Showing posts with label Differently Abled. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Differently Abled. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Definitely Abled! [221/365]

Pardon me for the poor picture quality.
The past weekend I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful gentleman at a blogger meet.
He introduced himself to the group of 150 fellow bloggers as Raghava, blogger and social evangelist and entrepreneur. With a smile that could put anyone at ease.

When I introduced myself to him, he had that ready smile again. Naturally, I asked him what he blogged on and if was a photo-blog perhaps because virtually everyone at the meet was a photoblogger!. Pat came the answer 'Oh no. I am blind'.
Now, I really can't put in words what I felt at that moment. Awkward.

Later, during a short tea break I wanted to know his story. He seemed so normal. He didn't wear dark glasses, nor had the cane with him at that moment.
He was cheerful and didn't rant about how disabled-unfriendly the world is.
Raghava would later explain to me how he began loosing his vision about a year ago, almost in a matter of factly way.  He was curious to know if there was anyone else who were in the same situation as he is and I told him about Poonam Vaidya and the little that I knew of how she coped with a life with dimming lights. The news of someone else who shared the same condition cheered Raghava. I promised to try and connect Raghava with Poonam.

As I left the meeting, I was reminded how small the world is, how fleeting life is and how we take almost everything for granted.
Raghava is steadily loosing his vision. From a perfect vision, he now sees everything in a blur and I can feel how depressing this can be. I can barely tolerate driving without my prescription glasses. In about a year from now, he could be completely blind. That is a frightening prospect. Raghava is no superman. He isn't a dark knight. He isn't immune to the crushing realization that the lights will be turned off soon.

He however does have a lot of fight left in him. We spoke about his interests in social entrepreneurship and the projects he works on. I've seen far too many able-bodied people sulking, bullying their way to the top. When Raghava described himself as 'definitely abled' I was impressed.

Here's wishing his tribe increases!
Good Luck, Raghava.

Other heroes I've chronicled:


Friday, July 20, 2012

Finally, I did it! [202/365]

After several thoughtful months and a sabbatical, I made the difficult choice of resigning from a company that I came to love.

Leaving a company is never easy. More so when you've invested so much of yourself into the company. Five years was longer than I'd initially thought. But when time came, I knew I had to go.
It's a uncomfortable decision. I've survived and grown.

Leaving my zone of comfort was disturbing, but I knew I had to. Narayan Murthy, the co-founder of Infosys once famously said, "Love your job, but never fall in love with your company because you never know when the company stops loving you... "

Which brings me to an instance of where the society refuses to love its people. I'd written about an amateur artist who is differently abled several weeks ago. As I recalled in regret how I could not be of help to him, I got the perfect chance to undo that regret today. Passing by, I saw the gentleman sitting at the pavement and this time, I decided I would stop and chat with him.

Mahesh, a 23 year old from Kolar, is an amateur painter who ekes out a living by painting with his crippled legs. As I was speaking with him, curious onlookers and tourists stopped to understand what was going on. Some people threw some rupees but he was not interested in free money. I wanted to buy a few paintings and he even gave me four of his favorite drawings. We chatted and all the while, Mahesh is painting deftly with his feet. Anywhere abroad, an artist like Mahesh would have been feted and his paintings sold for thousands of dollars. In a country where you'd meet able bodied beggars at every signal, Mahesh was a breath of fresh air. Infact, some of the beggars, seeing as I was being generous with a cripple, wanted some money too.

Men like Mahesh is what keeps India vibrant and progressive. They don't want quotas and freebies. They want equal opportunities in a society that cares.

You might have a bullying boss in your office.
You might have a disability that makes you different from others. You might even wonder why God is not listening to you.

You need to stop thinking you are in a rut and set up that lemonade stand.

