Dis­abil­ity

He chose to re­move ‘Dis’.

Alive - - Contents - by Deepa Arora

It’s a pleas­ant morn­ing with a slightly cold breeze. Per­fect weather in­deed and I’m strug­gling to keep my eyes open dur­ing morn­ing as­sem­bly at my school. It’s strange that when­ever weather is pleas­ant, all I can think of is sleep. This is quite un­like my friends, es­pe­cially my best friend Mi­tali, who just goes crazy in such a weather and re­fuses to step in­side her home. I’m so sleepy that

I’m des­per­ately wait­ing for the morn­ing prayer to start so that I can com­fort­ably close my eyes and hope­fully catch some sleep stand­ing only, just like a horse. I’m amused at the sim­ile that I just made, al­though I have never seen a horse sleep­ing. It’s not that I’m a bad stu­dent or my school is bor­ing. In fact,I re­ally love my school and ev­ery morn­ing, I look for­ward to come to the school.

My school, Vidya Public School, is a re­puted school in the town.Thanks to the hard and con­sis­tent ef­forts put in by our prin­ci­pal Mr Jai Pratap. He en­sures that school is well man­aged and teach­ers pay in­di­vid­ual at­ten­tion to ev­ery stu­dent en­cour­ag­ing them to pur­sue their fields of in­ter­est. As a re­sult, stu­dents not only ex­cel in stud­ies but also par­tic­i­pate and win medals in sports and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties. Mr Jai Pratap, whom we fondly call Mr. J also en­sures main­tain­ing a healthy and joy­ful en­vi­ron­ment at school where in gen­eral stu­dents and teach­ers are happy and re­laxed.

As prayer is about to start, Mr J steps on the as­sem­bly stage. One door of his room opens on the left side of the as­sem­bly stage, close to the podium. Upon see­ing him, a wave of alert­ness swipes the as­sem­bly. It’s not that we are afraid of Mr J, ac­tu­ally we are very fond of him, and this alert­ness is a sign of re­spect for him. Usu­ally, he joins the as­sem­bly im­me­di­ately af­ter morn­ing prayer and di­rectly goes to the podium. He ad­dresses stu­dents for 5-10 min­utes on var­i­ous so­cial is­sues and cur­rent top­ics of in­ter­est. We are mes­merised by the en­ergy of his voice, se­lec­tion of words and clar­ity of his thoughts. His morn­ing ad­dress is an im­por­tant part of our rou­tine and we look for­ward to it.

How­ever, to­day he has come be­fore prayer. There­fore, in­stead of stand­ing be­hind the podium which he usu­ally does, he walks in the cen­tre of the dais and stands next to vice prin­ci­pal, Ms Katherin. Yet he doesn’t fold his hands for prayer and rather raises his left hand only next to his chest. His right hand is just hang­ing life­lessly by the side of his body.

I’m stunned. Al­though we had heard ru­mours that Mr J’s right hand is prob­a­bly paral­ysed, but no one was sure of this. This is be­cause, he smartly dis­guises the same, ei­ther by wear­ing a cloak in win­ters or putting his right hand in the pocket. This is the first time he has openly left his hand out of pocket and in clear view of oth­ers. On the top of it, he is also wear­ing a half sleeves shirt clearly dis­play­ing the sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the mus­cle size of both arms, leav­ing lit­tle doubt in my mind now that some­thing is se­ri­ously wrong about his right hand.

In fact, he worked so ef­fi­ciently, that I al­ways be­lieved that all that’s be­ing said about his hand are only ru­mours. I looked around and saw other stu­dents also look­ing at each other in sur­prise. My eyes caught Mi­tali qui­etly wip­ing the moist­ness from her eyes. She looked over­whelmed. Sud­denly prayer started and as a re­flex, I closed my eyes and started singing, but, I am wide awake now and to­tally con­fused as I’m un­able to pri­ori­tise, whether I should think about Mr J or worry about Mi­tali.

