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A disability is nothing to hide

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Brood less, work more and move forward is the way to stop worrying about stares and condescension

One lazy Sunday afternoon, sipping my evening tea, I was searching through my digital pensieve to find something to remember. As I was going back in time from the serene present to my boisterous engineering and prudent MBA days, I realised something.

I have come a long way, completing my electrical engineering degree from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. I have had career stints as developer, sales manager and marketing manager.

If a classification algorithm is run on the pictures in my pensieve, two groups would emerge out — in one, I have a veil around my amputated arm (dupatta during engineering and scarf during MBA), and in the other, I was comfortable with no camouflage around my arm.

The probability of one being comfortable in one’s own skin goes up with age, urbanisation, and education. I will not call age as a significant contributor, as it usually comes with the latter two. For me, education was the biggest influencer. It was a shift in my mindset: from what if peers concentrate on my disability over my abilities, to presenting an intellect that allows no distraction; and from spending a considerable amount of time thinking about ways to avoid the stares and attention, to more productive activities.

There were times when I have played badminton in a fully covered salwar-kameez with dupatta. And, times when I avoided swimming pools, to avoid wearing swimsuits. I have marched forward from all that inhibitions. I have taken a lot of people in the journey of my evolution, and they have evolved too.

Did the stares stop? No. But, it wasn’t as condescending.

Did the questions on my disability disappear? No. But, it wasn’t as uncomfortable.

Did they treat me like equals? No. But, it wasn’t an unequal treatment either.

Would they have preferred me hiding my arm? We will never know, as I am done shying away. And, in the process, I am sure all the people I have met would agree that there is one less way of classification: those with disabilities and those without. Those I have played badminton with, would vouch for that. Those I have swam with, would agree to that.

Corrections began with me. And, hence any change you desire has to begin with you.

If you have gone through something in life that’s out of control, worrying about it is of no help. Focusing on dreams and thinking of ways to eliminate obstacles helped me brood less, work more and move forward.

At no point, I will say I did all of this by myself. It was a collective work, and will be for anyone else in a similar state. Liberal parents and extended family, impartial teachers, non-judgmntal friends, and progressive society — help from everyone I have met, is what has made me, me. My journey has taught me discrimination of any sort would only become an obstacle for one’s desire to progress and become better individuals. Equal opportunity and treatment will change the individual beyond the imagination.

Irrespective of the external factors, today I strongly believe, be who you want to be and stop sacrificing at the cost of yourself. Wear the dress you like. Eat the food you prefer. Dance. Sing. Play. Challenge yourself. Run a marathon. Fall in love, with someone you like. And, most important, fall in love with yourself.

Finally, I close with a quote from Epicurus: “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

nikhitha.bandi15@alumni.iimb.ac.in

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 6:53:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/a-disability-is-nothing-to-hide/article30479972.ece

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