All I can say is: Welcome to our world.
Over a year ago, I’d written something to submit as part of my portfolio for my Master’s degree. Here’s a short excerpt (read the entire piece here):
Too often people use disabilities as an abusive way of insulting the so-called normal human beings. A few years ago, my family and I were in a restaurant, my then 4-year-old autistic brother started crying and refused to calm down. A patron sitting at the next table looked over and said very loudly: “What’s wrong with these people? If they have retarded children, they should keep them at home.” Then we were asked to leave the restaurant by the management because ‘the other diners were getting disturbed’. It hurt. It hurt because my brother is not retarded. He, like thousands of other people has an autistic spectrum disorder. It also hurt because it was acceptable then (and still is) to insult someone by way of calling them ‘retarded’ and prevent them from experiencing a routine aspect of life. It’s absolutely abhorrent when one hears the word ‘retarded’ being thrown around as if it were commonplace even in classrooms in secondary schools.
Last night I saw this tweet from Ellen Seidman (or @LoveThatMax as she’s known on Twitter):
Twit friends: For next week I’m tweeting at people who use “retard” as a hashtag—and asking them to take this pledge http://www.r-word.org
I had a look at their website and signed the pledge, and plan to spread the word as well. It just drives home the point that I was trying to make a long time ago: the r-word, or “retard(ed)” just hurts. It’s incorrect, offensive and derogatory.
The website has informative pages on why you should take the pledge, as well as an explanation of why the r-word is hurtful. While you’re at it, have a look at how many times the word has been used on the world wide web, on the R-word counter.
My brother isn’t retarded. He has autism. He doesn’t suffer from it. Give him, and anyone with intellectual disabilities, respect.
Karan was the birthday boy two days ago when he turned 15.
In the evening, I thought we should take him to the beach. Hilarity ensued when he decided he didn’t want to walk through the sand and stayed put for the better half of the 45 minutes that we were there. Although I think he was mollified when we bought him cake, which he gorged on once we got home.
To all those who remembered and wished him, thank you!
I still remember the first time I read a Harry Potter book. I was curious about the stacks of books that screamed HARRY POTTER, which I saw in every single bookshop I frequented. Finally I told my parents that I wanted to buy the first book and see if I liked it. At that time, the third book, Prisoner of Azkaban was near release. I liked it and kept buying each one. I even managed to cry while reading the last two books in the series. I had no idea then it would become such a phenomenon.
The movies started coming out and we were introduced to the trio of actors whom many of us grew up with, from the first film to the eighth.
Among them, I’ve always maintained that Rupert Grint was the most talented and natural actor. But Daniel Radcliffe has certainly made his way through the years and it’s pretty cool to see a behind-the-scene look at one of his photoshoots methinks.
Here’s to my excitement building up for the eighth and final Harry Potter film.
A few days back, I read a post by SeaBee, which tracked back to Sarah’s post – both on the subject of Twitter. While I’ve already done a post on Twitter and journalism, this one is inspired by the contents of these two posts.
Both these posts constitute what I see as for and against viewpoints on how useful and user-friendly Twitter is.
Sarah mentioned how so many people got involved with the Egypt revolution because of Twitter, and I agree. Had I not been on Twitter and following the relevant people, I might’ve read about it in the papers and eventually forgotten about it; it definitely would not have made the impact it has. Twitter made the revolution even more real for those who were far away from the scene of action. Updates from tweeps who were at Tahrir were gripping; they were real. Much more real than a second-hand report. So much more real. There have been so many other issues that I’ve learned about or gotten involved with because of Twitter and its propensity for hashtags.
User-friendliness? I find Twitter simplistic. It’s honestly quite easy to use. I’ve read the argument about how you know whom to follow, and how to figure out threads of conversations. While the Twitter website is pretty okay to use at times, don’t make it your full-time Twitter outlet. I’ve used Seesmic Web and Twimbow (I tried Tweetdeck and it just didn’t gel with me, but loads of people like it so it really depends on your preferences) and they’re amazing to help make sense of what’s going on.
Most “stories” (#BenihanaKUW, #jan25 just to name a couple) are hashtagged, so just click on the hashtag within whatever Twitter application you’re using and behold, you’ll have an entirely separate column dedicated to that “story”.
