All posts by sweta

#lostlove

Kamal lay on his bed staring at the ceiling fan as it completed one rotation in about four seconds even at the speed of two. As usual, his sleep was broken by the conversation of his mother and the maid at 6.45 am. It was only at about 5-ish that he had managed to sleep.

It wasn’t unusual for Kamal to be awake through the wee hours of the morning and retire to bed only when he could hear the birds chirping outside. His room smelt of gold flakes. He’d smoked about three cigarettes before going to sleep – his second pack for the day, while he was going through Avika’s pictures on his phone. He was lost into the past so much that he’d forgotten to open the windows and the smoke had created a very repelling smell. Kamal reached out to his side table drawer to pull out the packet of Sugandham Agarbatti. Nobody knocked at Kamal’s door unless he opened the door himself and soon it would be time for the maid to do the cleaning. He hated the maid so much that he ranted at her more than twice for coming so early.

The last five years were playing like a flashback in his mind. He’d been with Avika for five years, although not completely. They were together sporadically and commitment was not the word that compelled him to constantly look out of the relationship. She was 23 and so sure that she wanted to be with him; he was 27 and yet unsure about any of the relationships that he had been in. Her words played like a background score in his mind. “I just don’t want any more complications in my life. We’re not meant to be.” She had finally decided to walk out of what seemed to be like the perfect relationship once upon a time. It had been a month since he had cut off communication with Avika for the umpteenth number of time because of a fight and had expected her to get back as usual.

Kamal had just got back from Kochi three days back. He’d been there to meet Shivi. She had mentioned that she had this urge to meet him, again. He flew down to surprise her. They spent two days together; holding hands, walking under the moonlit sky, drinking alcohol together, looking into each others eyes, kissing each other and doing everything that couples do.

Shivi knew that Kamal had cut off from Avika. She was glad he had and believed it was because of her.

“I don’t think this has a future,” he’d told Shivi during one of those moments.
“It’s okay. Let’s not think about the future,” she responded.

Shivi had gone to see him off at the railway station. “Please don’t come. Don’t make it difficult for me to leave,” is what he’d told her. “I won’t, I promise. I just want to see you off,” she said.

This time, Shivi had abstained from holding his hand. He didn’t show any signs of doing so either. Only she could understand the sea of emotions inside her. Shivi kept looking at him as he hastily finished his idli sambar. He refused to acknowledge her gaze but gave her a sheepish smile.

“Leave now. I’ll be fine,” he said. There was still half an hour for the train to arrive. As much as Shivi wanted to stay back, she didn’t want to appear to be any more vulnerable. She agreed to leave and he walked her up till her bike. Kamal was 6ft tall, Shivi was 5. He gave her a side hug. “Tie your hair henceforth,” he told her. Shivi took his hand in hers and smiled. Her eyes spoke volumes and Kamal understood that. Before it could have got any more awkward, Shivi kick started her bike and drove off.

While he was on the train he got a text from Shivi that said, “I miss you” to which he replied “I just got a place to sit sometime back,”. 

Kamal made a wholehearted attempt to get back to his routine as soon as he was back to Chennai. And routine meant having Avika around. He was so used to her coming back to him, that reality seemed a delusion. 

It wasn’t the first time that Kamal had got intimate with someone besides Avika; he was probably not even thinking about it. Or maybe he was and that’s why he was avoiding any conversation with Shivi. 

The maid knocked at the door. “Vantu piṉṉar (come later),” he yelled. He was back to going through Avika’s pictures. He stopped at a particular one taken from their trip to Coorg. He instagrammed the picture and uploaded it. He never put captions to his pictures. This one however had one – #lostlove

“Back to being friends with Avi on fb again eh?” Shivi pinged him. She’d noticed that they were back to being friends on fb and had obviously seen the recent update.

“I asked for it. She has feelings for someone else. We didn’t talk for a month and it’s over. I doubt any girl can take her place. I’ve dated plenty of girls, but I’ve never felt the unconditional love and care. No one could be her,” he went on.

Shivi put her phone away. All this was just twelve hours after she’d instagrammed the picture of the note he’d scribbled to her. Shivi was at a loss of words.

“Lost love?!” she thought to herself.

