06 December 2010
Malini Chib, who has cerebral palsy, has put down her journey from dependence to independence in One Little Finger, where she recounts her experiences from childhood to adulthood, her struggles to get through the mundane, getting an education and finally a job. She spoke with Aradhana Sharma:
Why did you write the book?
I wanted to tell my story. It was a very emotional exercise and a physically exhausting process for me. It took more than two years to put it all down. I type using my ‘one little finger’ and it took several hours of work. I could have written more but i wanted it to be a happy book.
I wanted to say that ‘life is beautiful’ even if you are on a wheelchair. I hope that once people read the book, they will respond differently towards me and with other people living with disabilities.
You were one of the first few special people in India to study in a mainstream educational institution (St Xavier’s, Mumbai). How important is inclusive education in the process of socialisation?
This may be difficult but at the same time it is essential. That is why, through ADAPT (Able Disabled All People Together), we’re trying to make this possible. The more we are part of the society the more people will learn to accept us. We will learn from each other.
Similarly, how important is the visibility (of disabled people) in public spaces?
It is very important, not just for the disabled people but also for others. If the disabled always stay at home they will not know anything about the world and will not grow.
It is also very important for people to see us. If we remain invisible they will never know us. They will continue to think that we need specialised treatment and need to be in confined spaces, they will never learn to interact with us.
What did you find more difficult to overcome – the physical or the emotional barriers?
I would say both, but they pose a different set of challenges. Lack of physical accessibility means you cannot move around. But it can be even more frustrating when people are the problem.
It upsets me a great deal when i am not addressed directly and talked to through my friends and caregivers. The most trying moments for me are when people refuse to accept that i have a brain.
You worked your way through unfavourable systems and attitudes. Do you think people from economically disadvantaged background can overcome the obstacles?
I was very lucky to have come from a privileged background. Money is important. But what i think is more important is the attitude. The first step is for people to know what they want and then find those who are sensitive to their needs and are willing to help them in that journey.
YouhavelivedbothinIndia and abroad. Do you see any changes in India in terms of disabled people negotiating their lives?
There have been a lot of changes. Look at me. I have a job as a senior events manager at a major bookstore. Would this have been possible 25 years ago? There have also been improvements in terms of accessibility. But much more needs to be done, both by the government and the NGOs. We need to have many more people out so that their confidence increases and so does their acceptance in the wider society.