I walked up the steps to my apartment on a Friday evening and knocked on the door where I was greeted by my daughter and our dog. As I put my hands on her face and kissed her forehead, my dog kept tugging at my pants wanting his piece of attention of ‘papa’s time. I drop off my things and go into the room and have just about sat down on the bed when my five year old comes scampering into the room. She has just come from her mum’s place and I ask her how her week has been in school, how are here friends and what she’s generally been upto. In the middle of this conversation, she nonchalantly cuts me off
Kiddo – Papa, you know in our class, there is this girl, she is my friend Sagarika
Papa – oh, is she a good friend
Kiddo – tch, tch Papa, don’t interfere. You know, she can see with her hands…..
For a few seconds, I am stumped and can’t figure it out, but before I have time to react and actually assimilate what has just been said, she continues
Kiddo – papa, you know, Sagarika can’t see with her eyes and our teacher told us that she can see with her hands.
I am stumped again and finally figure out that she is talking about Sagarika’s ability to read through braille. I stare at her for a few moments and she goes onto to tell me that her friend has the most beautiful laugh and without wasting a second starts clapping her hands from way low as she throws her head back in gay abandon, flicks her hair and continues to laugh with her hands now raised high above her head, clapping and laughing with reckless innocence.
I look at her and can just smile at the beautiful and innocent moment and she goes onto say
Kiddo – Papa, you know, whenever I go away and come back to Sagarika, she always asks me what my name is
Papa – but sweetheart, that’s because she can see with her hands
Kiddo – ya, she always touches my face and starts laughing, as she says, that she knows me…
I was just getting sucked into this innocent yet beautiful conversation and could not help thinking of the immense contribution of the teachers here – who chose not to highlight the lack of a certain ability but instead chose to highlight the heightened ability of the child and make the other children see the same. It was pure genius and hopefully the start of a confident start of a really beautiful life for this little girl.
I couldn’t help myself from brining this up when the met the teachers the next time at the PTA and I told them how great it was for them to have educated the children in that way – not many people would have thought of it, atleast not me. I could feel a lump in my throat as they talked so passionately about the child and her abilities and it just made me realise how lucky we are to have all our abilities, in the most traditional sense.
This one incident took me back to my days at school when in the 11th grade, my teacher came upto me and told me that we had a new student joining our class and she wanted me to initiate and guide him through the classes as he was visually challenged. She told me I would need to be there to assist him through classes, help him with some assignments and just make him feel comfortable in the new surroundings. I didn’t think too much of it readily agreed. When we met him (my friends and I) we were surprised at how normal the kid was. While we clearly had no expectations, his ‘normalness’ surprised us. The initial time was tricky, helping him through but before we knew it he was part of our group as if he had always been and we could not imagine how we didn’t know him earlier.
He appeared to be sweet but he was a bad ass like everyone else 🙂 and was cracking dirty jokes as good as anyone else…..He and I got very close over a period shared a lot of stuff, infact, he was not the good boy everyone thought he was. But it was to be our little secret.
Well, we finished school, and moved on with our lives, being regularly in touch initially and less and less as time moved on. I got a job, married, had a kid, divorced and married again while he kept up his education ending up with a PhD and being a professor in a local university. He is independent, travels to college everyday, prepares his lectures and comes back after a very fulfilling day. I understand he is also a very popular professor at the college. His life would be a great book which I hope someone will write someday – just for the sheer grit and determination he has shown and how he has fought against the odds and the googlies life has thrown at him and emerged better that any of us ‘normal people’.
We are still very good friends and when we catch up I am just so happy for what he has achieved professionally. I am not sure I could have done it had the higher power dealt me the same hand he was.
I come back to the present and see how things are still the same, the system (atleast the one I am in) is giving everybody a chance to succeed and my daughter is also making a friend whose abilities are different from hers yet she is being taught to appreciate the uniqueness of every individual.
That night, as my daughter goes off to bed, by habit, I clear the hair off her forehead and kiss her goodnight. As I am walking away I look at her and have the same lump in my throat as realise how lucky I am to have me and my loved ones to have been blessed with all the gifts and not having to work against all odds……
A few days later as we are driving in the car, my daughter looks out of the window and pointing to a man standing at the side of the road says
Papa, why is that man acting funnily.
I looked around and very simply tell her – sweetheart he’s not acting funny, it’s just that he can’t see with his eyes but he sees with his hands…..