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Laughter of Independence

Today I am referred with varied adjectives like inspirational, independent and so on. This wasn’t the case always. Even I have gone through many melt down’s, sharing one such experience here, hoping you will read without any judgements.

Recently, I attended our neighbour’s wedding in a tier 2 city of Gujarat, along with my family. As you are aware, weddings in our community are grand and lavish too. As a result, a person like me is always the talk of the gossip. Wonder why? A lady decked up from head to toe, walking with a white cane, always makes people turn around 180 degrees and watch and discuss.  

As usual, my neighbours and our common relatives approached my sister and enquired about me, “Has she hurt her leg? Does she have any walking issues, as she is carrying a stick?”. My sister to my pride answered, “She can’t see.” We both just walked away, smiling and I forgot the incident with the very next step we took. But this wasn’t same more than a decade and a half ago.  

The story begins again with me attending a wedding. It was my first cousin’s wedding, the ‘Sangeet Party’ or musical dance party had just settled and the floor was open for dinner. As the food layout is super lavish in our community wedding, I received a plate served with a variety of it. I was eating, so was my mother, sister and everyone around me.

Suddenly I was left alone, as some went for dessert, others were socialising. I could hear them talking near me, hence carried on with filling myself. Post finishing the task at hand, I started to look for anyone around. I could still hear my mother talking clearly near me. I whispered so as to not create a scene but got no response. I waited a couple more minutes. I could hear kids playing around me, tried to talk with them, but the same got no response. Few more minutes passed, I stood up, placed the empty plate on the chair next to me and tried to move a little. Nevertheless neither did anyone see me, nor did they hear me. I was startled, as what’s going on? I can hear them, but why can’t they hear or see me? I tried extending my hand and realised that I was sitting just behind a huge pillar. Totally confused I sat there controlling all my emotions and thinking what should I do? I can’t scream, neither can I walk a few steps and seek some help. Waiting in that chair, hearing my mother and others talk for a few minutes was like the passing of an era for me. 

Sometime later, when the crowd dispersed, my mother came to me. The moment she spoke to me, all my bundled-up emotions started flowing out, without any obstacles. I even forgot where was I and let it all out. My mother tried to explain to me that I was just on the other side of the pillar, but for me, it was as if she had forgotten me. Tears rolled out from her eyes too. She kept on trying to console me but had no luck. Sobbing I told her that, “henceforth I am not going anywhere without my mobile phone and my stick, they bring independence to me.”

This episode is back then when me and my family had accepted my disability to some extent. I lost my eyesight post completing education, hence it was neither easy for me nor for my family to accept the disability.  They refrained me to carry my stick at family gatherings. Stating that they are there for my support and why do I need the stick. Even I accepted this thought and so, left it at home. They never wanted people to stare at me or ask awkward questions.  Coming to carrying my mobile phone, as I was not accustomed to carrying a purse, often had to handover my phone to someone in the family to carry for me. Which in turn started accompanying my stick at home too.

That day God made me learn a lesson in his own hard- taskmaster way that, I should carry my mobile phone and stick without any hesitation to where ever I go, irrespective of others liking or not. I can navigate independently, might seek assistance sometimes, carrying a white cane that gives me control over any situation.

Such as its said history repeats itself, a similar situation happened with me again. No, this time not for a wedding. It was a social club gathering, with lots of loud music playing. My mother left me alone again, to meet someone sitting a little ahead of us. When I realised that she isn’t around I stood and unfolded my stick so as to look out for her. She instantly came and with lots of concern and suspicion said that “I informed you before leaving, just went few rows ahead”. I told her smiling that it was perfectly okay and that she can carry on with her socialising. We both smiled at each other. Reaching home, we laughed together over both the incidents. A laughter of independence and dignity, isn’t it?  

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