When you think of a person with a disability, what comes to mind? A blind person with a guide dog? Or perhaps a person in a wheelchair, or someone talking to herself on the subway? The term disability is very generic and ambiguous.
When the label of “disability” is attached to you, it can be difficult to feel like an autonomous, equal and respected member of society. It starts with the language we use. I find the term “disability” demeaning. When you break it down, the prefix “dis” means subtraction or removal and when you put it in front of “ability,” it implies that there is a subtraction or removal of ability.
But when will power is the driving force, a person can overcome any obstacle. Physical disabilities can also be overcome by sheer determination and will power. Two Bengalis did not let their physical challenges bog them down and emerged as inspirations for others.
Tuhin Dey – soaring high in life
Fourteen-year-old Tuhin Dey can't use his hands and legs and has undergone 16 surgeries for deformities he was born with. Yet, he is the best creative child as adjudged by no other than the President who will give him the award tomorrow on the occasion of International Day for Persons with Disabilities. For, Tuhin is a shining example of the spirit to fight relentlessly to win when the odds are stacked heavily against one. The boy from Kharagpur has not only brought laurels for the state, but also become an icon for disabled people.
The deformity he was born with is called in medical parlance arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a disease marked by congenital joint contractures in two or more areas of the body.
But the deformity hasn't stopped the Class-VII student of Kharagpur IIT School from achieving his dreams. Though Tuhin cannot use his limbs, he has mastered the art of using his mouth for his daily chores. "I hold pens and painting brushes with my mouth. I have also managed to operate a laptop," the boy says sitting in his wheelchair.
Asked whether he has ever been taunted by classmates for his disability, he says confidently: "They have been very cooperative and rush to my help whenever I need them."
Though the 14-year-old is set to receive the best creative child award from the President tomorrow, this isn't the first time he has been honoured. Tuhin is already the proud recipient of the Governor's award for the best creative child and President's award for the exceptional child, both awarded last year.
Battling against prejudice
Dr Sarmistha Sinha – an example worth emulating
Life went downhill for Dr Sarmistha Sinha after she survived a fatal accident eight years ago. The accident had injured her spinal cord and left her disabled from the waist down.
The physical injuries led to consequences hard to endure. Unable to bear the shock, her mother passed away. It also created a rift in her married life. Her in-laws filed a case against her on the grounds that she was unable to take care of her own self and so was unfit to take care of her daughter. Divorce added to her sufferings as she lost custody of her then five-year-old daughter.
It was really tough to rise from the rubble. But the gynaecologist who has turned 41, never succumbed to hardships and her courage held her high.
Professionally a teacher at RG Kar Medical College and Hospital, she wants to change the mentality of people towards the disabled. Understanding spinal cord injuries, spreading awareness regarding them and sensitizing people about the disabled and wheelchair-bound is now the focus of her life.
Once a talented Kathak dancer, she has found solace in dance. She now uses wheelchair dancing as a tool to influence and motivate people. She was recently crowned Ms Wheelchair India at the country’s first-ever beauty pageant for ‘persons with disability’.
Dr Sarmistha Sinha
One should never give up on life. A person needs to keep hope alive and let the hidden treasures of life unfold themselves. Any challenge can be won if we believe in ourselves. The lives of these fighters teach us how to breathe life into a mundane existence and imbibe optimism to confront the harsh times.