Obsess-much-not

Screw perfection. No really, just screw it. Realize that sometimes there is nothing wrong in being vulnerable. Realize that it is okay to fall apart sometimes. And it is okay to leave your house without kajal once in a while. It’s a shame if you haven’t got drunk and made a complete fool out of yourself. Just do it. It’s pretty normal to fight with your bestie because they’re still in touch with your ex. Don’t beat yourself for kissing your ex over a random meeting. Have that much anticipated exit talk with your boss. Go ahead and ask your partner to hold you for five seconds more if that’s what you want. Don’t wait for them to read your mind. Go for coffee by yourself. Remember, nobody understands you better than yourself. Walk out of the room if you’re not comfortable. Don’t be there just to please somebody. Travel. Click a lot of pictures and a hell more selfies too. Be shameless enough to post them. Indulge in choco chips ice cream. Screw the diet. Stop being obsessed with the idea of a perfect relationship. Love your partner perfectly unconditionally. Don’t remove your frustration on your parents. Go biking. Laugh till your ribs hurt. Be there for your friends, don’t just say it. Read blogs and write them too. Stop checking your ex’s last seen on whatsapp. Stop getting annoyed with engagement and wedding and baby pictures on facebook. Be considerate. Go party. Pray. Talk to God. Respect yourself enough to walk away from people who hurt you. Work your ass off. Deliver your best to your clients. Sleep enough. Don’t put yourself down. Embrace other’s imperfections just like you would embrace your own. Don’t be horny. Make passionate love. Listen to music. Don’t watch a lot of television. Learn to unlearn.

Forgive. Let go. Love yourself.

Five mistakes everyone should commit

No, I am not trying to be the next XYZ by writing something similar to the ‘3 mistakes of my life’ and neither do I want someone to make a movie out of this :P Having said that, I don’t want to sound preachy too, but had a strong urge to write something like this.

Some things we do right and then there are some things that we do wrong. Some mistakes we do deliberately and the others quite unintentionally. If you haven’t made a mistake yet ever, then dude, it’s time for some serious introspection. We’re all capable of screwing up in different ways and that’s something to be proud of. Mistakes help us grow and certainly make us better individuals. Here’s my list of the five mistakes that you should commit in your lifetime.

Disagree with your parents

No doubt your parents will always think in your best interest. But you being the (over) confident kid that you are, ought to think in the opposite direction and get into an argument with your folks. Go ahead and do that. While you’re having that argument with your folks, it will give them a chance to realise that you are an individual and not just their child and that you have your own views. That’s when they will start looking at you not only as their kid, but as an individual who is ready to take on the world. And it is important for parents to do that. It’s important that they let you commit mistakes knowing the consequences, because that’s how you’ll learn the best . Making your own decisions makes you responsible for your own actions. If you’re right, pat your back. If you’re wrong, take responsibility for it and learn.  Arguments are good and healthy for the relationship. They’re good for you and for them. Don’t just obey blindly; argue, fight, question and grow.

Fall in love with your best friend

Go ahead and screw up your friendship :| Most of  us have gone through this. You’ve known the guy for a long time and he has been with you all this while. But that does not mean or indicate that this has to be turned into a relationship? As it is true friendships have become a rare commodity and on top of that you want to get all the wrong signals and fall in love with your best friend? Tell him how much you love him. Throw him a surprise and tell him the golden three words and then wait for him to say, “But when did this happen?”. So while you were making honeymooon plans with your best friend, he was probably just being nice to a girl who he was comfortable with. After all of this, please don’t expect him to stop talking to you because he does not owe you that. You took him wrong; he didn’t screw up. Okay, may be he did – a little. But were you a small kid who could not analyse the situation? Wait for the day to come when you will block him out of your facebook and gmail. Yes, the same guy – who you gave hourly updates to on gtalk and whose passwords you knew.  There’s no greater bliss than marrying your best friend, but it’s okay if you’re not sane enough to know if this is just a one sided affair. You have to go through this at least once in your lifetime to realise that friendships are too special to be spoiled in this manner.

Flunk a subject 

Okay now if you’re studying already, please don’t take this literally and stop studying to ensure that you flunk a subject. What I mean is that flunking in a subject will give you an awakening that no other motivational talk by some random ranter will. It’s pathetic, it really is. Your entire class is graduating and you are sulking about missing out on the euphoria just by some five marks. But that’s okay. Because the first good part is that marks really don’t matter. Few years down the line when you’ll be out there and doing your thing, you will not hear a lot about those toppers because they would be busy doing the 9 to 5 thing and working to make someone else’s dream come true. The second and the most important good part is that you’ll take yourself seriously from thereon and not screw up ever again when it comes to academics or career. An early setback is better than the one that comes later, because you’ve felt the brunt earlier than the others and that just makes you more watchful of your further actions.

