“I want to become a dancer”
“I want to work in a BPO”
“I want to be a teacher”
These simple sentences changed the way I look at life. I worked with a Bengaluru-based NGO. This organisation helps differently-abled people with food, accommodation, education, job and other things. I was part of the fundraising team and the core nature of my job was to connect with potential organisations that could help us grow via donations or some other means of engagement.
I was usually kept busy with my work in office and did not give much thought to the people I was working for. But one day, I had to meet some girls, who were beneficiaries of the NGO. I had gone to the girls’ hostel and was talking with them on the terrace. After the preliminary introductions, we got around to starting a casual conversation.
I wanted to know more about these girls. I wanted to know how they managed their life without a single ray of light — all of them were blind.
They were all brimming with excitement. Everyone had a smile on their lips and a strange curiosity in their eyes. The whole conversation with them was packed with so much enthusiasm that it simply took me by surprise. For the first time in my life, I was having a perfectly “normal” conversation with a group of visually-impaired people. I asked them their names and what their interests were. The confidence with which they carried themselves and their quiet self-assurance made me curious about their future plans. I wanted to know whether they had in any way reconciled themselves to their condition or accepted that they could only dream limited dreams. What I heard was something totally different.
They told me their stories. One girl said she wanted to be a classical dancer, another one wanted to be a teacher, still others said they wanted to be part of a BPO and so on. Every girl had a different dream. Their ambitions, self-belief and charming visage took me off-guard. They truly believed that one day, their efforts would take them to their dream careers. They would teach students, they would learn to dance and they would work for MNCs.
In my office too, I had a colleague who was blind. Despite his blindness, he carried himself like any one of us. He met his work-related deadlines every time. The way he was managing his life was truly an inspiration. He did not let his blindness come in the way he led his life. Although I had never previously given much thought to it, now I began to see him differently, in a new light, with more respect.
That meeting with the girls also made me rethink about what I had known to be true till then. These girls had touched my heart. Meeting them had forced me to take a hard look at “disabilities” and “handicaps”. What did it really mean to be disadvantaged? Literally, the definition of “handicap” could include blindness, deaf and dumb, loss of limb and other such things that are clearly visible. But what about inner disabilities? Does not being disabled only mean having a perfectly functional physical body? What about mental deformities like jealousy, malice and rage? Do these emotions and feelings not qualify us as “disabled” too? Does surrendering ourselves to our baser instincts not stunt our development? Are we any less handicapped?
In a way, we all are. Some just wear signs of their disability while others do not show it. All of us have flaws that do not allow us to call ourselves perfect. Those blind girls taught me that. I no longer feel that I am in any way different from them.
Now, I am one of them.