How much time you dedicate to Twitter depends on what you want to do with it. I’m quite addicted (I admit it freely) so I trackback to where I last left off and scroll through. I must admit though, I’m a good speed-reader so I take less time than many other people would to do this. Again, filters are so useful when you want to wade through the mess.
I rarely ever go to anyone’s Twitter profile (unless I’m stalking them ;-)). What I like about Twitter is that on the main feed, you can only see conversations between people whom you follow. So there’s no unnecessary nonsense going on the main page. Sure, if you go to a profile page, there will be lots more conversations going on but that’s for the profile owner to figure through his/her mentions, not ours. If you do, however, have a hankering to read through conversations, the web application will show you the conversation if you click on the relevant tweet; other clients like Seesmic and Twimbow also have a “show conversation” option so you can quickly figure out what’s going on.
After a few days/weeks (again this depends on how fast you get used to it), I managed to filter out what I want to see and not see even when skimming through the main news feed. Why don’t I unfollow some people whose tweets I skim over? I normally do want to read their tweets, but knowing the kind of tweets that they publish, I only read when I need/want to. When I know I don’t have time for those tweets, I unconsciously pass them and move on.
Twitter found a niche we didn’t think we needed. Microblogging seemed ridiculous to me when I first heard about it. I had my blog. I had Facebook. Who the hell needs Twitter, I thought? Well I’ve garnered more readers for my blogs from Twitter, and I’ve met loads of interesting people through it from different walks of life whom I would never have met otherwise. Especially in Dubai where there doesn’t tend to be much interaction between people of different communities…this is a boon! The Dubai Twitterati are quite active and close-knit, it’s more or less become a microcosm of teeming activity.
Mom’s old car was sold 10-12 days ago. A new one came less than a week back. Rather than get upset with the change, he absolutely adored the new car. It’s big, spacious and high enough for him to peer out the window when we’re cruising on the hot Dubai roads, just like the previous car we had. I was informed that when they went car hunting, he got into this car at the showroom happily, but refused to clamber into a smaller car. He’s a space junkie for sure.
When he got into the car, he couldn’t stop grinning, and laughing a bit towards the end of his first drive in the new car. Just seeing the happiness and excitement on his face made our day.
Karan’s school, Manzil, organizes a Sports Day for its students, which is usually held in Al Thiqah Club, Sharjah. Every time, Mom and I head over to cheer all the kids on. We’re never told what Karan is doing – it’s always a surprise every year.
Now, Karan can be quite active, but only when he wants to be. If we tell him to run, or play, or do absolutely anything, he’ll clam up. For Sports Day, we just hope he’s in a good mood so he gets to participate as well.
This year, he was in two races. One involved him wearing some kind of paper giraffe hat, running to a vine with a string of leaves, picking up said leaves and running to the finish line. Haha, only he hates wearing stuff on his head…so when he ran to the leaves vine, he pulled off his giraffe hat and fiddled with the leaves. Still, he came third, after ambling. No running for my lazy darling.
The next race, he was given a basket and he had to pick up objects in his path, put them in the basket and run to the finish line. He did not run. However, he did amble a bit faster than usual, so he came second in the semi-final which put him in the final, where he came second again. Here’s the video of the final:
Not all of the kids are fast or want to run, and some don’t know why they’re doing it (like Karan for example). But it doesn’t matter. When someone crosses the finish line first, the audience (all parents except me!) cheers. And so on. And then the race is over but for one cute little kid far behind. It doesn’t matter. We scream, we cheer, we shout encouragements. Then when the child passes the finish line, we whoop.
Some of the memorable moments from the day include:
- A little one who probably comes up to my knee moving his tiny little legs as fast as I’ve ever seen, looking adorable as he did.
- A student who runs super fast, raising his hands in victory even before he crossed the finish line. He won.
- Another student is one my favourites to watch on Sports Day. His enthusiasm and positive nature is unflagging. Every single year, whether he wins or loses, he crosses the finish line and raises his hands above his head, pumps his fists and looks at the crowd, cheering him on. This year he did not disappoint. I love love love LOVE his attitude; it’s so uplifting. He won a couple of races this time and I’m so happy he did.
