Ms. Arunima Sinha lost her leg because of being pushed out of a moving train by some men. Even with a prosthetic leg, two years after her accident, she became the first woman amputee to climb the great Mount Everest. She disliked the look of pity and sympathy in everyone’s eyes and did not want to be looked upon as a handicapped person. She has proved that a strong determination and will is far more important than a strong body. When we come across the stories of people like Arunima Sinha, we feel motivated and we learn the importance of willpower. But, even then we consider them as black sheep of society. They are looked at as “different people” with different abilities. It does not occur once to us that we are the ones who are different because, in our mainstream society, we have a fixed definition of what is common and what is different. And whatever is different is treated and looked upon differently. With all the talks about equality, worldwide, the majority of the countries don’t accept handicapped or mentally or physically disabled people in the same schools and hospitals, and workplaces as that “normal” people. There are special schools and other special institutions for them which I believe is nothing but a source of reminding them that they need special attention and different attention and that they are not accepted in the mainstream society, they don’t fit the norms or normal.
Well, people who are differently abled are not disabled. They are just different, different than all of us. It never for once occurs to any of us that when we have fractures and odd diseases, we too become different than normal but we don’t consider ourselves abnormal and undeserving of a place in the mainstream society., then why them? Muniba Mazari is a Pakistani artist, activist, and motivational speaker. She talked about her life of disability in a Ted Talk. She had met with a life-taking accident at the age of 20 which made her bedridden for 2 years. She had her whole body go through internal and external surgeries and yet she did not give up hope on life instead she emerged as a painter and an activist. She could not become a mother again and so she decided to adopt a child. She said, “When you accept yourself the way you are, the world will recognize you”. It is an individual who has to find solutions to all his problems! She quoted a very strong line, “The disabled people think that in the world of Perfect they are The imperfects.” So, instead of starting NGOs, which we think is the way in which differently abled can be given space in our conventional world, it is necessary for strong and confident differently-abled people like Muniba Mazari, Devender Pal (India’s blade runner), Kartik Sawhney (visually impaired Stanford University Student), etc. to emerge more in the public and help other disabled people gain the confidence to change their life. The world won’t stop talking and pitying and I include myself in the same. Our talks are based on gossip and they are fed on gossip. So it becomes even more difficult for people who are perceived as different.
We are all conventional and normal people but they are different. This means that they are unique they are more capable and are not disabled but in fact, they are certainly more able than any of us. So for this topic, I strongly believe that differently-abled people do have a place in mainstream society if they can make it like other people of mainstream society do. If they want to think of themselves as a part of society, it is they who have to act normal and stand up for themselves. We have seen that those who do never fail. Rather they make a better and more respectable place for themselves. Now, I would like to point out how and why I am against the disabled acts and laws like most of disabled people would be since they spoil the entire scene instead of helping the differently abled people. Also further I would like to discuss this topic in relation to a few books, bring up a few religious aspects and relate them to conventional beliefs.
Mahesh Dattani is a very renowned Indian author. During his lifetime, he had written books, poems, plays, and stories on crucial and sensitive as well as controversial issues in society. These are such issues that we all know but show our back at. One such play that he wrote was called “Tara”. In the play, there are two conjoined twins, Tara and Chandan who, after their operation, become disabled after losing a limb. But having one leg does not stop them from doing things that other normal children around them do. They go to school, they play with their neighbors, they watch television and their father also offers them to go to the office with them. That is what normal children do, right? And this is all regardless of their disability. The only thing that is extra that they have to do is go for physiotherapy. And this is not something different. In fact, this is a solution to their problem. Everyone has problems, even normal people. They have such problems and physiotherapy is the solution to such problems. In the future, Chandan also westernizes himself and transforms his identity into Dan who turns out to become an author, and certainly, this shows that there is a place for them in the mainstream world. It is just that he had to make it. The most important line that I believe proves my opinion is “Let her grow up: yes Chandan, the world will tolerate you but not her.” This is what Bharti, their mother, tells Chandan and this shows that Chandan had only to survive the guilt of something that he had not even done but when it came to the society and the people in the world certainly there was no problem since they were and they even are in our society accepted and given place. However, Tara was unable to make a place for herself. She was becoming weaker and so the mother asked Chandan to look after her. Eventually, Tara died. The other problems like the neighbors making fun of them did not prove to be a problem for them because they had learned to live with that and to prove themselves and they knew their own worth and that is what all differently-abled people need to do. There was a conversation between Tara and Chandan that showed that tara was frustrated with her disability of having only one leg but even in that conversation both of them concluded that it was necessary for them to believe in themselves and stay strong. For this, they had to accept their ability rather than that they are differently abled than most people. Then it was all a smooth road. So two important lessons highlighted are that the differently abled have to know their worth and that they need to support each other because the normal people are too engrossed in pitying them to be helping them.
