August 23, 2010

Disability is just a state of mind

Sunday August 22, 2010

I’M Aveena Devi, aka Avee. I’m 16 years old and physically challenged.

These two words may strike a sympathetic chord in many of you. “Wow, a physically challenged kid writing!”

Quite honestly, I just wish people would change their thinking about the physically challenged. And I would also like to see those like me free themselves of their fears or shyness and accept themselves for who they are.

By no stretch of the imagination am I saying that I’m perfect – far from it. The fact is, I too, am learning to accept myself for who I am.

But for me it’s been easy because I’m blessed with a large, loving and encouraging family that supports and guides me in whatever I do in life.

It’s not quite the same for others who are the only child in their family, or people whose parents find them a burden to look after. And then, there are those unfortunate people who don’t have parents.

Their lives would be very hard. More often than not, the circumstances have deep and lasting impacts on them and many turn out to be extremely shy, with perpetual sadness on their faces.

I have a sincere suggestion for such people: Find something that you find joy in doing. Like a hobby. If you don’t have one, explore and experiment with new things until you find something that makes you feel good about yourself.

I’m speaking from my own experience. I began by stitching bags from old, discarded clothes. When boredom set in, I stopped doing that.

Then it struck me that I like doing art. And, in the process, I discovered the joys of painting on drawing blocks.

There’s an old saying, “Good things will happen at the right time.” One day my mother’s friend took her to an art shop. It is in the same building as my dad’s office and mum was surprised that she had not noticed it despite being there many times.

She soon learnt that the man who owns the shop also teaches art. When she told me about the art teacher, I couldn’t wait to start lessons. As the Buddhist proverb goes, “When the student is ready, the master appears.” So true!

My life has changed since then. Art has instilled a generous dose of confidence in me and, as a result, I am happy with myself. It means a lot to me that I am not wasting my time sitting at home doing nothing while my brother and sister are out there achieving something in their respective lives. The process of exploration and experimentation has not stopped for me – nor will it ever.

Finally, I have a request for all able-bodied people: “Please treat us like everyone else; we need your understanding, not your sympathy.

“History is replete with many so-called disabled people achieving the seemingly unthinkable: Helen Keller, Nick Vujicic and Erik Weihenmayer are just a few striking examples.

The will of the differently-abled to achieve is much stronger than that of the able-bodied.

One request to the able-bodied: Do not park your car in lots reserved for the disabled, or use the wheelchair-friendly toilets. Please.” – AVEENA DEVI