Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Challenged Love.

It’s ok to make war. But not ok to Love.

I will tell you a story today, not just any story – a True Story – one that broke my heart…

This goes back again to the days, when I was lecturing at a Teacher’s training college, which was attached to a school of special children. And the course was for teachers who were to be teaching special children, those who were ‘challenged’ by the ‘standards’ of this world.

One day my colleague Meena, came across Nirmal, sitting on his wheelchair, completely distraught and in a flood of tears. Nirmal was an eighteen year old, quadriplegic, suffering from Cerebral Palsy. He was able to communicate a little bit by writing and speaking a few words, though somewhat incoherent. After a great deal of trying, Meena finally learnt that Nirmal’s trainee teacher – Sonia – hadn’t come to school for many, many days.  The other trainees told Meena that Nirmal hadn’t been eating for a while now. Unable to bear the sight of Nirmal’s grief, Meena contacted Sonia and after a great deal of persuasion, Sonia finally agreed to meet her.

The day Meena met young Sonia, was the day of Sonia’s ‘Mehendi’  (I think)….There she was decked up, her hands covered in Mehendi, soon to get married. Meena told her about Nirmal…about his pain and distress…how he was refusing to eat or drink….from the day of Sonia’s absence. And none of us knew why? What had happened? Did she know? Sonia looked up, her eyes glistening with un-spilt tears…for a long time she refused to say anything….finally – after a great deal of cajoling she told Meena….

One day, as Sonia had been teaching Nirmal, one to one, sitting next to him…he had scrawled a note in his shaky, unsteady writing…’I Love You’…Sonia had thought it sweet, treating it as a small child’s declaration and not giving it much thought. And then, he said he wanted to kiss her. Sonia was thoroughly confused and frightened by this. She didn’t know what to do and from the next day she simply stopped coming to college. She thought it was horrible of Nirmal, she thought it was a great ‘Sin’. She felt ‘boys like him’ shouldn’t have ‘those’ sort of feelings. That it was all so wrong! It wasn’t her fault – it’s what she had been taught to believe, what millions like her do believe – false notions of Sin and rights and wrongs. And that children, adults like ‘them’ are allowed only to be vegetables, with no feelings or desires. They weren’t allowed! Even animals love..give and need love!

Nirmal was physically and mentally challenged – and like everyone else in this world, he felt Love, he fell in Love. It’s the one thing that makes our life worth living and beautiful! But our society denies this most basic of right, this most basic of emotions to living, breathing humans like him. And attach false ideas, of sin and morality to it – Why?

Aren’t they human? Just because they are ‘disabled’ in some way, don’t they have a right to live?

To Love?

(All names changed to protect privacy of individuals)

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People Portraits : Anand

People. It’s always about people. And sometimes it’s about children who are more grown up than adults.

No matter what your stature or status in life, no matter how rich or poor in material terms, real enrichment is because of the people who touch our lives – some good, some not so good and some utterly magnificent and unforgettable. And their impact isn’t simply because of the length of time they spend with us or even their age – it is who they are! Obvious yes? Not really. Let me explain –

Many years ago, in Mumbai, I started volunteering for an organisation for children with Cerebral Palsy – I worked both with the children and their parents. And here I came across ‘Anand’ (name changed for privacy reasons).

Anand was a quadriplegic – he had just a torso and no limbs but his brain was as sharp as razor. His eyes shone with intelligence, mischief and mayhem and their were times when I would have to discipline him like any another ‘normal’ child. But what is ‘normal’? Simply because someone or something doesn’t fit into society’s parameters of what ‘normal’ should be doesn’t make them abnormal. Nobody has the right to call them that! But I digress – let’s get back to Anand.

So this little imp Anand followed me around in school, he called me his girlfriend 🙂 – shuffling about at speeds you wouldn’t believe! He would reach out and pull my hair – whenever I would sit down next to him – with the little stubs he had (no hands), so much so that I would yelp in pain. The smiles never left his face and he made me smile too, all the time! His exuberance and joy was something to behold – that he could find ways to laugh, in circumstances so dire, was amazing and humbling.

Anand lived in abject poverty, in slums. His mother would bring him to the organisation, every single day – never losing courage or hope. His father wanted him out – wanted to leave him out on the streets – to fend for himself. It was his mother who stood courageously by her son. Both mother and son experienced abuse. There was a time when I saw cigarette burns on the child, put there by his own father. I cannot even begin to express the pain and horror of it all…

I thought – I was the one helping them – instead I came away, learning from them. THEY helped me. THEY taught what real courage was, to be happy no matter what. To always BE Grateful for what I had.

ANAND – Wherever you are, I hope you are well and happy. I will never forget you. My life is all the more richer for having spent time with you.

(Previous blog: The Glass Wall http://www.painauchocolat.blogspot.com)

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A new journey begins…

More than a decade ago, I moved to London along with husband and child from India. Moving continents was challenging but also great fun! The first thing I did when I got out of the airport was to look for Daffodils – it was spring then – and the taxi-driver obligingly pointed out the golden beauties to me. Having grown up reading Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’ in school – it was one of the first things I’d wanted to see and I wasn’t disappointed. The enchantment hasn’t left me to this day…

When I landed, child in tow, as a family we didn’t know a single person in this country – but the internet came to my rescue and I slowly became familiar with the world of blogs and blogger and suddenly I wasn’t so alone any more. I had always loved reading and writing and blogging seemed like a natural progression.

I started my blog ‘The Glass Wall’ (http://www.painauchocolat.blogspot.com) in 2004 and maintained it until 2008 – it was fun and also creatively fulfilling! And the added bonus was that I made friends all over the world, most whom I did not meet, but some who I did and who are my friends to this day. I thank them for sharing my journey with me.

As life intervened, I decided to take a hiatus from blogging but now I feel ready again. My little boy is all grown up and at university (where have the years gone!) and am suffering from the empty-nester syndrome. I then took it upon myself to write in a more serious fashion and have finished the first draft of my novel and struggling with creating a polished second (final?) draft.

Life seems to be demanding a change again, the chance to move continents has arrived again and soon I might move to the Far East becoming a trailing wife.

The nomad in me is rearing to go but the mother is sad. But whatever happens, I shall take you on the journey with me both metaphorically as a writer and literally across continents. I hope you enjoy the ride!

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