Life of a Girl With Special Needs in India
Hello to all Athenas reading this. The issues confronting girls with special needs (read Differently Abled) in India is very close to my heart having observed from close quarters the discriminatory treatment meted out to a loved one.
We come across women in wheelchairs, using crutches, walking with artificial legs, paraplegics and those afflicted with visual, hearing and speaking dysfunctions. Some of us feel sorry for them and those of us who are hard of heart do not even notice them or worse yet, think they got what they deserved due to some “sin” committed in a previous lifetime. But have we ever paused to wonder at their courage and their indomitable spirit? Have we ever really bothered to appreciate their incredible bravery and strength in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds? All we Indians are conditioned to think is “Oh poor girl! Who will marry her now?” Or, “Whoever marries her is surely great. After all, she’s blind / deaf / dumb / lame.” Why can’t we think beyond this?
This young lady I know was born with an incurable genetic defect which results in gradual loss of vision. For all intents and purposes, she’s blind. But she has never let that bring her down. She studied in a regular school, with other so-called “normal” kids and ALWAYS topped her class. Her academic record is exemplary, culminating in a gold medal in her Master’s degree. She’s working in a great company and is earning a handsome salary. To top it off, she’s beautiful, smart and intelligent. But all these facts were overlooked by potential employers when she was searching for a job before finally, a really smart company recognized her potential and snapped her up. Now, she’s looking out for a life partner, a soul-mate and everywhere she turns, she’s met with prejudice. Potential bridegrooms and their parents think they would be making a great sacrifice if they welcome this lovely human being into their family. They do not bother to look beyond the defect. I truly feel sorry for these boys and their parents, because they are missing out on knowing a truly wonderful person. Anyway, it’s their loss.
Hers is not an isolated case. There are many people with special needs who have made an indelible mark in this world. Who can forget Beethoven, the master composer? And what about Dr. Helen Keller, who couldn’t see, hear or speak since the day she was born, but went on to become an iconic figure? And the great John Milton, who wrote Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained AFTER he lost his vision? And the incredibly brave Natalie D’Coute, who lost one of her legs, but still competed against able-bodied swimmers in the 10KM open-water event in the 2008 Beijing Olympics? And the incomparable Stephen Hawking who comes up with astonishing scientific theories despite suffering from motor neuron disease? Look around you and you’ll find countless such examples. When their “disabilities” doesn’t matter to them, why should it matter to you?
Athenas, I think it’s about time the society’s mindset towards people, and especially ladies with special needs, underwent a sea change. They are God’s children, just like you and me. Do not wound them. Just give them a chance at a normal life and you’ll be surprised at what they can achieve.
There are millions of people like the young lady I know and love. Their courage in the face of adversity needs to be saluted. And they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. In case you have a child with special needs in your family, do not treat her like an outcast. Just provide the opportunity to shine and watch the show. Thanks for reading.