Category Archives: Society

Being disabled and being proud of it

Either via Facebook or different online groups, I often get to interact with people with different disabilities from all over the world. There is this one particular topic that has caught my attention: there are many people with disabilities, especially in the West, who are proud of being disabled. They are so proud that when somebody talks about “treating” that disability, they are offended. They often argue that they are fine with how they are and they don’t feel bad about it.

I especially mentioned “West” because they have a totally different lifestyle. I haven’t had an opportunity to talk to people from either India or from other lesser developed countries unfortunately, but it will be interesting to know their take on this.

When I am asked how I feel about my disability (in fact I don’t just have a single disability in the conventional sense, I have multiple disabilities due to cerebral palsy) I don’t say that I’m proud of being disabled, I say that I am proud of myself, despite my disability.

I don’t see disability as my identity. For me it is not something to the tune of what Descartes said, “I have cerebral palsy therefore I am”. For me it is more of a hindrance. I will come back to this thought later on.

Comparatively things in West are easier. Most of the places are accessible. Even restaurants and bars are quite accessible for that matter. People can easily use public transport. There are more disabled people in schools, colleges, food joints, railway stations and offices compared to a place like India. There is a solid social security system. The rehabilitation programs are much better and concrete. The food is good. There are better career opportunities for the disabled. They don’t have to spend lots of energy on fundamental day-to-day survival. For instance, if they want to go out for dinner, it is much easier. Here in India, if you use a wheelchair, merely the act of getting outside of your house onto the road can in itself become an ordeal, forget about having a fun filled evening with your friends or family. I have disabled friends who haven’t gone out for years.

You feel less and less disabled if your daily needs are easily met with. When you don’t have to think twice before visiting a local general store. So one has this luxury to feel good about being disabled. Disability, as they often say, is more environmental and less physical, at least when it comes to an average lifestyle – climbing a mountain can be difficult for both disabled and enabled people at certain levels.

A few months ago we moved to Indirapuram. Since these residential localities are being developed according to modern lifestyles, competitively they are far more accessible compared to conventional towns and localities. When we moved, our building didn’t have a ramp. We talked to the RWA and now we have ramps in every building. There are two fully functional lifts in every building. From the compound of the building to our apartment I don’t have to encounter even a single step.

Nearby there is a shopping mall. I won’t say that the mall was constructed keeping accessibility in mind but most of the modern malls are built in such a way that people can easily use trolleys. Since they use trolleys, they have ramps wherever there are steps. Although perpetually in a state of disuse, most of them have “toilets for the handicapped”. Consequently, without encountering a single obstruction, I can go to the mall, purchase the daily necessities of life, and come back. I have never felt so independent. I don’t have to depend on anybody. In the previous blog post when I wrote about roadside barbers, I can easily roam around in the entire area without any problem. I don’t even have to tell anybody before going out because everything, at least to me, is fully accessible.

Make some changes in the apartment and I will be able to do practically everything. Does this make me disregard the fact that I am physically disabled? It suits my environmental definition of disability.

But I’m independent as long as I am in this comfortable zone. What if I want to climb up a mountain? What if I want to go on trekking? What if I want to travel in a train with my family? What it I want to explore in a jungle on a my own? What if I want to run around with my daughter and play all sorts of games with her?

All these things I want to do but I am unable to do because of my physical disability. Now you can say that if I put my mind to all these things, in one way or another I can accomplish them. Sure I can. But then it will be more about proving a point rather than doing and enjoying those things.

When we were kids we were shown a movie in our school (I studied in a special school, mostly for spastic children). There was this boy who wanted to climb a mountain and reach its peak. The only problem was that he had cerebral palsy and he had more than 90% physical as well as speech impairment. His family and their friends got together and made a plan. Together with 6 people they started their expedition. The used rope and they built a special wooden platform on which the boy could sit without falling off. With every push of the rope he squealed with happiness and eventually after hours of struggle they all reached at the top and the boy was ecstatic.

When the teacher asked us how we felt after seeing the movie, my only reaction was “What’s the point? He didn’t climb the mountain, he was just carried there.”

Similarly when people say that they are proud of their disability the immediate question that comes to my mind is, “What is your exact point?”. Let us suppose that all the ramps, fancy wheelchairs and everything else that helps you live a “normal” lifestyle are taken away, will you still feel proud of your disability? In my opinion you are simply trying to prove a point and nothing else.

Disability for me is a hindrance because it stops me from doing things that I would like to do in my own way. I’m fed up of compromises. I don’t want to do things just for the heck of doing them, I want to do them because I want to do them, and in a way I want to do.

