Pratyush Nalam is a 17 year old disabled man from Mumbai, India who recently started university at the elite Indian Institute of Technology, an extraordinary accomplishment in India where very few people with disabilities ever go to university. Pratyush kindly provides an insight into the life of a young disabled person living in India.
Hello everyone! I am Pratyush Nalam living in Mumbai, India. Like Srin and Martyn, I too have Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). This is my first contribution to Disability Horizons and I hope many more will follow.
Life has been generally a very tough challenge. Living a life with limited abilities, various problems crop up at every stage. However, with the help of my wonderful parents, I have been able to confront the problems head-on with a sense of confidence.
Well, firstly, getting admission into a normal educational institution is a very big hurdle. They give weird suggestions like advising to join a special school which is generally for people with severe learning disabilities. They don’t understand that we are just physically challenged and can compete perfectly with the able-bodied crowd and even outperform them academically. We had to fight a lot to get into the school of my choice. However, I should mention that once I joined a school and proved myself, they took very good care of me. But, the initial headache was a lot to handle.
Another major obstacle is accessibility at public places. They all have steps but very few have ramps for people with wheelchairs to go. Almost always, we have to request some passers-by to lift the wheelchair. This is fine since I use an ordinary wheelchair. I wonder how difficult the situation would have been if I were on a motorised wheelchair. In fact, in India it is more sensible to use an ordinary wheelchair. A powered wheelchair is simply impractical. Ask Srin and he will tell you! Although, the building codes of India say it is compulsory to have ramps at public places, hardly anyone follows. This makes life very difficult and we have to think twice even for going to a movie.
A major irritant are the callous comments by people towards disabled people and the unnecessary sympathy and pity they show. The general attitude is that we are useless and many people see us as outcasts. This angers me a lot. What wrong have we done? Are we responsible? Why such a primitive mindset against us? I have even seen many parents treating their children as someone inferior. This is something which should be changed. Such an attitude is very common in the developing world. It exists, but not to such a large extent, in the developed world also. There are many such disabled people who have an exceptional talent in some field. If they are given the required assistance, support and assurance that nothing can stop them, they are capable of wonders that the world has never seen.
So, as I said, being disabled and living a normal life is very tough. But, it is possible with supportive parents and an understanding society. So, if any of you still see us in an inferior way, I hope this article changes your viewpoint. Feel free to leave your views, comments or questions below. I will try to answer them in the best way possible.
By Pratyush Nalam