Two months back, my best friend Mi­tali lost her el­der brother, Rand­hir. An ex-stu­dent of our school, Rand­hir was study­ing in Mod­ern Col­lege. He was an all-rounder, good in stud­ies, a fine singer and had a good sense of hu­mor. All these virtues made him very pop­u­lar amongst girls. Nat­u­rally, be­cause of him, Mi­tali also got lot of at­ten­tion from var­i­ous girls, who were fond of her brother. Un­for­tu­nately, her brother met with an ac­ci­dent and doc­tors had to am­pu­tate his right leg be­low the knee. Doc­tors as­sured him and fam­ily that af­ter his wounds heal, they would try an ar­ti­fi­cial leg. They were sure that with a bit of ef­fort he would be able to live a nor­mal life.

Rand­hir couldn’t bear the thought of liv­ing with a dis­abil­ity and went into de­pres­sion. His fam­ily couldn’t re­alise that his de­pres­sion was quite patho­log­i­cal and needed a drug treat­ment and tried to en­cour­age him with pos­i­tive thoughts and words, with­out con­sult­ing a psy­chol­o­gist, the way we nor­mally do in In­dia. How­ever, in spite of full fam­ily sup­port and as­sur­ance, he com­mit­ted sui­cide. Sui­cide of her brother dev­as­tated the whole fam­ily. Nat­u­rally, Mi­tali is quite dis­turbed and this gets ag­gra­vated by see­ing the plight of her par­ents. Looks like some­thing again hap­pened at her home last night. I made a note of check­ing with her and spend­ing some time with her af­ter as­sem­bly gets over.

Af­ter morn­ing prayer was over, Mr J stepped on the podium and started ad­dress­ing us. “Dear stu­dents, many of you might not be aware that my right hand is paral­ysed,” he con­tin­ued, “When I was three years old, my right hand was paral­ysed due to

As prayer is about to start, Mr J steps on the as­sem­bly stage. One door of his room opens on the left side of the as­sem­bly stage, close to the podium. Upon see­ing him, a wave of alert­ness swipes the as­sem­bly. It’s not that we are afraid of Mr J, ac­tu­ally we are very fond of him, and this alert­ness is a sign of re­spect for him. Usu­ally, he joins the as­sem­bly im­me­di­ately af­ter morn­ing prayer and di­rectly goes to the podium. He ad­dresses stu­dents for 5-10 min­utes on var­i­ous so­cial is­sues and cur­rent top­ics of in­ter­est.

an ac­ci­den­tal elec­tro­cu­tion. I was too young at that time to un­der­stand the longterm im­pli­ca­tions of my loss. My par­ents blamed them­selves and thought that I met with the ac­ci­dent due to their neg­li­gence. Be­cause of this feel­ing of guilt and prob­a­bly sym­pa­thy for my dis­abil­ity, they started pay­ing more at­ten­tion to me, es­pe­cially in com­par­i­son to my sib­lings. They spent more time with me and paid at­ten­tion to my stud­ies. I would get spe­cial favours in­clud­ing larger chunks of sweets in com­par­i­son to my broth­ers. I was en­joy­ing this at­ten­tion and re­mained bliss­fully un­aware of my loss un­til some more time. Al­though in a few years, I un­der­stood my dis­abil­ity, but for­tu­nately by that time, I had al­ready started to learn liv­ing with my dis­abil­ity. Some­how, in­stead of feel­ing de­pressed due to my dis­abil­ity, I took it up as a chal­lenge and started de­vel­op­ing al­ter­nate ca­pa­bil­i­ties to com­pen­sate for my loss, the way we pre­fer to call dis­abled peo­ple nowa­days – i.e. ‘spe­cially abled’. Soon, I could not only write with my left hand, I also re­ceived first prize for the best hand­writ­ing in my class.”

He stopped for a while, prob­a­bly al­low­ing us to di­gest the whole lot of in­for­ma­tion that we were re­ceiv­ing. With the cor­ner of my eye, I looked at

Mi­tali. I felt com­fort­able as Mi­tali was look­ing bet­ter now. So, I fo­cused again on what the Prin­ci­pal was say­ing.