Date the wrong person

So you’re bored of being single for a long time and want to get into a relationship? Okay fine. No one is stopping you. But in the bargain of not being single, more than often , you will land up being with someone you should not be with. Obviously, you don’t get into relationships knowing how bad or wrong the other person is. No matter how love struck you are, you have a voice in your head that tells you, “Stop! How much more are you going to screw up?”. But you’re hell bent on proving that love is blind and tend to give the other person a benefit of doubt. Hold on till you really feel miserable. Hold on till these sweet talkers and no action takers start avoiding your calls and then saying, “Baby, I just need some time off,”. And if this is not enough. wait till you find out that their ex is still in love with them and that he/she still hangs out with them without your knowledge. And hold on till you especially find out that you are just a temporary arrangement for *something* that they’re seeking desperately. You need to be made felt miserable in order to understand how unimportant it was for you to get into this shit. And after all of this is over, you better learn how to value yourself and your own company, a tad bit more.You better know that being single rules rather than being with a loser.

Quit your job 

Bored of the rut? Boss makes work a nightmare? Colleagues pull you down? Not getting another job? Put your papers down and quit! Remember those days when you recklessly spent 3200 on the pair of jeans you wore just once or that day when you bought a beer for the girl who smiled at you at the bar? Now forget about if for a while. Quitting your job, being unemployed for even ten days and the pain of asking your folks for cash to spend, will first of all make you value every single rupee and this learning will help you save for your child’s further studies. Quitting your job, will actually give you a lot of learning. You’ll be the live example of the proverb that says “An empty mind is a devil’s workshop” and would want to get back to some serious action again. So the next time you get a job, you’ll be more tolerant and respect your need to work more. Besides this will also give you a chance to understand what you really want to do for a living. If getting back to the vicious circle is your choice, then God bless you! If not, then you can always consider working independently. And once in your lifetime, you must work independently and for yourself. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself.

So what are we waiting for? Screw up some more and keep learning. And please write in if you want me to talk about some more mistakes. I would happily oblige :)

I am no cliche

Five minutes after typing in the title of this note and I’m still struggling to write the first statement, because I still have a hangover of the incident.
I have been working from home for the last two years and a Monday morning is no different from a Sunday morning to me; I was still half asleep when I was told that we were expecting guests in about half an hour. I love people and conversations; but relatives are a species that I avoid any kind of communication with (No offense to all the relatives on my friendlist). After almost three years of staying out of home, I am still expected to answer questions like “So, are you able to walk independently?” “Can you travel by rickshaw on your own?”
And the most epic of them all “Are you able to bathe on your own?” Sigh!

So, I told my mother that I am not keen on interacting with the guests who were coming home and went to my room to start working. The guests arrived and I could hear them talk in the living room. After ten minutes, my father came to my room and asked me to come and meet them. I declined and explained to him how I was not keen on meeting anybody and being the subject of their curiosity. My father insisted that I be a good host and interact with them. I was left with no choice.

I was in my nightdress and had not worn the calliper (braces) on my leg. I went to the living room and exchanged greetings. As a custom, I had to touch the feet of the elderly lady who my father addressed as Jiji. My father was watching CNBC TV 18. I am least interested in the stock market usually, but yesterday, I was all ears for Udayan Mukherjee’s analysis after the Opening Bell. I avoided talking to the three new people in my living room; the man in the checked shirt, who was my cousin, sat on the couch in front of me and looked at me at regular intervals. It seemed that he wanted to start a conversation with me but his attempts went in vain. Sitting next to me on the couch, was the lady whom my father addressed as Jiji who was as old as my grandmother. She observed me very closely and scanned me as I kept fidgeting with the TV remote to control the volume. The third new member was a kid, who thought I would probably hit her with my crutches and hence didn’t talk much to me. The man on the couch asked my father a few questions about me. I chipped in between, to correct my father with regards to my work profile. The guests were probably aware that my parents were looking out for a guy for me for marriage and hence observed me a little more than usual.

Because I was continuously watching TV, the guests didn’t talk much to me. It was all okay and I wanted to give my self an imaginary pat on the shoulder for mastering the art of avoiding conversation with relatives. Just when, I was giving myself that imaginary pat on the shoulder, the man on the couch asked me something only to lose the little respect that I had for him.

“Shraddha, show me how you walk!” I was appalled beyond explanation. I was amused at how he couldn’t even get my name right.


