I don’t want to pity them. That would go against everything I have been taught in the past 5 months. You do not pity a human being living a worthy and dignified life. Pinky doesn’t have hands but she files assessment forms with her elbows at the Placement and Guidance Cell at the Association of People with Disability. They roam the world on their wheelchairs. See all its wonders in Braille. Crack jokes in complete silence as their fingers sign tirelessly.
Yet sitting in a class of 20 children, I sometimes feel like crying. There is a strange deadness in the class. A quiet. A lack of vibrancy. They are children. So young! But they do not play or run or shout. They let their bodies fill their wheelchairs like water fills a vessel, losing its own shape to take on the shape of the wheelchair. Ruksar can’t feel it when her bladder is full and passes out. Even when she’s 25 or 30, IF she’s ever 25 or 30, she’ll still never feel it. Akash can write and write all he wants with his feet but he will still never be able to make a sound. It will always be quiet. Just like now.
Sometimes at night I dream that I am looking out at the streets from a bus and everyone is limping, everyone in the bus is missing a limb, they are signing to each other with the stubs of their hands. And they are laughing. I try getting off the bus but I can’t get off my seat. I look down and see that my knees are two stubs. I jerk awake. I drink water and am unable to fall asleep again.
I was molested by Sharad today. He is 24 years old. His IQ is 48. Severe mental retardation. He grabbed my wrist first and when I tried wringing it out he held my shoulders. It was hurting. I jerked out of his grip and turned around to leave and he gripped me with both hands from my back. His grip was so tight my breasts hurt and I couldn’t breathe. I screamed out. I closed my eyes and screamed and screamed and screamed. Even when the care-taker had ripped Sharad’s arms off me, my eyes were still closed and I was still screaming.
Two weeks ago a bike rammed into me on the road when I was trying to cross. It was upon me in a flash and I was on the ground. There was blood all over my clothes and bags and shoes. I couldn’t even tell where it was pouring out from till the doctor cleaned me up in the emergency room of St. John’s Hospital. Two weeks ago I had 8 stitches on my forehead, now I have a big, ugly scar. But I’m glad for it. I used to be even gladder while the big white bandage was still wrapped around my forehead. Armed with a flashy bandage or a visible scar I fit in. They do not stare me weirdly anymore when I sit having lunch, wondering what the hell I’m doing there if I don’t have a disability. Now my scar certifies the possibility of my having a disability. And they do not stare at me weirdly anymore. I’m glad. I couldn’t bear not to fit any longer. How do they feel not to fit in on the roads, or at a restaurant, or a movie-theatre for all their lives? I couldn’t bear not fitting in for 7 hours. Sometimes I would pretend not to hear or not speak so they would mistake me to have speech and hearing impairment. Just to fit in.
Often I do end up crying. Not in front of them. Later, in the evening when I am back home and it’s all dark because there is no power. I don’t know how long I will last. I don’t know if I am strong enough for this profession. But at least seeing and suffering is better than being blind.