absolutely correct in advicing you to give yourself sufficient time to heal.I approve of the fact that you have heeded to her advice. First and foremost, you have to take care of yourself,not just for your own self, but also for the others whom you so strongly wish to help. Because in your present emotionally overwrought state of mind, if you try and work for special children, you will not only cause immense trauma to your own self but also to those whom you wish to help. I firmly believe that when the time is right, something or the other will come your way with which you will be able to connect I wish that you would Give yourself just a little bit more time to heal. I just want to remind you of this doha by Kabir....

    Dheere dheere re mana, dheere sab kuch hoye'
    Maali seenche sau ghada. ritu aaye phal hoye.

    Meanwhile, do not underestimate the value of what you are already doing!! In your real life as well as through your blogs you are helping so many people already! The way you have used the medium of blogs to share your experiences and knowledge is really commendable. Perhaps the effect of this medium is more or less intangible But I sincerely feel that this is not a mean acheivement.
    Keep up the good work.

  2. THANK YOU Amrita for such an understanding and for the generous praise .

    Though i want to thank you for many more things but you know i must thank someone up there for sending a handful of great people my have been so very patient with my eccentric thoughts ...:)

  3. Came here through IHM's post today. And read up a bit before commenting. I am very sorry for your loss. Am sure Mithi knew she was really loved.

    I work in the social sector and can see the necessity for the 'soft' parts in all social intervention in India.

    Being a parent of a special child needs skills that you will be an expert at. Just the emotional support from someone who has gone through it will be a huge boost to the parents of just diagnosed special children. I am a huge believer in support groups. They are sacred spaces where people can be themselves and can be spaces to reinvent themselves to be of greater support to the special child entrusted to them.

    In my humble opinion, you could consider being a resource for parents of special children. God knows more needs to be done for all special children in India. And yours will be a really valuable contribution.

  4. Thanks Sangi for the understanding and the suggestions too .
    I know that i can be of good use in the area you are suggesting , the only thing is , i have never been into organized social scene as yet and do not know how to go about it. On my personal level i have been counseling a few people and have known that this kind of understanding and concern means a lot to the parents of a special child ( especially if the parents feel helpless and directionless ) ...

    Your suggestions will be welcome and i know i will overcome my own pains and will be ultimately be of use to a few more people.

  5. Please don't let any perception of lack of qualifications stop you. The organized social scene is always struggling. And they are looking for people who have the commitment and personal interest. And if at any time you feel the need for professional qualifications, you can always choose to go and take a course then. You will actually know better what you want to get into, only after being there for sometime.

    If you put the word out to special educators or doctors who diagnose special children or get onto hospital databases, I am sure you will just get people coming to you. My aunt works at a prominent hospital in Delhi, shall ask her for more suggestions.

    I am a finance professional and entered the social sector as one here after qualifying abroad. Imagine, didn't even know the tax laws here et al. There's always some learning - the returns this sector gives you in personal satisfaction is way, way more than all the money you can make in the corporate sector. My soul is fed by what I do and am now taking the leap - planning to get started on a PhD in the development sector. Am having to study up on development basics but it is fun because I want to. Don't really need to, if you know what I mean. For someone trying to bounce back as much as possible from a loss like this, nothing is impossible!

  6. Yes ..i can get in touch with the hospitals . That i shall do soon.

    About being qualified , yes i feel it can be done after being there for a while ... connecting with people will not be a problem till then. I just wanted to give myself some time because my life has toppled over , nothing seems to be going right and i have no control over my daily routine..... just trying to get that together and then ...see how i manage to.

  7. Absolutely - you need to give yourself as much time as you need. Maybe bits of talking to others might help you but not worth it if it stresses you out more just to get there, no?

    Read the ayurveda blog, love it. Plan on making virgin coconut oil and actually use some of the medicinal plants that I grow but did not know how to incorporate into our diet. Thank you for so much cool information!