My father explained to him that I was not wearing my calliper. After that, I was even asked to wear my calliper and come to demonstrate how I walked.  “I am yet to bathe and will take time. I am not wearing my braces before that,” I responded and came to my room. I am sure the man got the message.
The man apparently had a prospective groom in mind and wanted to know how I walked only to explain to ladka walas how I walked!!!  
Getting me married, has been the most controversial subject in my family and extended family as well; because, in India, the disabled are type casted more than required. You’re considered a good for nothing if you have some physical disability. For heavens’ sake! It’s a physical and not a mental deformity. Here are some of the suggestions and opinions that my parents have got from our acquaintances (read relatives):
You will have to financially settle the guy for marrying your disabled daughter. Who will marry a disabled girl without any motive? What has he to gain out of the marriage?
Or may be, why don’t you get yourself a Ghar Jamai. You can provide for their living and he won’t feel the pressure of marrying a physically challenged!
Another epic moment was when somebody whom we met at a social gathering asked my parents to consider getting me married to somebody who was mentally unstable.
All of you, who’ve got your sons married to non disabled girls – only because they’re tall, can cook decently well and can do a catwalk – can you vouch that your non-disabled daughter in law will take care of you as her own parents when you’re old? I am not saying that a disabled will do so either; but all I am saying is that physical ability is not a synonym for great character. If marriages were to sustain only on physical ability, then divorces wouldn’t happen, no?And to all you men to give in to societal pressure, may your *manhood* rest in peace.
I feel sorry (for the state of the society) when somebody wants to know more of my style of walking before wanting to know me. I feel like laughing out loud, when somebody rejects me only because I would take a little more time to cook than my abled counterpart. 
I see no difference between me and you – who’s reading this post right now. I laugh it off when someone gives my parents all the expert advice. But here’s my message to all of those who come up with these ideas – If this is how a disabled girl gets married in your society, then I do not want to get married in your society. If my parents will have to go more than an extra mile to secure my husband and me – only because he’s getting married to someone who’s disabled, then, I prefer being single for the rest of my life. I’d want a man who would marry me for what I am at face value and not because my family is promising him a better future. I’d rather stay happily single for the rest of my life and accomplish all my goals. I’d rather invest my energies in writing a book, cooking for myself and travelling alone; Yes, I can travel alone. And may be, someday I’d adopt a child too.
My life is full and I am ok and I refuse to be turned into a cliché. Yes, I am 25. Yes, I am of marriageable age; And yes, I want to get married but I refuse to get married at the cost of my self respect.
And the next time someone asks me to demonstrate how I walk, I’d dance on Sheila ki Jawaani for them. Hell yeah, I can dance too :P
Title credits: Aishwarya Subramanian

Rest In Peace

I believe that when you are close to someone, you offer a special part of yourself to the relationship. That part of you, which you can reveal to nobody else; which is exclusive to only that person.

I mean, we all behave differently with different people and we’re not the same with any two people in our life. Be it our mother or our father; our elder or younger sibling; the best friend from school or the best friend from hostel; or the guy who you randomly met six and a half years ago who became your best friend and may be more than that;
 
So what happens when the relationship ends? A relationship that cannot be defined – even if the other person decides to recognise it as something casual. A part of you dies with it. You lose a part of yourself that you know, you cannot bring back again.

When you cremate the body of a loved one, you light fire to their flesh and wait for it to turn into ashes.  You take the ashes back with you. You offer it to the holy Ganges, so that the deceased can rest in peace.

When your relationship ends, you cremate your own soul. And you have no choice but to keep the ashes and live with them everyday. You live with the pain of losing somebody; the pain of losing the way you were with that somebody who meant the world.

The worst part is that even if a part of you is dead, you’re still living; you’re still breathing. The question is how well do you deal with the loss of losing yourself?

How do you not look forward waking up to those good morning calls that were the most essential part of your life? What do you make up of those one thousand and fourteen chat messages in your inbox when the other person refuses to stand up for it was? How do you refrain from dialing the familiar number that’s been engraved in the phonebook of your mind for eternity? How do you not feel the urge to listen to the voice that once made you skip a heartbeat?

You do nothing, but to feel the pain overcome your being. You console yourself by being happy for the other person. You live those moments again but try to move on; hoping that one day you will, just like the other person did.

Rest in Peace 2006 – 2013

Move on OR Be the change?


