Tuesday, August 4, 2015

BYO Pinch of Salt

The situation of People with Disabilities TODAY.

PwD will become equals when the discrimination stops. Subsidies and freebies are discriminative in nature. Read..

Ram is a child with a disability. His parents are loathe to spend money on his education. Government says, OK, we will pay for his education and all that is attached thereto. Ram goes to school. The teacher has no clue how to teach him because special education is not a part of her own education. So Ram is sent to a 'special' school. There, the quality of education cannot be questioned because it is free anyway and well, they must be the experts! And when he is in a higher class, they send him to a 'normal' school and he has no idea how to integrate and his classmates and teachers have no interest or clue either.

If he is blind, he gets a writer who often writes his paper for him and scores on his behalf too. Not always, but often times.

Note, everything is free so far.

So Ram then goes to college where his course is decided by his disability, and the intellect and empathy of the college staff that interview him. He joins a course that he hasn't chosen for himself and remains absent most of the term. Schooling was in the vernacular language. In college, the challenges begin.  He still gets a writer. BTW, Ram has a free bus pass that remains unused for any meaningful purpose but he uses a fancy cellphone for whatsapp-ing and downloading his favorite songs.

He thinks this is how the world is. "Everything is free. I am entitled. You owe me. Sadda Haqq ethay rakh. Saddi Zimmedari WTF? " Hey Ram!

Ram grows into a young man who knows he has a right to employment and that there are quotas. He is told to aspire only for Bank or Government jobs. So he applies and gets a job but no work. [VI- The writer helps again.] His colleagues are not particularly empathic and no real work is given to him. The boss is not really interested. He has done his bit as the rules and policies stipulate. This nonchalant attitude has trickled down to his teams too. So there's this employee with a Disability who is not really wanted.  The link breaks at some point and Ram begins hunting for another job, finds none and stays with this organization that pays him a salary that he needs!! Win win, no? He may quit and try again...and again..

Some dream of working in air-conditioned steel and glass buildings of MNCs. This is where the NGO$ come in. They conduct  training programs that CANNOT POSSIBLY change an unqualified person to a fully qualified and skilled candidate in such short periods. Who is checking? Funders...aah! So NGOs show numbers by aiming at the low hanging fruit - those candidates from encouraging self respecting families who have ensured that their child has an education and training enough to qualify for good jobs. These candidates don't really need those NGOs really but hey!! Also they serve as showcase samples for websites for many years with quotations and videos in the Queen's English that bring tears to your eyes.

The good NGOs always have tears in their eyes because their bank balances are about as high as their PR [BS] skills.

Companies are confused whether this whole PwD recruitment thing comes under CSR or HR...some know, some don't. But it doesn't matter as long as numbers are available. To save on taxes, they hunt for NGOs with the highest numbers, not even bothering to find out whether the candidates are placed in jobs to their liking or worthy of their innate capabilities. Nobody really wants to meet these candidates unless it is for buying them a fancy lunch  or running a marathon or painting the walls of their training rooms. [PHOTO OP PHOTO OP]

HOW WILL THIS CHANGE?  Since I don't enjoy complaining without offering gyaan, here goes:

Families of the children with disabilities, Educators, NGOs, the Government, Funders seeking to save on taxes, Employers, Society...we are all a part of the problem and the solution. We must work as ONE.

1. Identify Disabilities, encourage early intervention. AWARENESS
2. Educate the child to the best level possible. Offer a subsidy only if necessary. FREE is a bad habit.
3. Ensure that the quality of education provided is not compromised. You will strain our economy more by offering free hopeless education than if you spend on better teachers' training and raise qualified candidates. BETTER TEACHERS' TRAINING. BETTER TEACHING. BETTER STUDENTS. BETTER PROSPECTS.
4. Offer reasonable incentives to parents that encourage education for their children with disabilities.  RESPONSIBILITY.
5. Have more disability awareness programs for all. This is so that our society treats People with Disabilities with respect. NO PITY.
6. Teach that DUTY goes with RIGHTS.
7. Plan HOLISTIC SUPPORT for families with children and adults with disabilities
8. Understand ACCESSIBILITY in the entire sense of the word.
9. Raise SELF RESPECTING individuals who know what they want, then allow/encourage/empower them to work towards their goals.
10. Introduce SPECIALIZED TRAINING PROGRAMS for INDIVIDUALS with different disabilities. Companies and others that complain that INVENTION AND INNOVATION are dead can perhaps try this as a challenge.
11.CORPORATE and INDIVIDUAL SPONSORS must come forward with their expertise to help train the current crop of candidates that are not fully qualified for the existing posts but can learn. NGOs are not rich or capable enough to train candidates for different jobs in different companies. Stop making them lie for funds! If you care, help them become efficient by really participating as a team member. then keep a tab on their requirements and spending. Make suggestions, help implement them. Or simply donate or don't donate...and leave if you know you don't give a rat's ass really and you've saved on your taxes! DON'T PRETEND, PLEASE!
12. Every job comes with its unique requirements and challenges and every individual comes with his/her unique capabilities. RECOGNISE INDIVIDUALS. ROUND PEGS IN SQUARE HOLES ARE UNCOMFORTABLE! Make THIS your corporate social responsibility.
13. Stop calling yourselves equal opportunity employers if you blatantly discriminate among disabilities too!