Does the thought that I may never be able to do them make me miserable? It used to, but not now. Does the thought make me less confident and think less of me? Again I will say, it used to, but not now.

I’m not proud of my disability, but I am at peace with myself. I know my worth and I have people around me who love me and appreciate me for my inner qualities. Nobody around me is happy about my disability but they are certainly happy about the way I deal with it, and I think that’s what matters. The rest is jingoism.

Would you like to donate for the Uttaranchal/Uttarakhand flood relief work?

Many people, including yours truly, want to contribute towards the ongoing relief work going on in the wake of devastating floods and landslides in Uttaranchal and Uttarakhand. Many people would like to donate, but understandably, they don’t want to donate to the government agencies, fearing that most of the money will go in the coffers of the politicians. As always, the RSS (Rashriya Swayamsevak Sangh) is putting all its resources into the rescue and help work. So if you want to donate, here are their bank details:

SBI A/c No : 31156574681
Branch : SBI Main Branch, Dehradun
IFC Code : SBIN0000630

Under income tax exemption available under 80-G you will get the appropriate benefits (via @kaushkrahul). So if you want the receipt, after making the online transfer just send a screenshot of the acknowledgment page to udapssua@rediffmail.com and you will get a receipt.

Here is the PDF version of the official appeal for donations and other material help for the flood victims by the RSS:

Should women be paid to be housewives?

This can be both complicated and simple at the same time. According to this link the government is considering a proposal that will make it mandatory for husbands to give a certain portion of their earnings to their wives as “payment” for all the household work they do.

Some people, naturally find it bizarre, considering the emotional investment that goes into bringing up a family. Many say that this is going to tarnish the image of a mother and a wife. Taking care of the family is considered to be a selfless activity. You cannot put a monetary value to it.

Frankly I have no clear idea of what to think about it, but I’m not as repulsed as many people are. Every new social idea encounters widespread resistance.

I know that housewives are unsung heroes, and my wife often complains that just because she is not making money, her contribution is not valued. Of course I don’t agree, I do value her contribution and I always insist that both husband and wife are like the two wheels and the motor of the family depends on both the wheels. Will I be able to earn money if my wife doesn’t take care of the house and our kid?

Of course different people will react differently to this question. Many would say that earning is more important because the rest of the stuff can be taken care of by a paid help, and I will be stupid if I deny that. So it is not about the housework. It is the intangible value that the wife ads. It is the enrichment that she provides. Anybody can cook your food (in urban households, anyway most of the housework is done by maids these days) so that is not the point. For the sake of this argument, let us assume that no maid is hired and the wife has to do everything from washing to cleaning to cooking food to taking care of family members. Should she be paid?

If you have the guts, haggle at McDonald’s or Benetton

Do you see how people haggle with the rickshaw wallah for Rs.5 or Rs.10? It really looks stupid, especially when the same people gladly spend insane amounts at outlets like McDonald’s, Benetton, Barista and Dominos. Do you ever haggle at these places? Do you ever tell the Benetton salesperson that since you can get a better quality T-shirt on the street for Rs.150, you are not going to pay Rs.1500 for an inferior quality T-shirt from their outlet? No, you gladly purchase it just for the brand. In fact while you are being screwed, you feel privileged.

Similarly when you’re screwing the rickshaw wallah, consciously or unconsciously, you are feeling privileged. When I use the word “screwing” I don’t mean that you really mean it. No decent person wants to screw a rickshaw wallah. But it has become our habit to haggle with the poor and gladly pay big-brand outlets without blinking an eye. And that too when you’re not even getting good quality stuff.

The attitude must be totally the opposite. How does it even matter if the rickshaw wallah is charging you Rs.10 extra? Do you ever ask at Globus how they decided that a shirt should cost Rs.1200? You simply pay, or you don’t buy.

The rickshaw wallah on the other hand is a poor chap. He uses his physical strength to battle the rickshaw. Whether it is hot or cold he has to work really hard to make both ends meet. Whatever money you pay him, it is going to help him. This money is not going to go into some rich corporation’s coffers.

We have this strange attitude when it comes to spending some money on the poor, especially from our own country. When we were living in NOIDA they used to pay Rs.1.50 to the building dhobi per piece he and his family ironed. The going rate at that time in other buildings was Rs.2. Just because he and his family had no option (these dhobis are, understandably, very territorial) the building residents wouldn’t pay an extra Rs.0.50. There were many households who regularly had Rs.500 pizza.