So we’re observing World Disability Day today. This is the day, when we talk about people with all kinds of disabilities, their current state, their development, what the society is doing for them and all of that. Yes, this the day when almost everybody talks about them and then, that’s it. 
What next? What really happens to the state of the disabled and who takes the initiative to do something about it? 
The government moves on, you move on, and so do they.

They move on, because that’s what they’ve been doing all their life. They go to a public place, they struggle to access it, it’s tough for them, but they move on. They go for a job interview, they’re rejected because they’re disabled, they take it with a pinch of salt and move on. The government announces inclusive policies, they smile, they move on. The policies are yet on paper, they smile again and move on. You look at them, show some sympathy and they move on.

So, the question is, is World Disability Day, just another international day that we have adopted and is there anything at all that we genuinely acknowledge? The answer to the latter half, unfortunately, is a shameful one.

Had we been a country that acknowledged disability, then the three percent reservation at educational institutions would have made more sense – because unlike the current state, the disabled would then have access to schools and colleges. The society would have been more inclusive and sensitive towards the disabled. Had we been a country acknowledging disabled persons, then, my dear friend, the disabled wouldn’t have been excluded from the national census, even decades after independence. Had we been a country acknowledging disability, then, You, wouldn’t have given a sympathetic look to a disabled person you met on the street.

If you’ve ever been abroad and to a country like the United States of America, you’ll realize that the life the disabled live over there is entirely different from the ones in India. Every structure is accessible, the society is inclusive and the disabled lead a dignified life. It won’t be wrong to say, that all this is only because as a nation, they are considerate towards the needs and sentiments of the disabled. Each and every person running the government, each and every person on the street, is considerate towards the disabled. Everybody right from the shopkeeper to the bus driver to the professor to the human resource professional to the President himself is considerate towards the disabled.

It’s going to take a lot of time for the government to change its ways of functioning and for things to be in place. But in the meanwhile, there is something that you can do at a personal level. The next time you see a disabled person on the street, you could give a smile instead of the usual sympathetic look. The next time you want to be a friend to someone who is disabled, you could refrain from being overtly nice, because that is not what they look for. If you’re looking at setting up your own shop, clinic or school, the least you could do is to ensure that your set up is accessible.

As clichéd as it may sound, if change is what you desire, then you need to be the change you want to see. And by change, nobody wants you to get on the roads and participate in a candle march or protest against the government. The easiest way to make a difference is to change the way you look at the disabled. The society at large can change, if only You – who is a part of the society, choose to change! And you never know, a day might come, when the government too, might learn something from you!

Give Some Thought, Give Some Love, Give Some Space

An Open Letter to Bacardi NH7 Weekender

So everybody’s been going ga-ga over NH7 Weekender and you know you guys have been putting up a fab show. Moreover, I know you don’t need a random person like me to tell you all of this so let me come straight to the point.
The point is that I could not make it to NH7 and I’m not happy about it.
I do not need fancy words to say this, but all that I want to say is that I love music. Listening to music was one of those things that I was not forbidden from doing as a child. One of those other things that I could not however do is to go to a music concert. Why I am using the term forbidden is because I live with a physical challenge and a lot of restrictions implicitly come with that term. No, I am not cribbing about my situation but am just stating the fact.
As most of us are aware, our democratic government is not very sensitive towards the needs and rights of those living with a physical challenge. And with the given infrastructure, there are a very few places that we can visit independently. For me, going to music concerts and stage performances has never even been an option because of the long distances that are required to be covered and the absence of other basic facilities. I was really, really depressed because I could not go for the Enrique concert that recently happened in my city.
And honestly, I do not expect any music show organisers to create an infrastructure or have any facilities that would accommodate a physically challenged because it’s only a matter of four to five hours. I could give them the benefit of doubt by saying that may be they could not ‘afford’ to do so only for one amongst the fifty thousand or one lac people who would come for the show.  (I hope you can smell the sarcasm here)
Pune-  as far as I know, has hardly seen any of these weekend music festivals and NH7 was something we all needed. Since NH7 is a three day festival, I thought I could go there at least for one show and spend a couple of hours if not more than that. I was really disappointed when I learnt that there was no golf cart available at the venue. I do not entirely blame you for this, because when most places in the country are inaccessible then I cannot really expect a music festival to be considerate.
So while my friends were posting about the awesome time they’re having at the event, I was brooding about not being able to make it. For a music festival of your stature, this is the least that can be expected of you and I really wished there was a golf cart so that people like me could have access to at least two stages out of the five. If the festival could be pet friendly, I am sure it could also accommodate other human beings like me. 
I don’t care if I am making a fool out of myself by writing this to you, but I genuinely wanted to do this. If not the next NH7, I would certainly want to be a part of at least one NH7 concert in the next five years!
Cheers!