We can do this together. But our actions have to match our words. Our own intentions have to be clear. This is not an isolated single layered problem. This is about us all. WE are paying taxes that fuel these subsidies and freebies. We are making People with Disabilities incapable of productive lives. Let us set ourselves free. Let us all live with self respect and dignity. Let us restore the dignity of People with Disabilities. I have the courage to say what I think because EKansh is my passion and not my JOB. If I am forced to close it down due to sheer frustration, I will continue to work as an individual volunteer like I did before because I want to help. You...what about you?

How will we make a difference unless we really care? Sorry, but I believe Colin when he says ....

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Shrinking...  Click on that link!!

Love it...especially since just the other day, I heard grown, educated, accomplished, articulate married women speak about how they have given up their identities to compromise and settle for a middle path which leads nowhere really and wanting to rediscover their past selves or shadows there-of. How do we do this, they asked. What jobs can we expect - preferably part time- lest everything falls apart in our absence. Lots of advice on how to multi-task, fit things in, do things systematically, have check-lists, not worry about losing designations and re-building one's way up, how to keep in touch with the goings on while on a sabbatical, how to grow in jobs horizontally so as not to upset the family apple cart by suddenly shooting up in stature. Find a hobby they said, nurture that. Become an entrepreneur. Employ more maids...give them the same treatment that you want as a working woman.  Hmm....

Women who appear free-er than the others are seen by most as being given allowance to grow. Why is it not an organic, natural freedom that we are all born with?

I wonder what that meeting would have turned out like if there had been MEN instead of women talking about re-working their identities within parameters preset by women centric expectations. Is this a fight for supremacy and financial freedom or is it just about acknowledgement?

I have also been known to say that at home we answer to people we love, at work we become answerable to people who pay and yet see that as growth. Ah...what a tangled web!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

1943...A Love Story

My grandfather was a rebel who married my grandmother against the wishes of his parents and moved away from his family to Burma in his early 20s. It wasn’t a love marriage … he just decided he would marry only her. She was in her late teens. He tried his hand at various jobs and settled in one with the railways there under the British Raj. He was in a position of some influence because he lived in a good house, owned some cows and was ‘respected’ by locals too.

When the war began and people were asked to leave, he went to the local store and exchanged the cows for some boxes of condensed milk that would see his family through the journey of about 4 weeks across the border. This was probably one of the smartest things he did in his life.

Then they got together whatever little they could and left on foot …they –my grandfather, grandmother and five little children – two daughters and three sons – my father being 8 years old then and the youngest brother around 3 or younger because my grandmother carried him on her hip.

People carried some utensils, clothes and other small things that they could, leaving behind everything else that made up their homes. The journey was over hills and through forests, mosquito ridden, filthy from all the defecating and strewn with dead bodies. Many people just collapsed from disease and exhaustion. There was money – notes and coins on these bodies – left behind by families of these dead people for the last rites. There was no provision for cremation or burial. So the families walked on…

My dad recollected that one night when his mother had to use the makeshift washroom, she asked my father to wait outside with the baby. As he waited, he heard a bomb fall at a distance...he called out to his mother …and then he saw the  blast…and then  a man running really fast – on just one leg – not realizing that the other had been ripped away by that bomb ...and then he fell. I vaguely remember him relating this scene to me once.

Drinking water was scarce along the way. One morning, my grandfather asked the family to rest and tied two biscuit cans on a pole to carry across his shoulder and left to get some water. He had to walk a distance and climb up and down a hill to get to the water. The family waited – fear in their hearts -for him to return. When he did finally, it was night and they mixed the condensed milk with the water he brought and drank it.

When they arrived in Calcutta, they went straight to the station like everyone else. There were people everywhere - on the platforms, on the roofs of the trains, inside the compartments – everywhere…just wanting to go wherever those trains could take them. My family went to Kerala. When they arrived in Kerala, the youngest child passed away from dysentery and typhoid. My grandfather got reinstated with the railways in Gujarat. My grandparents settled into their normal lives again and even had two more daughters.

All these men and women who saw each other and their children through such dark times and stuck together till the end...are these not the real love stories?

From what I’ve managed to Google up, millions of families crossed over from Burma that fateful year. So, my father’s wasn’t one of a few. Not that this makes the story any less important…on the contrary…

Whatever little I’ve gathered is from my mother…her conversations with dad about this crossing over from Burma  [a place dad called Pongi chao – that  I am unable to find on the maps of Burma online]  to Calcutta in 1943. It is all in bits and pieces – so not a well edited story. It is not a ‘me too’ piece either…it is a story that I felt I had to tell. I guess it is similar to what refugees from any war ridden country would have to relate and so will perhaps serve to underline how sad and traumatic war is for those who ‘survive’ it.

Much of what I couldn’t fathom about my dad came from this past, I guess - his simplicity, dislike for ostentation, strong interest and opinions on diverse matters, his reserve, the quiet demeanor in spite of a simmering temper, his love for his family, his fears, his strengths, his courage, etc. RIP Dad!