Household Work

‘There can be many tensions while handling the house… there have been times when I have kept the rice in the rice cooker and according to me pressed the “on” button, but it didn’t get cooked. I thought it was cooked, but then when we sat for dinner, my mother-in-law called me and said “See for yourself, the uncooked rice is separate and the water is separate.” I still argued my case and said that I had pressed the button, maybe it didn’t work. I told her “Okay no problems, let me switch it on now, meanwhile whoever is hungry can have roti.” Nobody said anything. Only thing my saas [mother-in-law] said was that “God knows sometimes where does your attention wander.”

This was a small incident, but sometimes the masalas fall on the gas. My family knew it and now my in-laws have also realised that all this keeps happening and they have to clean up later. Well sometimes when too much of masalas fall then my saas says “Arey why so much today?” If I have a reason I tell her, else I say, “It just fell.” …’

One day I woke up in the morning and went to the loo. My sister-in-law heats up water for bathing. She kept the hot pot in the middle of the bathroom, and my leg kicked it by mistake and the water spilled on me. my entire foot was burnt badly. she claims that she told me that I should not go there because there is a pot of hot water. And I said I didn’t hear.’

Namita (name changed), 29, visually impaired.

Desire for Solitude

‘I remember clearly when I actually began negotiating the London streets on my own. I would go out frequently, but was always accompanied by my parents or Maya.

“Can I come and pick you up mum?” I asked one morning. I had just woken up and was still snuggled into my cosy IKEA duvet cover. She was going to the Institute of Education’s library to read. It was a beautiful sunny day in London.

“Okay, why don’t you come with Maya?” said mother as she took her time in picking out her clothes….”No, I would rather come on my own,” I pleaded. I went on nagging her about how I desired solitude at times. At the age of 28, it was too stiffing to be accompanied by someone constantly, I wanted a bit of freedom, to be on my own for a while. “I will be very careful,” I promised.

Mother reluctantly gave in. “Okay,” she said, adding, “You always get what you want.” I grinned silently knowing very well that when I want something, I will go out of my way for it. “Please tell Maya,” I said firmly, “or else she won’t listen.”

Maya was petrified. “Madam, it’s dangerous, how can you let her? No Madam, it’s too dangerous. I will go with her,” she repeatedly said. “No, we must allow this as it is important to enable Malini to be as independent as possible. What I am learning in my studies is to ensure that disabled people have freedom. Be it the freedom to walk around, or to speak and express. We must encourage them to carry out their day to day activities solely by themselves, which will strengthen them,” said mother as she put on her black shoes. “Let her come on her own, Maya,” said mother. I was very excited, but I did not show it in case Maya changed her mind and decided to come along, which would ruin everything. This was my chance to prove to the world that I could master the London roads without getting hit. It was April and spring was unfolding. The days grew longer as we approached the solstice and the temperature grew warmer. We walked along to Budgens (a supermarket) making inconsequential chatter. Then the moment came when Maya and I had to part ways. She was petrified. “Okay, bye,” I said confidently as I waved goodbye. I must admit that I was a trifle nervous myself, but whizzed along through Gower Street; I passed through University Street onto Woburn Square and onto the concourse of the Institute of Education. I wanted to shriek with joy but restrained myself as I did not want people to assume that I was straight out of space or belonged to a lunatic asylum.

“Oh, hi,” said mother as she put her books on the back of my wheelchair. “Where’s Maya?” she asked as though nothing unordinary had happened. “Don’t you remember our conversation in the morning?” I said quietly. “Oh yes, I’d forgotten. You made it alone. Congratulations darling,” said mother. We sauntered home together.

From then on, I went everywhere on my own – to bookshops, supermarkets, parks. I changed several buses to meet friends. For the first time, I could shop on my own. That moment was joyous as I moved onto the track of becoming an empowered disabled adult.’

Malini Chib, 44, Cerebral Palsy (excerpt from her autobiography One Little Finger)