Meet my friend Punchika from Vasant Kunj, Delhi. Sweet and courteous, she is extremely fond of her family & often asks me to find a perfect match for her brother Gaurav. At 31, Punchika is a typical girl – fond of epic Bollywood love stories like DDLJ and Hum Apke Hain Kaun, shopping for clothes and junk food – while diligently helping around the house. She is currently busy planning her upcoming birthday. What sets her apart you ask? My friend Punchika has an intellectual disability order.
Our society has taught us to equate disability with weakness however, how many of us ever stop to think why? Working with Muskaan, an institute which has taken the lead in imparting vocational training to the intellectually disabled, has made me realize the advantage Punchika & others like her have over us. The intellectually disabled are in fact blessed. Blessed because they can love selflessly and are not bound by the material longings which rule our lives. Blessed because as I watched Punchika and her friends sing, dance and celebrate Independence Day at Muskaan, I could sense happiness in its true form. It is institutes like Muskaan which gives these individuals the freedom we unknowingly rob them of.
As speeches, banners & hoardings unfurl across the nation today, we are compelled to remember our martyrs & the glorious battles that they fought for our freedom. However one wonders whether this freedom is only limited to a select few. As the intellectually privileged, it is our thinking and point of view towards the disabled that needs re-moulding. Unless we begin to acknowledge them as part of our society, they will always bear the brunt of “being different”.
So join me and my friends from Muskaan as we work together to create an inclusive society– starting with celebrating the true spirit of freedom this Independence day. As a wise man once said, let us be the change that we want to see. Vande Matram!