Today, I have the pleasure of hosting Amit Sharma of Mashed Musings on my blog. If you haven’t read his blog yet, you must immediately add it to your reading list. His blog is a great place for humor and satire posts. I love his posts about women and their issues from a great humane and honest perspective. Needless to say, he is one of my favorite bloggers. Today, he brings a nice, introspective post for all of us.
I saw Rajeev for the first time during the Physics class. He sat at the first desk in my row; the seat next to him was empty. His crutches tilted on the empty seat at an angle trying their best to give him company. I sat at the last desk in the same row, next to an overtly pragmatic newcomer in my class who could not understand the reason of my sadness. I was a Science student now, studying in the best government school in my locality. My cocooned Public school days were behind me, thanks to my father who dislodged me from my placid existence and landed me in this turbulent storm. I was thirsting for friendship and the alien faces around me were not helping me. I finally decided to shun pragmatic Alok and walked towards Rajeev.
As I replaced Rajeev’s clutches on the seat next to him, he was amused for a few initial days. He was used to his disability being treated as a disease; he was used to find pity in the eyes of people without an effort. He analyzed me with the whole battalion of his preconceived notions; trying to understand why I did something no one had tried since the 2 weeks of the beginning of the classes. The truth was that I too had no idea. It was an act carried out on an impulse which eventually changed me as a person.
Rajeev had polio. His body had no sensations downwards from his hips. He could not pick up his right hand without taking help of his left one. He wrote with his left hand – the only functioning limb in his body. The irony was that his father was a veterinary surgeon, studying in the city when Rajeev was born in a village and the family somehow skipped the essential Polio drops.
A week passed and Rajeev started coming to terms with me treating him as another normal person. I instantly bonded with him and found him to be a very warm and jovial person. There was never a hint of forbearance of his situation in his eyes. This is how his life was, and this is how he had to deal with it. He wasn’t bitter about it, never hesitated to ask for help when he couldn’t do without it and never failed to say thank you with a smile.
Rajeev came to the school sitting in a wheelchair. His home was nearby and everyday one of his family members would push his wheelchair from home to school. That is how I met the family for the first time. Rajeev was the eldest. He had a younger brother and two younger sisters. All of them were a laugh riot. His father called me Sharma Sahib, and his mother would crack me up with her anecdotes.
It wasn’t easy for me to consider Rajeev as a ‘normal’ person. The first time I went to his house and met his extremely convivial family was also the day I saw him crawling on all four. Blame it on social conditioning but the sight tore me from inside and I carried a lump in my throat for the rest of the day even though I was sitting with the family and laughing with them. I had a dream that night that he was running in a race with a grin on his face. I forced myself to snap out of the feeling. I went to watch movies with him, behaving as if it was perfectly normal to sit in the front row. I started enjoying it after a while. We saw our first porn movie together, giggling like idiots. When he received his three-wheeler motorbike from the government, his friends were scared to sit with him. After all, how can someone like him handle a bike with one hand? That bike soon became our mode of transport – our own Jai and Veeru kind of a vehicle. Both of us went to Bangla Sahib in it, we went to various colleges in it to collect our admission forms; we went around the market and ate tikki sitting in it, went to movies in it. He once asked me if I was not afraid when he drove. I told him that I wasn’t. I wasn’t lying. During the two years both of us spent in the school as inseparable brothers, I had mastered the art of draping his wheelchair with the cloak of invisibility.
Both of us went to different colleges and then my job took me to another city and then to another country. We stayed friends for a decade and then it took both of us another 5 years to finally drift away. My mother remains shocked till date that I am not in contact with him anymore. I tell her that I have those 10 years with me and they will always stay with me. People drift away. It happens. Rajeev’s friendship taught me an invaluable lesson. What bonded us together was that we did not fall in the trap of following society’s definition of what is normal. It was normal for me to sometimes push his wheelchair to his house while we laughed and chatted. It was normal for me when he fell in love with a girl. I did not break his heart by trying to pull him back. I encouraged him as I would have encouraged any other friend of mine and then gave courage to him to mend his broken heart.
Rajeev’s presence in my life also opened up my mind to a lot of introspection. I realized that every human has his own set of disabilities. Aren’t possessiveness, ego, anger, malevolence, narrow-mindedness, corruption and bowing to social evils also a form of disability? Doesn’t lack of education and careless upbringing open up a Pandora’s Box of disabilities? Rajeev was physically disabled but to me he was more normal than the people I meet everyday, who think they are normal.
Even though I have lost Rajeev, I am happy that I haven’t lost that cloak of invisibility. It is my most precious possession. After all, it gave me an uncluttered perspective, memories to cherish and a decade of happiness.