This blog post has been contributed by Deepa Garwa.
“Mom, look at those kids, they don’t want Aarshia to play with them.” My son shook my arm while I was blissfully enjoying my book by the pool in Goa. We were on a vacation and my son and daughter were playing in and around the pool, and I was happily engrossed in my book. I am used to this behaviour where children feel my daughter would get hurt or she would not be able to cope up with their games and rules, so they generally decide it is best for all the parties if she doesn’t play. Sometimes I insist but sometimes I just let it go, like this time and I asked my son to play with her instead. After they both got busy playing, I looked at the other mothers who were looking at my daughter and talking in hushed tones, may be trying to figure out what is wrong with her. I closed the book and started thinking that if this generation is still not sensitive towards children with disabilities then there is a strong possibility we are pushing away the dream of a sensitized world by a hundred more years.
I tried thinking of the reason why we as a society are so averse to changes and anything that is unfamiliar. The truth is we don’t believe in changing the age old worn out traditions and beliefs that have no place in today’s day and time. While we keep talking about unity in diversity and other such popular terms every day, the truth is completely different. Deep inside we all are afraid and very uncomfortable of any idea, person, thought or thing that we don’t find familiar. The stigma associated with special needs, homosexuality, people from other regions or religions, has the same root cause. Theoretically we are a country of diversity, we speak over seven hundred languages and ours is one of the most religiously diverse nations but when it comes to the stigmas associated with things beyond ones’ control, we are probably ahead of all.
And these are not common normal issues; we have strong convictions against anything that doesn’t fall within our so-called realm of Indian familiarity. We as a society have always been unappreciative of diversity. If thought through carefully, this is one of the major reasons why intellectual disabilities are still considered fearsome and the people affected with it, aliens! We fear what we don’t know and while the knowledge helps us understand, the problem is we don’t want to learn or know. We see everything as black and white, right and wrong, even if there is a spectrum of colours for us to explore.