Life’s no Barfi!

Getting bored while reading your own blog post from some time back- yes, that’s what just happened. And I guess that’s one of the worst thing that can ever happen to somebody who thinks she writes decently well. Every time I think of writing something, I end up having the same monotonous tone with almost the same monotonous things to talk about. It’s not like I don’t have anything to say about the latest movie I saw or about the awesome mushroom garlic I had the other day. But I somehow feel there’s nothing different that I would say while I am at it.

Having said that I do not discuss my views generally, I’d like to say that just like anybody else, I too, was moved by Barfi. I guess I have a soft corner for cinema like this. Be it Back or Iqbaal or Guzaarish for that matter- I was moved by each one of them. I believe you require a tremendous amount of sensitivity to understand and portray a subject like that and I honestly would respect the director for that! Knowing that quite a few of scenes from Barfi are imitations, I would still like to give Anurag Basu the credit for the impact the movie leaves the audience with.

I loved Barfi as much, and may be a little more than I can explain. I am not trying to take anything away from the movie but I just could not relate to Barfi’s character being so sooper cool and happy. He has loss of sound and speech, he lost his mother as soon as he was born and he doesn’t have the means to earn a lot of money. There’s certainly nothing wrong in being happy all the time, in fact, everybody should hold that virtue; but I was just wondering how could Barfi, as a character, be so cheerful!

I don’t really thank God for giving me the life that he has, but whenever I do, I do thank him for not giving me any other form of disability. I might not be able to run like others, but I at least have the ears to listen to good music, eyes to watch good cinema and the mind to analyse it. I cannot imagine myself not talking to any of my friends or not watching movies. But, that’s not how it works. I guess when God gives you any challenge, he gives you the strength to sail through it as well. Again, having said that, I kept wondering, how can Barfi as a character, be so content despite his given circumstances?

Barfi’s character can be attributed to the difference between reel and real. But on the contrary, the movie very aptly highlights the fact that most parents of the so called ‘normal’ kids cannot picture their children settling down with somebody who is ‘physically disabled’, just because of their apparent incapability! Like, really? If a marriage was to survive on physical capability,  then most divorces between non-disabled couples wouldn’t have taken place!

We all watched Barfi! And we all loved him so much because he was this happy-go-lucky, boy next door, whom we all want to know. Somewhere, deep down, we all want to be like him- happy, content and a go getter. But how many of us can really manage to keep this positivity for one day or even an hour? While I was at this thought, I realised the beauty of the character of Barfi. To put it straight, Barfi was deaf and mute, and that’s what kept the guy going! He made this world of his own- a world of his own beliefs and his own ideologies. So, if Barfi believed that the world is made up of angels, he did not discuss this with anybody and so, he did not have a stranger ‘tell’ him that the world was there to eat him up! And if Barfi believed he could make a charmingly gorgeous Shruti fall in love with him, he didn’t have his friend ‘tell’ him that a non-disabled girl is not going to accept his proposal. I am not underestimating the power of sign language here, but I hope I am able to make the point I want to make.

My mom and I, we both loved the movie. I especially, decided to stay a little more positive than usual, after I watched the movie. I was at my regular physio therapy session the other day, when I got a random call from a random relative. He inquired if my mother accompanied me to the hospital and I politely answered no. “Oh my God, you’ve become more independent now! You’re going outdoors without your parents and that’s good……,” he went on. “Yes yes. When I was staying in a hostel for three years, I called my mother to give me a bath every morning,” is what I wanted to say, but had to end the conversation abruptly. Like whoever gave that person the right to assume stuff about me just because I am disabled! To top it all, I do not even remember the last time I met him.

So, my attempt at staying positive obviously did not last for long and will not, till the time I am not able to turn a deaf ear to all that that’s being assumed and spoken about me. That’s what I meant when I was referring to the beauty of Barfi. He did what he wanted to, without letting others’ perceptions affect him!

It becomes so difficult for all of us to turn a deaf ear to the negativity around us, but we got to learn to live with it. I especially become more touchy about stuff being said about my disability. There is so much that I want to do or I can do, but everything boils down to my disability. I desperately want to turn a deaf ear to all of that and hope to become more patient by the day.

 For the time being, I can do with hitting the other person  hard with my crutch!

Just as I see it..