I firmly believe that acts and laws that are formed in each and every country like the “persons with disabilities act” (1995), “the mental health act” (1987), etc. to help the differently abled people rather than make them disabled. I have one statement to relate to in that context, which is that when parents pamper a child they are more likely to become weaker more dependent, and certainly won’t be able to face the hardships of mainstream society. What is truly necessary in place of the acts is the strong implementation of the spirit of equality. Equality in terms of education as well as jobs. It should be strictly on the basis of the merit and talent system. If they fit the general norms, regardless of their disability and the minimum reservation, they should be accepted. However, if they don’t, there should not be forceful reservations because it is a loss for 3 entities: the organization or the institution, the person who deserved the job, and the disabled person himself too because he will never be satisfied with the work. Also, such acts and laws would have been helpful in case they would have been strictly followed. The “Gujarat Minerals Development Corporation” (GMDC) is a government body. According to the “Persons with Disabilities Act”, a minimum of 3% reservation is required in any government body, to provide employment to the disabled. But, currently, the body has only 1% disabled employed. The reason can be either non-compliance with the act or it can be due to lack of candidature from disabled people. In any case, the Act becomes worthless. So, instead, it can be better to replace the act with a basic spirit of equality and an end to underestimation.
When it comes to religions and beliefs, it is very funny since all our religions have scriptures mentioning both sides so it becomes difficult to take a stand. Some of the scriptures say that disabled people should not be allowed to enter any religious structures or even be near God, like the Jewish attitudes. On the contrary, others say that disabled people are rather the closest to God. Some believe that physical disability is due to the wrongdoings of the past or the present life so why not consider them simple punishments? While some believe that disabled people are carefully made different to differentiate. In any case, it makes them different from the common men. So, is it an indication of the disabled people being apart and aloof from mainstream society? In the case of religion, one has no particular take. Anyone can interpret it in any terms. But in terms of beliefs, it is our personal choice to believe or not. In the holy Indian text of Mahabharat, Shakuni was blind but he was the sharpest of all. He had a disabled leg but he was extremely cunning and clever. But, when Eklavya asked Guru Dronacharya to ask him for a gift, the teacher asked for his thumb. The loss of a body part is considered a huge loss and a punishment. So, it is a big question if the disability is a punishment to aloof one from society or if it is a boon.
Mahatma Gandhi once said “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” We know brilliant examples of people like Major Devender Pal, India’s blade runner, Sharath Gayakwad, a Paralympic swimmer, Kartik Sawhney, a visually impaired Stanford University student, Padma Shri Dr. Malathi K Holla, Shubhreet Kaur Ghumman, a disabled dancer and Navin Gulia, a disabled Limca World Record holder and people like M.S Dhoni, Bill Gates, Roger Federer, etc., who have showed the indomitable willpower and conquered the world. The difference between the two sets of people is the disability. When someone achieves even after being disabled, it is a bigger accomplishment. We can’t deny this fact because what is easy for the normals becomes difficult for those who we consider “different”. Well, this is the biggest reason why the differently abled people will be differentiated always regardless of the positions they are given in the mainstream society and regardless of their acts. So I am strongly opinionated that differently-abled people do have a place in the conventional society or rather I would say that the question should be do we have a place or do we fit in their society? When they don’t ask us questions like that and when there are no laws or acts to protect us or when there are no names for normal people, as we would like to call ourselves, then why them? Saying that they have equal rights and coming up with new acts won’t help them but a change in our, as well as their own mentalities, will. I think we must all conclude on a note to at least think about this!