Monday, May 23, 2016

       "Sangharsh, a special day with special children: reflections on some special FUNDAMENTALS"

We are born in a particular region under a set of preset labels that tend to define us and the life that we are going to lead till we develop some aspects of critical thinking or at least till we think so and then we become activists, yes most of us, though everyone‟s style may not be as aggressive as the latest blue eyed boys of our media and society. That said, however, the fact remains that we too try to rewrite/overwrite the lines. Some of us become hardcore followers while some choose to be rebels, hardcore and aggressive in mind if not so much in actions. Lines: lines that define and divide us, lines that judge and blame everyone except the people in their circle. Lines that confuse us and our notions about humanity and kindness… Left vs right, communal vs secular, men vs women, religion, social class, caste, ethnicity, race, tribe, etc etc. The high-profile, high-cost attempts by communal (irrespective of whether left or right) activists to hoist their own party flags, flags that typically disassociate their followers from others. Anti or pro(nothing in between), the lines are clear cut and getting sharper day by day. A paradox in itself, I feel; that people with grey intentions expect the society to be either black or white. Obviously, what‟s what is for you to decide? The funny thing is, the definition of the word „communal‟ is something extremely opposite to what‟s happening around us and by us as one globally family. “A communal society is one in which everyone lives and works together and property and possessions are shared rather than being owned by a particular person”; yeah I know this definition is too utopian in today‟s world but sadly people still fall prey to this herd mentality, irrespective of the invisible labels stuck on their foreheads since the software of the mind is already corrupted by radical superficial ideologies. Ideologies propagated by the self proclaimed messiahs, craving for nothing but power leading to an atmosphere of needless anxiety and chaos. However, the funnier (actually sad) part is that no one cares when you or your family suddenly faces some real tough calamity. All the so called saviors of the community go into a state of amnesia immediately. It‟s nothing but a number game, rising out of insecurity leading to a fixation to false identity. The roots of communalism are fast shifting though not merely attached to partition or prevalent terrorism but more to do with deep-rooted caste (un)consciousness, pun intended. Sadly, most anti-caste campaigns have exclusively addressed the atrocities of those above but conveniently missed the caste supremacy towards those below by the very same sub group.

OKEY! Now coming back to what triggered these thoughts in my mind? So, recently I was invited as a guest to attend the “Annual day function” of Sangharsh, a centre for children and adolescents with disabilities, run by Sahyog (an initiative of Chehak Trust).Let me give you some brief about Sangharsh, since such initiatives are rarely covered by media who survive on sensationalization rather than sensitization. Sangharsh was set up in the Jari Mari (Andheri-Kurla) community in May 2003 to encourage an inclusive view of education and support community based rehabilitation work. This centre caters to children and adolescents (between 3-18 years) who have, or are at risk of, developmental disabilities: learning disabilities, hearing impairment, mild mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy, and orthopedic disabilities. The centre was relocated to Narayan Nagar (Ghatkopar West) in 2011. So what was so special about their Annual day???? Everything, everything including the children... The event occurred inside a „Gurudwara‟ and majority of parents from mixed communities and varied background sat and applauded their children‟s performance and skills and abilities with eyes full of tears; tears of pain and joy, tears of struggle and success. A Maulana talking about being liberal, not just talking but walking the talk too… A mother proud of her special daughter, feeling euphoric since her girl can write her own name now… A sense of satisfaction equivalent to any other „ordinary‟ parent when his/her ward secures an admission into an IIT/ an IIM may be. The children looked fresh and enthusiastic and for a change I saw a set of people defying all sorts of differentiating labels. Years of hard work, hard work as a team, a team that has consciously chosen to break the pseudo norms and customs of a traditional rigid society have really paid off, I feel. A special thanks to Ms. Sonal Gandhi and Ms. Surabhi Ramachandran for putting their heart into selflessly volunteering at Sangharsh. Also, special thanks to Ms. Ruvina Fernandes for her encouragement and support. Ms. Manisha Naik; in my brief discussion with you I felt that you are really a good mentor. Your entire team‟s commitment is commendable. For a moment I thought, where will these parents go if there is no such support??? I still have no answers… Minim Charitable Foundation is so very proud to be associated with an initiative such as Sahyog Sangharsh that cuts across all the superficial lines and tags created by us as a society. An effort to genuinely understand the hardships and routine struggles of such children and their parents and to support them with most educational and developmental (rather than superficial communal support) needs is really a significant and stupendous task. “Sahyog aims to create a secular, progressive and empowering space, which enables young people to make this vision a reality”, you are really moving ahead in this direction of your vision. Can we all for a moment just ponder upon this and at least imagine how the society actually can be if we shed these invisible labels that are as immortal as we are????