Monday, 5 December 2016

The differently-abled and what they teach us

-Brian Mendonça

It was in the space of a day that I was privileged to see many differently-abled persons. What struck me was that they were going about their lives with dignity and optimism. Some were working at jobs and others were, well, walking.

I say, walking, because some of the most mundane actions we perform need herculean effort by those who are differently-abled. They may need to go through tremendous effort to move the muscles of the face to smile; or experience excruciating pain to get the leg muscles to move in alignment.

On Sunday morning, my sister needed to urgently get tickets for her family travelling back to Pune.  At 11 a.m. the chart was ready – our tatkal status was WL 25 on the Goa Express which left in 4 hours and 10 minutes from Vasco.

Having picked up chocolate brownies for my sister, I walked across to Atmaram Tours and Travels. This little kiosk at Vasco used to be my saviour in the early days when I used to travel to Pune. We were greeted by Dinesh. He smiled at us and reassured us that the required tickets would be available. There was a bus at 9 p.m. from Patto, Panjim. Dinesh gently counselled us to be quick about booking the bus tickets as in a few moments the status would go online. We lost no time in booking the tickets and heaved a sigh of relief with the confirmed tickets in our hand. 

Dinesh is blind in one eye. Yet he looks at the computer screen, makes calculations and advises the clients according to their needs. He always has a smile on his face to chase away all the stress you may have. When I ventured to ask him what happened he said a stick went into his eye when he was young.

Having the grace time of half a day with my sister and her family, I decided to stand the family, lunch at Babazin’s bar restaurant and chill out at Nerul. Under the immensity of the Reis Magos fort we discussed a trip to Sawantwadi. 

As the steward served I looked at his hand and froze. His entire right forearm was scarred by burn marks. Yet he was serving us without flinching or being conscious of it. When Babito, the owner, came over sat at our table I asked him about it. He said he had not asked him about how it happened. ‘Over the past 10 days, his performance has not improved,’ Babito was saying. Yet Babazin’s offered him an equal-opportunity environment and a space to learn on the job.

Standing behind an elder for the 6 p.m. Sunday Mass at Don Bosco, Panjim the same day I noticed his fingers behind his back keeping time to the hymns. Later I realised they were trembling by themselves. Still he was there for Mass, as sprightly as ever. 
Published in Gomantak Times, Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 4 December 2016. Pix courtesy Dinesh taken by Brian Mendonca. 

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