Chew on this… Let me begin by confessing that I am a complete movie buff and never miss an opportunity to catch a film worth its while. The dark cocoon of the auditorium, playing out stories of myriad characters on the silver screen, simply transits me into a relaxed and comforting zone, which I seek ever so often, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Last night I watched ‘Margharita With a Straw’, a movie that I was really keen to see owing to the fact that I have spent considerable quality time with differently-abled people through my work with Muskaan, an NGO that focuses on individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Every interaction of mine with a less-abled individual is always laced with the time-old conditioning that they need to be helped; they need to be looked after; they need to be cared for as they lack some human faculty which renders them ‘different’ from the rest of us. Now, here was a movie, twisting this very notion, right on its head by a complete 360 degrees, and really set me thinking. Here was a coming of age movie, with a wheel-chair bound woman protagonist, who refuses to be bogged down by cerebral palsy and has the courage to live life on her own terms despite the odds. She refuses accolades based upon the fact that they are being bestowed upon her for her ‘disability’ and pursues a degree both in India and the US in order to ensure herself of a normal career and future prospects. She has sexual desires and emotions just as any teenager going through a hormonal rush and wishes to experience the first skipped heartbeat when a crush showers you with some attention, the first touch of a lover, the first taste of a real kiss, and so on like a normal young girl.
Kalki Koechlin portraying Laila gives a no-holds barred performance of this feisty and sure-minded teenager transforming into a young woman and going through the rigors of love, discovering her sexual propensities, having the courage to experience bisexual love and discerning what she wants for herself in the long run. The movie has stayed with me ever since and has compelled me to question my reaching out to these differently-abled individuals, who besides needing help or looking after or care, also need to be treated like people with emotions that you and me, as individuals, experience though the journey of life. Why is it that we forget that these individuals need a lover, spouse, partner, companion, soulmate, buddy, friend(s) just like the rest of us, and they too deserve to get every opportunity that a normal individual encounters? And taking the thought further, don’t you think that so called ‘normal’ people who are always angry or bitter in life or those who fail to sustain any healthy relationship or those who commit unsavoury deeds and wreak havoc on other peoples’ lives or those who take their wealth, relationships, careers and kith and kin for granted, such individuals are the ones who are actually ‘differently’ or ‘less’ abled and perhaps need more help, looking after and care. I have been rather uncomfortable when I think about my manner of dealing with them, practically like children, by offering time and resources to make their lives comfortable and have completely overlooked their feelings, instincts, thoughts, passions and emotions. It is about time that we acknowledge them as regular, simple people and not as kids who merely require presents and gifts to feel better about themselves. Keep the goodies and funds flowing in but also treat them as real human beings whose sensory faculties need as much love and stimulations as ours. Their emotional needs are not much varied from your or mine and they too need the proverbial tug of the heartstring at the first flush of true love. Give them their space, let them find their groove and never mollycoddle them when they seek companionship as individuals ‘cos they feel the urge to be loved as much as so called ‘normal’ people do. Don’t you think so?