Other Heroes in 'Hold the Thought, Get the Point'
Raju
Vikhitha Shetty
Claire Lomas
Poonam Vaidya 


Friday, March 30, 2012

By the side [89/365]

more Abled than most of us
I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be "happy." I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter and to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.
- Leo C. Rosten

I am not known to be charitable.
Correction: I fail to melt when I see a person begging, just by virtue of a handicap.
A common sight at an Indian traffic, you'd be surprised that many of them would have much more in the bank than you'd believe. Heck they are richer than most of us combined. But of course, I've told you all this before.

Today, commuting to work, I saw a person working away at a pedestrian footpath near a very busy intersection. No, he wasn't begging. He wasn't looking for compassion. He was earning his bread though.
Severely crippled, he was painting. I paused by the side, watched him. Curiously. And so did a lot of other people. Many was bewildered. Some thought he was just trying to seek attention. Surely he was. But he didn't want your money for free. Buy one of his sketches. And those sketches weren't childish amateurish scribbles and doodles, but colorful abstracts with powerful brush strokes. I was amazed and I am pretty sure a lot of passers by were too.
Some did buy his paintings. But I didn't. I procrastinated. I erred. I assumed that he is going to be there the next time I pass by and figured I could buy it then.

I did look for the 'anonymous painter' the next day, but he was gone. No sign of him. I saw him for exactly two days. I wondered what happened. I theorized that the merchants and the cops patrolling the busy CBD didn't like him. He was bad for their image. What will the phirens think? Nothing worse than seeing a crippled man trying to make an honest living. Forget the dilapidated roads, uneven footpaths, overflowing sewers and prostitutes plying their trade under the nose hairs of the cops in the CBD.
I asked one of the merchants and he confirmed my fears. The cops did come and haul him off. He probably has been shunted away from our sanitized eyes into poverty.
But this is not new.

A couple of years ago, there used to be a lady. She was truly homeless. She lived on a footpath about 3 km away from my home. As I came to see her everyday, I began to buy lunch for her. Everyday. She might have been at least 70. She definitely had better days in her past since she had a toe ring. Her worldly possessions were a battered and torn suitcase, some clothes, two mattresses, an umbrella and two stray dogs. I'd see her sitting at exactly the same spot through the day, and when the rains came, the three of them would get under the umbrella. She'd gradually recognize me and smile and fold her hands in thanks when I'd give her the packet of food. This arrangement went on for a few weeks. I remember praying for her and hoping that she sees better days ahead. I was helpless. I wanted to do something. I wanted to bring her home. But wasn't sure how I could take care of her. I was a struggling bachelor then.
Two days before Christmas, with a packet of food for her, I came to the spot where she was for the last 20 years. But she was gone. Her pets were there. They were 'searching' for her. I asked around. They told me that a group of cops hauled her off a few hours ago. I wondered where.
I hope it was to a cozy place, because her belongings were left behind. It was removed a day or two later. And the footpath sanitized.
I did ask the people around. Some long time residents told me that she used to be a wealthy lady who was thrown out of her house and her wealth by her ruthless son. With no where and no one to go to, she stayed on the footpath outside her former home.

Four years on, I still think of her every time I pass the spot.
I hope she is doing better wherever she is.

We err when we procrastinate. I wish I'd bought the painting of that crippled painter when I still had a chance. I wish I'd brought that lady home when I still could.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Able and Willing.. Part 1

Community Service to many of us is a farce. An event where we get a paid day off.
While many who volunteer their time think they are doing a favor to those who are underprivileged, I think it's the other way round. They are doing us a favor by letting us be a part of their special life.


The ThomsonReuters Foundation, tied up with 25 NGOs, each a pioneer in their field. Unprecedented in scale and involvement, we'll have 2500 employees taking part in 250 projects across 4 months.

In a series of posts, I'll attempt to pen down my experiences with the 19 projects that I will be a part of this year.

