Friday, March 04, 2005


An interesting incident occurred while my aunt, H, and I were waiting in line to get into the auditorium, when we had gone for the Ustad Amir Khan memorial concert. Two chatty women were standing behind us. One of them asked me if the line we were standing in led to the hall where the concert was being held. I just glanced at her and said a quick, “yes”. In my mind I was thinking, “how silly! How can they not know where exactly to go! Can’t they read the banners put up everywhere?”
Then I heard the second woman saying that there are seven theatres in all that belong to the NCPA. H then reassured them that they were indeed at the right theatre, she being more courteous than me!
She continued chatting with the two women and after about five minutes, I too turned to include the second woman (who had said that NCPA covered seven theatres) into our little circle. That is when I realized that she was visually handicapped (how politically correct I am!) Her name was M. she asked H if she enjoyed Hindustani music, and H replied that she prefers Western classical and Carnatic music and was interested to hear how the sarangi would sound. Then there was a bit of a discussion on the sarangi, and if it was harder to play than the violin or not.
Then H asked M if she was a fan of Hindustani music, to which she replied that she was actually a singer herself and gave performances now and then. She sure was chatty!
H then asked her if she felt disadvantaged by her physical handicap, while walking on the road or going to a public restroom, perhaps. M replied that she found nothing difficult at all, and that there were many people always ready to help her cross roads, and how great it is living in a city like Bombay, and so on and so forth. I admired the confident way in which she was speaking, and smiled at her quips.
H proceeded to ask her various questions, and M replied in dramatic prose to H’s very curious and “ignorant” (according to H) questions. She actually asked M if she’d ever stepped into and Indian style commode! I was quite appalled and embarrassed by this question. M said that it had never happened, and went on to quote statistics, saying that less then 90% of blind people were ever involved in road accidents, because their other senses were much more evolved than normal people’s.
She went on in this vein, and began to sound increasingly cocky by the minute, and I was getting tired of hearing her patting her own back.
At last we got into the auditorium and seated ourselves. H verbalized what I was thinking about M, but was too embarrassed and chicken to admit, “it’s nice talking to physically challenged people, but this young woman was terribly cocksure!”
I wonder if others too have had an experience like this. We are all taught to empathize with the physically challenged and feel “sorry” for them. It is a good thing that a physically challenged person is confident and believes in his or her abilities. But what is the protocol to follow when they start acting arrogant? If it was a fully “functional” person, then maybe you could snub him or her or tell him or her to @*#% off!! But one would probably be called insensitive and heartless, if one were to mete out the same treatment to a physically challenged individual. This is a tricky situation indeed.
The rules for normal, fully functional individuals and physically challenged individuals appear to be quite different. But that is what I feel. I’ve never interacted with a physically challenged individual before, and do not know how they really function in their day-to-day life. This particular woman seemed to be very outgoing, a true extrovert, so much so that she was completely overshadowing her friend. Having such a positive attitude is of course very good, for both the physically challenged and fully functional individuals.
This made me think of the movie, ‘Black’, where Michelle (Rani Mukherjee) completely overshadowed her younger sister, even though she couldn’t speak, hear or see. This in turn made me wonder if most of the physically challenged are like this, their handicap making them stand out and actually giving them some sort of an edge over the rest of us “normal” beings.
M’s attitude was such that she felt sorry for us ‘less fortunate’ beings for not having highly evolved senses as she does. I’m sure not all physically challenged individuals are like this. It all depends on their childhood as well as present environment obviously. The way we are brought up shapes our identity and our attitudes. I’m beginning to sound so clinical now!
My original dilemma was, “How does one react to a physically challenged individual who rubs one the wrong way and acts high and mighty?” I’ve not been able to figure that out as yet.


Anonymous said...

very good writing! i can actually visualise wat u r talkin abt so thats credit to you! but iam not sure i agree with wat u said abt the visually challenged lady at the concert. i think they are cocksure bacause they overcompensate for the unintentional sympathy they must receive everywhere they go. anyhow, great writing1 keep em comin!

:..M..: said...

Pertinent question, that. I find it annoying too..if the not so normal people are lauded and seem to overshadow the functional ones.

When I get caught in such a situation, I courteously excuse myself and move on. But if I'm stuck, then I generally keep playing around with my mobile phone and act busy. If that too doesn't work, I somehow trap the person to ask me a question and that's it..I don't stop talking until THEY want to keep away from me. Normally, the last one works. :)

And it's loads of fun. Try it, I know you'll have a good story to tell me at the end of it.

Phoenix Rises said...

A, I think you may be right. That seems to be quite a rational explanation.

M, maybe if I'm ever stuck in a situation like yours, I'll try your tactics, but I really can't imagine myself talking too much to strangers. As you must've noticed, that it was my aunt who was doing most of the talking not me!

:..M..: said...

*grin* Yeah, you wouldn't actually talk non-stop to a stranger. If you can, you ought to try it. I can promise you you'll laugh a whole lot when you recall it.
Get some training from know she is our non-stop talking train. :)

AmitKen said...

Its strange, how we have almost programmed our minds to react to certain type of people and events. And going against these programmed reactions create resistance from within ourselves and the world outside...

Phoenix Rises said...

Amitken, you are so right! That is the reason that I was at such a loss, as to how exactly I was supposed to react to this person.

M, N actually does have a good command over the language and believe it or not, leaves me spell bound with her story telling skills, quite often! I'll learn slowly, but surely! :)

:..M..: said...

Yeah, I remember during classes how she used to raconte these incidents in her life. How is she? I haven't heard from her at all.

For the kind of schools we've come from, we'll tend to be mildly surprised with anyone who has such command. ;)