Of course it’s up to you how and where you want to spend your money, but how much would it hurt you to give Rs.10 extra to the rickshaw wallah even if you think that he is cheating you or overcharging you? You are not going to go bankrupt. Rs.5 save here and Rs.10 there aren’t going to make you rich. If you want to save money, stop spending on junk food and overpriced brands.

So the next time you use a rickshaw, don’t even ask how much he is going to charge before mounting. When you have reached your destination, ask him what is the amount, and then just pay.

Mahatma Gandhi’s experiments with sex

Remember the book “My Experiments with Truth”? Had he not been the icon he was, Mahatma Gandhi would’ve certainly written another book called “My Experiments with Sex”.

Every nation reveres its iconic figures may it be Abraham Lincoln and George Washington in America and Mahatma Gandhi in India. They give you a sense of pride, and there is nothing wrong in it. The Congress party has used Mahatma Gandhi as a validation currency ever since its independence: the great Mahatma belongs to our party, and so on.

There are documented proofs of the kinkiness of the Mahatma, especially when it came to youngers, but these proofs have been so far suppressed by the government in order to maintain a sense of sanctity around the great man. These documents are gradually being revealed. This review of the book “Gandhi: Naked Ambition” begins candidly:

It was no secret that Mohandas Gandhi had an unusual sex life. He spoke constantly of sex and gave detailed, often provocative, instructions to his followers as to how to they might best observe chastity. And his views were not always popular; “abnormal and unnatural” was how the first Prime Minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, described Gandhi’s advice to newlyweds to stay celibate for the sake of their souls.

An excerpt in the book tells that in his younger days, the sexual urges of Gandhi were so overwhelming that…

Two years later, as his father lay dying, Gandhi left his bedside to have sex with Kasturba. Meanwhile, his father drew his last breath.

In his ashram he had strict rules on how men and women, boys and girls should conduct themselves in the company of the opposite sex – forbidding physical intimacy but encouraging teenage boys and girls to bathe together naked – the rules were a bit different for him.

The rules did not, however, apply to him. Sushila Nayar, the attractive sister of Gandhi’s secretary, also his personal physician, attended Gandhi from girlhood. She used to sleep and bathe with Gandhi. When challenged, he explained how he ensured decency was not offended. “While she is bathing I keep my eyes tightly shut,” he said, “I do not know … whether she bathes naked or with her underwear on. I can tell from the sound that she uses soap.” The provision of such personal services to Gandhi was a much sought-after sign of his favour and aroused jealousy among the ashram inmates.

The writer of the book doesn’t mince words when he quotes one of the prime ministers of some old Indian state

Much of this material was known during his lifetime, but was distorted or suppressed after his death during the process of elevating Gandhi into the “Father of the Nation” Was the Mahatma, in fact, as the pre-independence prime minister of the Indian state of Travancore called him, “a most dangerous, semi-repressed sex maniac”?

The recent diaries of Manuben, Gandhi’s 18 years old grand niece who was beside him when Nathuram Godse shot him, are in the possession of India Today. One of the recently published articles says:

The diaries, in which Gandhi often signed on the margins, reveal a girl devoted to him. In an entry on December 28, 1946, at Srirampur, Bihar, nine days after joining the then 77-year-old Gandhi who was on a walk through of troubled villages after massacres in Noakhali in then East Bengal, she writes: “Bapu is a mother to me. He is initiating me to a higher human plane through the Brahmacharya experiments, part of his Mahayagna of character-building. Any loose talk about the experiment is most condemnable.” Pyarelal, Gandhi’s secretary, endorsed this view in Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase, “He did for her everything that a mother usually does for her daughter. He supervised her education, her food, dress, rest, and sleep. For closer supervision and guidance, he made her sleep in the same bed with him. Now a girl, if her mind is innocent, never feels embarrassment in sleeping with her mother.” She, in turn, was his primary personal attendant-massaging and bathing him as well as cooking for him.

Mahatma Gandhi was no doubt a great leader who moved an entire continent. He has a great spiritual and moral influence over almost every Indian who is conscious of his or her recent history. Does it matter how his sex life was? To me personally, it doesn’t. He had his kinks, but most great individuals have had one or another kink. Nietzsche was quite weird and so was Newton. Even Socrates is known to have some really weird habits. What about the people who closely followed him, to the extent of worshiping him? What about Manuben who, according to the India Today article died a lonely spinster at the age of 40? Life can be unfair, that’s the only thought that comes to my mind right now.