“I don’t know what it feels like to be normal. I know I can never be normal in the accepted sense of the term, neither do I wish to be… I know only myself and I love the person I am,” concludes Malini Chib in her book, ‘Oru Viralil Ulagai Jayithavar’, translated by Aishwaryan.
Born with cerebral palsy that severely restricted her movement and impaired her speech, Malini did not start off this way. Dramatically beginning with her birth in a Kolkata hospital where doctors had no hope of her survival, Malini’s story meanders through four decades of her life with despair about her disability, struggle for acceptance, pain of rejection, humiliation at being shunned by an ignorant society and her gritty triumph against all odds, running as a common thread through this personal account.
Apart from portraying the obvious hurdles that a differently-abled person has to cross, Malini’s thought-provoking introspections about herself and what others perceive of her throw some poignant questions up about disability, what is considered ‘normal,’ society’s distorted view of the differently abled, repressed sexuality and the cruel denial of a partner for differently-abled women as against men and the constant ridicule and mortification they face from their ‘abled’ fellow beings.
Full of courage
Malini has a sharp brain and an astute mind with above average intelligence that is yearning to be recognised and nurtured, although severely distressed by the inability to express herself due to her impaired speech.
And as she conquers every impediment with courage and conviction, refusing to be bogged down by a skewed system, we journey along with her, marvelling at her ability to bounce back from dejection and achieve her goals with almost adamant determination.
The fact that her mother and her entire family have stood by her as pillars of support, cheer-leading her through her long and illustrious academic stints, including five years at Mumbai’s St. Xavier’s College, two Masters and a Diploma from Oxford, London, is truly exemplary.
As the founder of ADAPT and a crusader for the rights of the differently abled, Malini laments the woefully inadequate infrastructure of India’s roads and buildings as against that of London, which she calls her second home.
The differently abled have a voice that cries out to us to recognise and accept them as they are, without denying them what is rightfully theirs. That is the moral of this extraordinary story.