Who is the “disabled”?

My 1 year old loves playing soccer, obviously he is too young to say it out loud, but his actions speak for itself. At home, outside our home, in the park, all he wants to do is to play with the ball. Today was no different, I took him to the park so he can play soccer, but then I saw plenty of kids dressed in red and blue jerseys at a make shift soccer field. And it was only natural that we both wanted to see the game since we both were soccer lovers.

As we got closer to the field, we saw, there was quite a bit of an audience as well.  They were most likely the parents of the players who were all eagerly waiting on the sidelines to see their kids in action. The coach blew the whistle signaling all the players to line up. And just when the game was almost about to start, 2 more players hurried on to the field. It was all set. What’s unique about the game was each player was accompanied by either their mom or dad or a guardian – hand holding the players. The kids were mentally challenged.

Unfortunately I couldn’t watch the entire game and had to go back home. When I told my wife what I just saw at the park, she said “Back home in India, the mentally challenged would have a tough time integrating into the society. There was no systematic support to create opportunities for the mentally challenged”. This was true to a very large extent unless of course the kid happened to be from a well to do family. In fact, growing up, I had a first hand experience of how unfortunate the whole situation was.

Seshu was much elder to us but his behavior was that of a child. He had trouble expressing himself, articulating, but he would understand everything. During our interaction with him, more than him realizing that he was differently abled we made him realize this by mistreating him, heckling him, bullying him and our behavior towards him ensured that he can never mingle with us and can never become one of us. At times, I use to wonder who had the disability, was it Seshu or was it us. Despite having grown both physically and mentally, despite being the so called educated we discriminated against him and ill treated him.

It was hard enough to be differently abled in a country like India because of the social stigma attached to them, it was even more harder due to lack of any support system. The support system I’m referring to is not for the differently abled but for the abled people like us on how not to misuse our abilities.

Seshu is no more in this world but he will always remind me that I’m the disabled, that i need to grow up in my mental abilities.

And as for the soccer game earlier today, I was lucky enough to witness a goal by the red team and the player who scored the goal tried to celebrate it by taking out his jersey :-).


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