I Invite Myself

‘The most important activity in college was socialising. It was the first time I had mingled with people my own age. Would people understand me? Would they feel embarrassed talking to me? Were they coming up to me just because I was disabled? For the first few weeks I zoomed around saying hello to a couple of people whom I knew. Generally however, I moved about on my own as I felt shy to initiate a conversation. Although I had friends who were normal, I used to always meet them individually. I soon found out, painfully, that my vocal expression was not quick enough to be included in a dynamic interactive group situation. This was another agonizing experience. No effort was made by those who could speak. My speech became my biggest barrier. Again the same formula dominated all these normal people – anybody not speaking like everyone else would literally be rejected and abandoned. …Socially, therefore, life was hard…. I began doubting myself and my abilities.

It was not a good beginning, but I eventually realized that I must be determined to fight. I would show them that, except for my body, I was just like them. I was not going to give up. “Let’s go to a movie”, said Feroza, a girl from my class. I had just joined them after my wanderings. “Yes, which one?” Khushid asked. “Why not Kramer vs.Kramer or An Officer and a Gentleman”, suggested Pervez. “Yes, why not? It’s 12 o’clock, and if we hurry we can make it for the 1 o’clock show,” said Khushid. The gang was informed. I was automatically left out. All I had to do was to tell them how to handle me, but I was not fast enough or pushy enough, and everything was organized very quickly. I, obviously, was going to be a problem for them, so it was just easier to leave me out. They must have assumed that I have no feelings and, thus, how could I feel left out?
I went up to class feeling hurt. I wanted them to make that extra bit of effort, but they were not prepared to do so in what seemed to me a thoughtless, mindless pursuit of enjoyment.

Nevertheless, one day I did make it to a movie with them because I was determined to invite myself, so I opened the subject and asked my gang of friends if we could go for a movie. I wanted to show them that I too could go to the cinema. “Yes why not?” they said a little doubtfully. “I can walk if two people hold me on either side, under the arm,” I suggested enthusiastically. They were caught up with the enthusiasm of the novelty of it and agreed. “We’ll take my car,” I said. We went and saw The Champ and I managed to walk up the stairs of the New Excelsior with their help. After the movie, we stuffed ourselves with bhel and pani puri at Vithals. It had been a success. The group had enjoyed my company, and they had not felt that I was a burden on them. It was the first of many outings.’

Malini Chib, 44, cerebral palsy (excerpt from her autobiography One Little Finger)