So, I was at this family function; the wedding of one of my distant cousins who is of my age or might be younger to me by a few months. We all know how Indian weddings are. Good food, flashy clothes for the women, meeting relatives, exchanging a few ‘respectful’ greetings with the elderly and very little of enjoyment, especially if your cousins or siblings are not around. I was sitting with one of my relatives who I had met after a long time. After 5 minutes of conversation, I decided to go and sit next to my mother so that I could get back to fidgeting with my smart phone. As soon as I started to get up, this gentleman who I was sitting next to, hesitantly told me to remain seated while he called out to my father to come and help me with the same and almost created a scene over there.

Now, this was no less than a small form of humiliation for somebody who had spent three years of her life away from home. Contrary to my much usual way of arrogantly getting back at something like that, I put up a fake smile and replied, “I’ve stayed out of home for three years. Don’t worry, I will manage!” and blatantly walked off. When I came back from the wedding, I thought to myself that how ridiculous it was that I had to actually prove to somebody who I don’t even meet more than twice a year, that I can take care of myself.

This was not the first time, that I was in a situation like that, where I had to prove my physical capability to a third person. The first time, I did it in school, when my teachers were reluctant to let me go to the ground with others and then now. Not much has changed in these twenty years, in how the ‘normal’ people look at the ‘differently abled’ or ‘handicapped’ as they like to say it. As a third person, I absolutely understand that you might be concerned about the differently abled who appears to be physically less competent than you, but you ought to remember that this physically- less- competent human being has learned to live his life that way, and has successfully done so, even before you met him for the first time, a few moments back. I mean I know you have all the heart to help or ensure no trouble to the ‘handicapped’ person in front of you, but why would you do it at the cost of hurting the person’s self esteem, like really?

I then happened to attend the engagement of a non- disabled close friend of mine who again, had to prove herself, for good. She got engaged after being in a relationship for five years. The engagement took so long to happen, because she had to prove herself to her prospective in-laws. She had to prove to them that she was capable of fitting into their family and all that jazz. She had to work hard to clear the’ eligibility test’. Contrary to this, a physically challenged girl doesn’t even reach the stage of impressing her prospective in-laws. That’s because she doesn’t even clear the ‘eligibility test’ of the man who she might want to be in a relationship with..

This is simply for the reason that we live in a society where you’re used to staring at a physically challenged from far in public; you pity them from a distance, but don’t want them to be a part of your life. You’re used to passing a few comments about him/her when they pass by you at a public gathering; you want to assume that they might not be able to do all the mundane things that you do, but don’t have the courage to face situations which they’ve handled single handed-ly.

How do I expect a guy to ‘accept’ a physically challenged if the society he has grown up in thinks that  physically challenged cannot even walk a few steps alone? He’d obviously be labelled not less than a criminal for wanting to settle down for something, that the society thinks he is not worthy of. How do I believe that love exists, if you’re going to judge me based on my physical appearance? If somebody rejects me because I have two crutches despite of knowing from within, that I understand him like nobody else ever can, then I might as well say that love, my dear, does no exist. I’d rather call it a natural selection process, where one sex chooses another ‘competent’ member from the opposite sex to spend their life with.

And after going through all of this, I have my guy friends come and tell me, “I am proud of you. I am so happy to know someone like you. Hang on there, you’ll get your boy!” Hell yeah? If you yourself are going to reject a girl because her nose resembles the shape of an uneven slice of some fruit, why give a fake condolence to somebody else?

Udeib

“Government Hospitals! Huh, there’s no way that your work will be done in one visit.” That’s what every second person I met kept telling me. As ugly does the following fact read, the more ugly it is to live with it. I have almost completed a quarter of my life and had never ridden a two wheeler. Now, that my family had finally agreed to the fact that it’s high time I stopped depending on the Pune rickshaw walas, getting a certification for the special two wheeler, was the first thing we had to do. I thought to myself  ” No, this can’t be so bad. It’s not happened to me as yet!” I was proven wrong and we were sent back the first time because the doctor apparently was not available. I was looking forward to the second visit to the hospital. Not because it would get me a step closer towards owning a two wheeler, but because post that I was to go and collect a payment for some ‘content writing’ work that I had done.(Needless to say, the payment got delayed by a month because paying freelancers on time is a crime in the industry).