“Al­though dif­fer­ently abled peo­ple can also play var­i­ous sports and you all might be aware that par­a­lympics – i.e. Olympics where es­pe­cially abled peo­ple can par­tic­i­pate – are or­gan­ised in par­al­lel with Olympics, how­ever, in my town where I grew up, there was no aware­ness or fa­cil­ity about such sports. There­fore, I nat­u­rally spent all my time study­ing and in spare time fo­cused on my writ­ten and spo­ken lan­guage. With the sup­port of my fam­ily and my own hard work, I’m do­ing quite well in my life. I’m one of the youngest Prin­ci­pals of the chain of Vidya Public School. Al­though I could com­pete and ap­ply through the hand­i­cap quota, I have al­ways ap­plied through the gen­eral quota and

It sud­denly oc­curred to me that it was Mi­tali who went to Mr J, which she later con­firmed. Af­ter the death of her brother, she re­alised that her brother com­mit­ted sui­cide be­cause he couldn’t bear the thought of liv­ing af­ter the am­pu­ta­tion of his leg. Yet if he had some ex­am­ple of how peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties are also do­ing well, he might not have com­mit­ted sui­cide .Al­though we keep on hear­ing mo­ti­va­tional sto­ries of celebri­ties who per­formed ex­tremely good even af­ter they lose an im­por­tant or­gan of their body.

suc­ceeded,” he said proudly.

“How­ever, de­spite all my achieve­ments, I could never openly ad­mit about my dis­abil­ity. In­stead I learnt some tricks to hide it, thus I started dress­ing up in such a man­ner that most of the time my dis­abil­ity goes un­no­ticed. I never re­alised that in­stead of hid­ing my dis­abil­ity, I should rather be more open and vo­cal about it, so that my achieve­ments can in­spire you to fight your own lim­i­ta­tions and in­hi­bi­tions. I should have rather told you all my dear stu­dents, that no dis­abil­ity or lim­i­ta­tion can stop you from achiev­ing your goals in life un­less you al­low it to stop you,” his voice was trem­bling with emo­tions now.

“You must be won­der­ing why I am shar­ing all this with you now. I would have rather con­tin­ued hid­ing my dis­abil­ity with­out re­al­is­ing the power of openly shar­ing about it, but one of you came to me and ex­plained to me that some young­sters get so de­pressed due to their hand­i­cap or dis­abil­ity that they even com­mit sui­cide. My dear stu­dents, life is much more than a leg or an arm. Life doesn’t stop by the loss of a leg or arm. Be­ing dis­abled never im­plies be­ing dis­qual­i­fied from ev­ery as­pect of life. In fact, no one is per­fect and all of us have one or other dis­abil­ity. For ex­am­ple, some peo­ple can’t speak well, oth­ers can’t fo­cus and so on. Loss of an or­gan can be more vis­i­ble, how­ever, don’t for­get that it’s just a part of life your be­ing im­per­fect in this par­tic­u­lar way. If you wish, you can de­velop dif­fer­ent abil­i­ties to over­come the gap. Be­ing blind doesn’t mean that the in­di­vid­ual doesn’t have vi­sion,” he was emo­tional and his voice was chok­ing.

“Life is too pre­cious to harm it over a loss. Try to look life in to­tal­ity, a life of around 70 years, with 20-25 years of pure fun un­til col­lege with friends and fam­ily, an­other 25-30 years of work and with your fam­ily and kids be­fore you re­tire and even­tu­ally die. Then you will re­alise that all these things are too mi­nor in front of the vast­ness life,” he con­cluded.

It sud­denly oc­curred to me that it was Mi­tali who went to Mr J, which she later con­firmed. Af­ter the death of her brother, she re­alised that her brother com­mit­ted sui­cide be­cause he couldn’t bear the thought of liv­ing af­ter the am­pu­ta­tion of his leg. Yet if he had some ex­am­ple of how peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties are also do­ing well, he might not have com­mit­ted sui­cide. Al­though we keep on hear­ing mo­ti­va­tional sto­ries of celebri­ties who per­formed ex­tremely good even af­ter they lose an im­por­tant or­gan of their body, like Sudha Chan­dran is an ex­tremely good dancer and Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent. There­fore Roo­sevelt, var­i­ous par­a­lympians. But it’s prob­a­bly more mo­ti­va­tional when you hear the ex­pe­ri­ence of some­one who is around you, then you feel that the goal is achiev­able. There­fore, she re­quested Mr J to share his story with stu­dents to en­cour­age stu­dents.

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