By Zahra Sajaud
AN eleven-year-old child, Yafi, comes running towards the spot where I had kept my mobile phone, ignoring my greetings and wishes for his birthday which I had come to know from his mother Rosy (name changed) just minutes before visiting her maternal home.
Despite meeting me for the first time, Yafi didn’t hesitate to place his head in my lap comfortably, pulling my fingers indicating to unlock the phone for him. As I did, he tapped the screen several times until I heard videos playing on You Tube. Well, it’s a norm for children born in 2000s but, not for children like Yafi.
Yafi is a child with disability. While he was busy playing the loop, his mother Rosy with all smiles tells me he is a music lover.
Rosy is a woman in her forties and a mother of two children. She looked pale and flushed as she had recently lost her mother. While lamenting the sudden demise of her mother, I couldn’t stop my memories travel back to my college days when she had been my English teacher. She used to be so vibrant and cheerful that it seemed almost impossible for me to recognise her now. She looked totally strange and different now.
Being a mother of a special child, parenting has been quite toilsome for her. “Most of the time, child is not cooperative”, says Rosy when asked about her experience as a special mother. “They need more care and attention than a normal healthy child. I have to take care of everything, even simple task like wiping his nose. As a mother I know it’s not his fault, he has this condition”.
Yafi’s disorder was detected late. A family friend, doctor by profession, had suggested to undergo certain tests as he observed some dimorphic features in the child.
She began to recall the day when reports confirmed her child with disablity. “My whole world imploded. What is more painful for a mother than knowing that her child is not so-called normal!”
With Yafi in her lap, she had cried and wailed while sitting on a footpath. At that moment, her child had passed her an innocent smile. “That smile gave me strength to get up and work for his well-being”.
Life for Rosy and Yafi was not the same after the diagnosis. Apart from frequent visits to doctors,attitude of society and people around also began to change. Different tags were attached, mostly, from her own relatives.
As such, her child showed delayed development milestones. She felt disheartened seeing her son unable to walk while other children of his age had began to run. She chose not to sit and curse her fate. But rather work for her child’s betterment.
However, being a teacher it was difficult for her to manage work as well as a child who needed special attention. But somehow, not losing her willpower, she gave exercising sessions (as prescribed by the doctors) to Yafi before and after leaving for work. And her hard work paid off. Her eyes welled up with tears recalling the moment when Yafi took his first step at the age of 6. “What a moment it was, I can hardly describe that happiness and bliss when I saw him walking”, says Rosy.
She says raising a special child, indeed, is a very challenging task. But, being a mother she doesn’t have an option to give up. “If I would, who else would take care of him”.
Well, the person before being disabled is a human being and hence, an integral part of the society. Therefore, disability is a responsibility of a society as a whole and not of a parent or family associated. He/she is also entitled to the rights and privileges society assures to everyone. Why do we make disability an exception? What if we try to mitigate the gap just by a single gesture of acceptance?
More than reservations, now the society has to realise that we have to become more inclusive towards them and widen their sphere. Let them also go to school, have more accessibility, more choices and above all, a good satisfied life.
Let us include them, and not dictate them to do things in our way. Let them do things in their own way. Let us be compassionate enough to give them space and support.
As Rosy says, apart from parenting, society is a big challenge for us. Where the world has started to create avenues for their inclusivity, Kashmiri society is still far behind terming the lot as me’at (insane), out of ignorance.
Disability is more of a dysfunction of society collectively, rather than just the impairment or sickness of a person. We have to realise what actually makes a person disabled is the lack of acceptance and inclusivity from society. And it can be done by assuring basic ADL( activities of daily living) to build whole infrastructure, assuring dignified lives for persons with disablity.
The author is pursuing Masters in Social Work, University of Kashmir. She can be reached at [email protected]
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