Sept 17th, 2011.
'Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day....teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime'
Unnati works on empowering those sections of the society that is underprivileged and undermined in more ways than one.
With 12 enthusiastic volunteers, we were overwhelmed at the sight of over 200 candidates at the Centre on a bright and balmy Saturday morning.
A quick briefing and a short slideshow of the program cleared any doubts that my team had.

But what really impressed many of us was how streamlined the entire process was.
Interview on such a massive scale is always a logistical nightmare. However in Unnati, fully completed applications are screened for authenticity and tagged for any one of the 12 vocations taught at the NGO.

The kind of candidates that we saw impressed us too. Guys and girls who you'd otherwise not bat an eyelid if you passed them on the street were there, wanting to learn, work and be able to stand on their own feet. Nearly all of them reached Unnati because they had friends/relatives who were taught at the NGO.
Most of them were humble and open to instruction, criticism and feedback. Some were hell bent on working in a particular vocation, even though they lacked the skills. We had to persuade them and explain to them why they would not suit a vocation.
But all of them had an amazing attitude about life, smiling even though in abject poverty.
For the 150 odd candidates that did crack the interview, Sept 19th is just the beginning.
The team at Unnati that made a difference!

Towards the end of the day, we all had a wonderful time. Many of us saw ourselves in the candidates we interviewed.
And on our way back, we promised ourselves that we would want to be there when the 70 day course at Unnati finishes on the 3rd of December.

Karunashraya - Hospice
Sept 18th, 2011.
'All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.'
The hospice for patients with cancer in it's advanced stages struck a very personal chord with me.
Having seen what cancer can do with a person and his/her family, the work that Karunashraya made me pause and ponder. Pain is an incredible thing. Something that you need to experience to know how much it pains, cancer is a painful death sentence.
Having seen my dad and his sisters loose their battles of cancer was painful. Scary even.
At Karunashreya, I saw death. Apparently the mortality rate at the hospice is as high as two deaths a day.

The history of the NGO is inspiring. Having gone through a corrupt bureaucracy, the NGO does manage to strike a delicate balance between altruism and sound policies.
We got to learn how the hospice functioned. What I noticed was how almost everything in the hospice was designed and done in such a way that death looses it's sting. 
Each of the 'guest' is allowed to wear their own clothes provided it is comfortable and easy to wear/remove, every guest is allowed to walk freely around the facility, every guest is given their choice of meal three times a day. And when the time comes that the guest has to 'depart', he/she is given a dignified way through doors that open directly into the veranda and wheeled to the 'Prayer room' where the relatives can accept the mortal remains.
All this is done so to make sure that none of the inmates see the bodies going out, even though all of them are quite sure that their turn to leave is not too far away.

Our project was to provide succor to the staff and nurses and relief even if it was just a day, from the gory reality of death around them.
Ranging from ages 18 to 25, you'd hardly notice anything different about the staff here and any other hospital. Dig deeper and you'll find that they all have a passion for selflessness. Polite yet steely resolved, working with terminally ill people require nerves of steel.
Would I want to work with Karunashraya again? Definitely Yes.

Sept 21st, 2011.
"For me, inclusion is about a community where everyone is recognized for their differences and everyone is recognized as belonging – not only in our schools, but in our communities."
As part of my third project, we had to plan and execute a gathering of 25 different NGOs that work for differently abled individuals. 
The first picture that comes to our minds when we talk about social service are images of individuals who are anemic, unintelligible and unscrupulous.
Having met 25 different NGOs involved in healthcare, employment and among specially abled individuals, my perception has improved. 
With over 2000 registered NGOs in the city of Bangalore alone, it is anybody's guess on why we need to pool in our collective resources. The need is certainly there. Being 'challenged' (or the more politically incorrect term 'disabled') does no longer mean that you should be begging for your living. With the wealth of resources that many of these NGOs have, getting a good job/living a respectable life is only a matter of connecting to the right organization.


With the NGOs promising to network and connect in a better way in the future, I believe we were able to hit all the right notes with our project.

Next Stop:
The Freedom Foundation


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