Crippled Justice

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As a child, I was not able to play sports due to a congenital heart disease. It was way too much stress for me to take which eventually led to my exemption from sports through out my school years. As my friends played endlessly in the scorching heat, I would sit on the bench working on an assignment or scribbling away on my notebook. It was only natural for me to feel left out of all those enthusiastic chatters about upcoming tournaments, game tactics and the new sports being introduced as we moved to higher classes. Needless to say Thursday was the most favourite day for everyone else but me. With timethough I had finally become more creative with using the free time on my hand. It was then that I met Sonia, who became my best friend in primary school; she had hearing disabilities that also affected her speech greatly. Sonia’s problems struck a chord making me realize that my problem was only a petty one compared to other things people had to face. People who had disabilities worse than mine. I would not even call my illness a disability even though it pretty much felt that way. Not being able to participate in the routine stuff kids my age loved to do, seemed like a lot back then.

Nevertheless, it is true time teaches us a lot. I grew up learning how things could have been worse, finding out and learning about other people who suffered a lot more than me. I could talk, hear and see properly it did not matter to me if I could take part in sports or not anymore. I remember being deeply touched by the problems Sonia had to face; it slapped me in the face for being selfish. By that time, I had decided to do my little in helping her out in whatever way I could. I would spend my free time talking to her, helping her catch up with work and trying to help her figure out her niche. Something that she felt passionate about, a talent that would help her gain self-confidence. It was not long until we both realized she was an amazing artist, naturally talented. I would suggest her things she could sketch and then spend hours marvelling about her skills. Over the years, Sonia changed drastically. She evolved in to someone who was now more confident about her abilities; everything else seemed to take a backseat. She has now graduated from a renowned art school–following her passion and the inborn talent–not only that she is currently working as a teacher for primary school.
From being a girl who put up weak fights against the bullies Sonia has now become like any other independent working woman–only stronger. This experience has taught me a lot more than the essence of friendship and my ability to make the little difference. It taught me how self-confidence and fortitude could ward off perceptions. The unwanted sympathies that are hurled ones way much more out of pity than support. Sonia’s newfound confidence in her changed everyone’s perception. From the way they looked at her down to the way she was spoken to, she was the new girl in school all over again, the girl whose talent and confidence swayed everyone.
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I was fortunate to have learnt from this experience at a rather young age. It changed the way I looked at things and made me realize that even a little could make the difference. There is always something to look at beyond the disabilities of a person. Things that we can appreciate and not glaze over. A simple practice of judging people and appreciating them for what they can do instead of what they cannot. But this should not stop us from being realistic. Motivation is important but so is practicality and putting things in action. It is often that we overlook a lot that goes around us. Ruins of living in a society where we lack a civil discussion even on the most serious issues.
Another friends experience made me rethink of how most of our issues never surface. Mansoor suffers from radial club hand, a congenital abnormal development of the forearm. Fortunately for him his arm retains its functionality, although not fully. The disease has never been a hurdle in his course of work. Despite that, he was flatly denied a driving licence even before a medical examination.  Apparently, the officer was certain that Mansoor would not be able to drive with his disability, even though he had been for the past years. The attitude was devastating enough to turn anyone into opting for driving without a licence. After all, in the all-so-lawful society of ours no one had bothered him before for one. Our law-abiding traffic sergeants would not dare stop a flashy car or even if they did, nothing bothered them as long as some ‘chai-pani’ was in store.  Mansoor is amongst the privileged ones, he was able to get his licence despite the ridiculous behaviour. However, the fact remains that not many would be influential enough to put up a fight. My plea is for those who are treated as an outcast for being ‘disabled’  without even being granted a decent chance at a medical check-up.
Sonia and Mansoor are amongst the more privileged ones their disease has not  made the same impact it does to many others. The common sights of men with torn clothes and disabled limbs dragging themselves to nearby cars begging for alms are usually ignored. While we pace back and forth running errands not much time is spared to the iniquity around us. The absence of rights for the disabled has crippled them far worse than their illness ever did. The blind eye to their problems is what makes life worse than the disability itself. Its incidences such as that make me feel that it is really us who suffer from a far bigger disability than these people do. Our disablity to acknowledge the rights of these people, being deaf  and blind to their pleas and most importantly the crippled justice of our society. Absence of laws that could aid individuals suffering from any form of handicap is the real issue. I hope we acknowledge that society’s myths and fears about disability and disease are as handicapping–or even worse– as are the physical limitations of the actual impairment. Only a permanent stance of vigilance against such attitude of social exclusion, discrimination and bullying can help make the difference.
Published in THE FRIDAY TIMES on  4/12/2009

22 thoughts on “Crippled Justice

  1. Touching and thought-provoking. As usual. 🙂

    I have always found that people with disabilities are gifted in some very unique ways, yet their self-esteem is almost nil due to the cold shoulder or the discriminative pity that they receive from the society. Here’s hoping that a positive change will come soon.

  2. Sana , it is a beautifully written piece which illuminates the extent to which the lives of people are shaped by acts of injustice, exclusion, discrimination and the rule of social and cultural norms.

    1. Thank you for your comments 🙂
      Unfortunately this attitude is quite common and rarely contradicted, which is where we need to step in and fight against such discriminatory behavior.

