Ira Singhal, a differently-abled woman topped last year’s IAS exams and has become a youth icon for everyone, including people with disabilities. On the other hand, a differently-abled passenger was recently forced out of a security check while boarding a flight and asked to place her prosthetic leg under the luggage scanner!
While we see differently-abled people defying their so called disability to achieve great feats despite lack of a sensitised eco system, it is disheartening to see that they are time and again discriminated against by the establishment and the society in general. In fact, parents of children with disabilities have the dual responsibility of not only providing a conducive environment for them to be able to achieve their dreams albeit their challenges, but also strengthening their emotional quotient so as to make them impervious to the society’s insensitivities. With the recent initiative of “Accessibility India Campaign” launched by the Central government that vows to make all government buildings, airports and railway stations across all state capitals accessible to the differently-abled in the next few years, it’s time we change our mindset and acknowledge that not only are the differently abled “Divyaang” and not “Viklaang”, but are also equal and effective contributors to society.
In alignment with this theme, we picked up two books that address the disability challenge in a subtle and sensitive manner. The first one titled, “Wings to Fly” by Sowmya Rajendran and pictures by Arun Kaushik is the remarkable story of Malathi Holla, the famous sportswoman who braved her disability to make India proud by winning gold at the para-Olympics. She was awarded the Arjuna Award and the Padmashri. This Tulika publication traces the cause of her disability to a polio attack when she was about a year old, taking away the strength in her legs. Despite undergoing a number of surgeries and living in a medical centre for as many as fifteen years, Malathi continued to be wheelchair bound. But that didn’t bind her spirits in any manner, and Malathi found herself loving the movement exercises advised by her doctors. That’s when Malathi began participating in many sports events for the disabled and the rest is history! Read the book to find how Malathi went on to scale new heights in the field of sports, including an interesting anecdote how she even raced in a men’s event and won! With a sensitised narrative accompanied by lively illustrations, this book beautifully and vividly brings out the inspiring life of Malathi Holla, who is a living example of how one can brave all odds by sheer determination, resilience and courage…who needs legs when she has wings to fly!
“Kanna Panna” by Zai Whitaker and pictures by Niloufer Wadia is a touching story of a precocious young boy who doesn’t speak much but has a habit of forming rhyming words to everything he hears …but the words only play out in his head. Kanna appears to be a shy and a little unsure of surroundings. While amma orders him to tuck in his shirt or straighten his collar, appa orders him to raise his head high and not look down. Kanna then accompanies his Chitti (aunt) to her place, and is thrilled at not having anyone to give out instructions to do this and that. When they are taken to the cave temples nearby, everybody except Kanna feels unsettled by the darkness inside as Kanna doesn’t really need the assistive light to experience the intricate carvings of the temple. When the power goes off all of a sudden, guess who goes on to save the day? The twist in the tale shows how people with disabilities are not disabled but only differently-abled!