I had got used to my rickshaw travels by now and started enjoying them too. The wind blowing in my hair and the music in my ears – one of the best ways to forget something unwanted and walk into dreamland. While I was just getting into my dreamland, I recalled that today was the day, when my article was going to feature in one of the leading dailies.I stopped the rickshaw at a paper stall and bought a copy of the paper. I went to the last page of the supplement and did not see my name. My heart sank as I moved from page to page, and finally it skipped a heart beat, when I saw my article on the first page of the supplement. Certainly, this was one of the nicest mornings I’d had in a long time and was convinced that today can’t be a bad day.

We reached the hospital and went to the concerned the department.The guy sitting in the white apron told us that their department was not authorized to give us the certificate and asked us to go to another department for the certification. The reason why I am referring to the guy in the apron as a guy and not a doctor is because he still was not a doctor and did not hold any authority to send people from one department to the other just because he is unsure of his duties

We learnt that the doctor from the ‘other’ department would not issue certificates until 11 a.m and it was just 8.35 a.m. After an hour or so we were asked to move to another ward, dedicated to issuing certificates. I thought better late than never and was hoping that this will pass soon. All I could think of is how I was going to blow up the amount I was going to get. I again got lost in my dreamland while listening to music and was checking the time every now and then. This kept happening, until another family came and sat on a bench in front of us. Although there was something unusual, I decided to keep to myself unlike my mother, whose inquisitive nature could not stop her from starting a conversation with them.

I was getting restless by the minute and I could not resist noticing the charming smile across the bench. I paused the music and started listening to the conversation that my mother was still having with the family. I learnt that the child sitting on the bench in front of me was in an unusual condition where in there were no bones in his body and his muscle growth would be very slow. He also suffered from ‘hydrocephalus’ a condition in which the head looks large in size in comparison to the body, because of excess water in the brain.

I did not feel sympathetic towards him but felt an urge to interact with him. I said a “Hi” and he did not respond. It was not unusual of a kid to not respond to me and I kept trying. Just like us, his family missed their breakfast in an attempt to be on time for the certification and he finally murmured “Ammi,bhook lagi hai”. His mother left him with his aunt and went to the canteen to get something to eat. I too, immediately went and sat next him. This time around I was expecting a smile but was taken aback when he said “Yeh jagaha meri Ammi ki hai.” We all burst out laughing after hearing Udeib’s concern of me grabbing his mother’s seat.

Udeib’s aunt told us stories of how the little child never fails to crack them up even at home and how he listens to nobody but his mother. It was refreshing to know that the family considers him to be a reason to laugh and not a liability, which is was most families think of their differently abled children. It reassuring when his mother mentioned “Aise bachche to bhagwan ki den hote hai. Woh apne family ke liye lucky hote hai” (Such kids are the blessing of God. They prove to be lucky for their family) It was surprising that this statement came from a lady who was not qualified, left school half way and was unable to by heart her husband’s mobile number.

Udeib is five years old and cannot attend school because of his physical condition. However, he doesn’t miss  to accompany his cousins for their homework; it is because of these sessions that Udeib can now confidently recite tables of 2, 3, 4 and 5. It was ten past 11 and we went and finally sat in the main hall. By this time Udeib started calling me Didi and we had exchanged a few hand shakes too. Udeib’s mother told us that he is very fond of “Kolaveri Di’ and before his mother could finish the sentence, Ubeid started singing the song. I do regret not recording his performance but his visuals still flash in my mind whenever I think of him.

The doctor came half an hour late. Udeib confidently answered the questions the doc asked him. He seemed to gain Udeib’s confidence as their conversation progressed but I disliked him more than before when my turn came. The doctor was unsure if he was authorized to issue me the certificate and thanks to this confusion, asked us to come again. I was double disappointed because I had to visit the hospital another time and my payment was delayed yet another time.

Udeib’s process would take more long and we had to rush back home. We exchanged a good bye but in my heart I wished I bumped into him again somewhere in the city or my next visit to hospital. The innocent smile I saw that day, has probably given me the strength to sustain in every difficult situation. They say ignorance is bliss and Udeib’s smile stood testimony to this fact. He smiled because he was unaware of his condition;  He smiled because he did not compare himself with his cousins who went to school; He smiled because that’s how he had learnt to live and he did not know otherwise; He smiled because his innocent mind chose to ignore the differences.

Three months have gone by but it seems like just yesterday when Udeib smiled at me. I’ve got the certificate to drive, got my vehicle, met with my first accident and lost my confidence to drive ever again. I probably haven’t learnt yet to ride safely on the roads of Pune, but Udeib has certainly influenced the way I would travel on the road of life, the road less traveled..