  3. Very well-written!
    However, it should be noted that sheer ignorance of pity, both, in different ways, bar the handicapped beings from becoming an efficient part of the society, for which they have every capacity!
    It’s sympathy and rather care which they need.
    It’s indeed heart-rendering to see that such unprivileged handicaps swarm our road-sides and shopping malls, having to resort to begging and similar indulgences in the absence of any state legislation to aid them into earning bread respectfully.

  4. :)… Girl you story is all very touchy not because how anyone can carry out change within hmself/herself but how you actually realize that no one is perfect, YES no one can be.When it comes to poverty and leadership etc. most of us are just too great on putting forward and writing speeches with all enthusiasm, my problem is simple and to the point, yes! if we feel all that much for these bare foot kids and jobless people and you know women wandering around to collect a petty amount to feed there children,OH! why don’t we just stop right there and help them out or take them to the right place and make them learn all positves and negatives of life or atleast educate them?.We are so good at writing about them and feeling bad for them but when it comes to action we seldom are the one who put all of them on IGNORE.Bitter reality, but guys its not just about reading or writing or motivating ourselves but this is the time to take action on indivisual basis.Its all about bringing a change within our souls and thinking out of box.I don’t want to cover pages .. i just want all of us to find the facts and do justice with those facts by actually taking right actions.A positive commitment to youself might tomorrow reflect as a bright nation.

  5. There is a social construction of disability. Many of us ‘so called able’ can be ‘disabled’ by for example architectural errors i.e., having no stairs to reach in a multi-story building. We perhaps try to create disabilities in our society by not making things accessible to the minorities. For examples, health services in Pakistan are not truly (and equally) accessible to deaf and dumb because doctors do not understand the sign language. We need to understand what is disability and recognize that there can be people for whom some modifications in the ‘normal setting’ can create better environment for everyone.

  6. A very moving and touching piece i too couldnt play with those kids as i had acute asthema till i was 16 and thus i know how hard it must be for u to let this out. You forget as u always do in your humbleness that u provided both your friends with support when they needed it most. The human spirit can endure hell but its worst when they have to do it alone. You through your kindness sana are an inspiration to us all!!!!

  7. your article comes in right time when world marked the international day of disabled persons on 3rd of december. the society as a whole needs awareness and more education on how to handle or behave with physically challenged people. imagine if you have a disability and visit markets, public places like mosques, parks, shopping areas people stare at you with all sorts of surprise and sorrow because you are different. they make gestures of all kinds touching their ears and nose to seek repentance or”tauba” as if you are afflicted or burdened upon by Allah. obviously this is not the case and it is purely ignorance. no one has the right over how one is born. and mind you this ignorant behavior is a very common site. what effect such behavior leaves on these special stars? obviously they get sensitive, destructed mentally and emotionally but still they bring in positive energy shedding all these emotions because they know ITS PART OF LIFE! and there is no escape till death. i salute them on how they cope up with these situations.
    how can we make them feel better? i have no answer to this…probably we need to show more respect and need a right kind of behavior and accept them as human beings rather aliens just because they are different!!!

  8. Sana – It is very courageous on your part being a girl to share your own natural health problem and then making it a reason to fight for the rights of all handicapped people. There are no words to appreciate your courage and positive approach to spread awareness so the handicapped or disabled can also get the same respect and rights as their other normal fellows get. Majority of poor pakistanis who are even normal by all aspects get the worst discrimination in society and I wonder what is there for an abnormal person who has the double handicap – physical disability & social disability (poverty). You may not have the first hand experience of this double jeopardy. Otherwise, you would have already joined me like @discomaulvi and @FarrukhSiddiqui at Twitter to fight for the real cause of all our social and economic evils – corruption. My slogan is Kutta First – which means first take the Kutta out of water well to purify the water. We are trying all other methods but this one – have a national level repentance and pledge – From now on we will not cheat and deceit our fellow human beings and be loyal and honest with Pakistan’s wealth – which we all supposed to share across the board. No one can escape after looting it and depriving us from our basic needs – education, health-care, clean drinking water, jobs on merit and most of all dignity. If this will not happen, then all else is mere noise and waste of time/resources brnging no fruitful results – No real change!

  9. Thanks for sharing this moving story with us. You’re absolutely right in saying that we, every one of us, allow injustices against people to take place. It’s no wonder that Pakistan keeps rising on the ladder when it comes to reports on countries with the worst statistics on human rights violations. However, while I believe in civic responsibility, I maintain that the attitude change always needs to start with the state.

    1. Thanks for your comment Naveen 🙂 I agree its about time we demand change. Specially in the current circumstances where the situation is only worsening with an increasing percentage of handicapped people.

  10. Nice piece Sana, evocative.
    I treasure experiences from my childhood too, good or bad, they teach us a lot and that is invaluable. These are the very foundations of who we are as people.
    Each of us had/have our own unique set of complexes, thus I abhorr the word ‘disability’ and always challenge it. In the formal world, I use the term ‘individual needs’ instead.

    1. Thanks ! 🙂 Yes I fully agree with you, its true. Our childhood plays an important role in our future too. Incidents shape our lives and who we become in the future, childhood memories stay forever. This is why I feel its really important to pay special attention to any incidents of bullying and discrimination since the fear lives with you for years to come!

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