Nandish runs a grocery shop in front of his house. His parents helped him set this up though Nandish isn't planning on being a grocer all his life. He has ambitions to graduate someday. A degree in management is what's on his mind. The grocery store is "just time pass," which he says is doing okay. "Not too good, not to bad." It's been 3 years now since he left school after completing his PUC. He's a wheelchair user because of a cerebral palsy condition that prevents him from doing a lot of things physically, but his brain works perfectly. He's not a pessimist. He's a thinker and he's thinking a lot beyond what one would expect. He may be halting in his speech due to impairment, but what he speaks is straight out of his mind and heart.
He was visibly upset over Ashwin's rejection of a job. What irks him more is that Ashwin was qualified and possessed a Certificate from the Association for People with Disability who conduct computer courses for the disabled. Nandish's point is that Ashwin wasn't out there begging for a job. He had the qualifications, but the man didn't even bother about that. Had the candidate been a normal person, he would have been properly interviewed. But in Ashwin's case, the wheelchair was the reason for disqualification. The question asked by Nandish and his friends is "Why this prejudice against us?" They admit there's no road to recovery from their physical conditions, but there's no need to create roadblocks for those who have ability?
It's on issues of discrimination such as these that prompted Nandish and his friends Mohan, Ashwin, Narayan and a few others to form an Old Boys Association of 'their kind of people'. Get-togethers, picnics, etc will form part of the agenda but importantly the objective is to make people understand that its about time they recognized we have rights too. Nandish explains, and quite crystal-clear as he does, "We can go and meet the outside world by ourselves. Till today, we didn't know how to go out ourselves and we've always depended on our teachers for outings. Now, we want to go outside and tell our problems and make people understand." The association aims to be a collective voice and hell-bent on being heard.
Mohan, who was a 'slow-learner' at school is employed but feels that the 'normal' people do not exactly give them their due. He finds something drastically wrong with their attitudes towards the likes of him. "If someone has a problem with the way we work, they don't tell us but they go and tell the people who placed us here. Why don't they talk to us directly? Why don't they tell us what is wrong and show us how to correct it? It's because they think that since we are disabled, we won't understand," says Mohan. "We can't go to a shopping complex or a movie theatre because there are no wheelchair ramps. In most places there are no toilets for the handicapped. It's as if the authorities don't want us to come there. If a normal person wants to go to a toilet, he faces no problem. What about us? We also have the need to go to the toilet, but we can't. Why can't they keep such things in mind when they build these places?" he asks.
When at school, they would go out as groups with their teachers on various outings. That was different because they were part of the institution and with teachers and volunteers around, there was help at hand. The harsh reality of their disability has dawned on them. Whatever they do, they have now to go it alone. Fend for themselves. Face those problems by themselves. The thought is scary; that perhaps no one will care.
There's a bright side to this. These kids have tremendous grit and perseverance. If they want to do something, they'll do it. It may take them a bit longer than it would a normal person; but they'll do it at any cost. They are aware of the difficulties they have to surmount when they get into the mainstream of life. They know the road isn't going to be smooth and let's not forget they've traveled the rough road of life before. And today they are determined, because they just wont accept defeat.
Perhaps, what Mahatma Gandhi once said inspired them, "Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will."