- Students running towards the finish line, then abruptly stopping a millimetre before the line, wondering whether they should cross it or not. Cuties.
- A cheerleading performance by the students.
- The Millennium School in Sharjah runs a Best Buddy scheme with Manzil, where some of their students volunteer for events, as they did for this day, and pair up with those students at Manzil able to communicate and become their peer buddy. They were terribly helpful during the event.
- There’s always a race for the Moms and Dads who attend the event. Mom doesn’t participate because of her problems with legs, but generally I do. This time however, I’d managed to splay myself on a Karama sidewalk the day before and my knee looked like splotches of purple, pink and green, and my right leg was in some discomfort. So I declined to run. However, the best buddies clamoured around us because we were among the few not going down. Then those kids called me ma’am and aunty!!! I was appalled and even more determined to sit firmly in my seat. Aunty…AUNTY?!?!?!
I love attending events like these, and his concerts for example. It’s such a testament to what these children are capable of. It’s also so much more laudable considering the issues they face on a daily basis. For the NTs (neuro-typical…that’s all the “normal” folk to you), it’s just a race. You run. You place first, second, third, last…whatever. For my brother, it’s an achievement.
Congrats on your certificate Karan!
Guest post by Adita Divecha, Karan’s mother
Once we had to go to Madhavi’s (Rajiv’s sister) place by cab since the car wasnt available. So we we left our house and went downstairs to get a cab. Luckily, there’s always a long line of Fiat taxis – the black and yellow ones – just below our house. We, ie myself, Karan and Rajiv, hailed a cab.
The thing with these taxis is that the doors don’t open all the way. I told Karan to get into the taxi, but he refused. He kept staring at the taxi for a while. Then he put his head in and looked at the seat and then he came out again. It was quite comical. Then he stood there looking at me with a frown on his face. Rajiv kept telling him, “Go inside” but he refused and kept doing the same thing around 3-4 times.
Then he slowly put one leg in and then brought it back out. Finally I got into the taxi and told him to come in. I said, “Come in, see Mummy is also sitting here”. Still he refused. Then I showed him his koosh ball (which he likes)…and he finally got into the taxi. Then Rajiv sat in the front passenger seat.
Karan was staring at the taxi driver. The taxi driver was, in turn, staring at us wondering what was going on, wondering why such a grown-up looking boy wasn’t getting into the taxi. Karan was constantly making the sounds “AAH! AAH! AAAH!” and held on to my hand tightly, with a look that felt as though he was wondering where his mother was taking him. When the taxi reached its destination, Rajiv opened the door and Karan couldn’t get out of the taxi fast enough.
We didn’t sit in a taxi again.
Clearly my son was born in a 4WD (he’s recently been refusing to get into any other kind of car, and if he does, with some hesitation).
So Karan likes watching Salman Khan on television, and likes quite a few of his songs. It does depend on his mood though – if he’s in a good one, he’ll watch whatever’s happening on TV and smile. If he’s in a blah mood, he’ll sit quietly but listen.
The Filmfare awards was being broadcasted, and there was a Salman Khan dance sequence. He settled down in the sofa opposite the television and watched. I was standing there with Mom’s phone, knowing I’d end up catching him grinning or laughing, when he turned to look at me, opened his mouth wide, didn’t make a sound but gave me this look!
It was a “Quit bothering me, I’m trying to watch TV!” look non? 😀
We don’t know if Karan understands or appreciates the clothes Mom and I buy for him, but we certainly enjoy it. As you can see, we found a t-shirt that said “Mr. D” on it and I knew then we simply had to buy it:
I’ve transferred my love for buying t-shirts with phrases on them to when I buy Karan’s clothes. I don’t think we’ve bought anything for him (t-shirts i.e.) that are plain blocks of colour. There’s always something happening on his t-shirts…a graphic, a phrase, a combination of both! Like these t-shirts:
There are a couple of restrictions though, as Karan has a couple of requirements for his comfort. The fabric should not itch him, especially around the neck, otherwise he starts scratching himself, so cotton is a good choice. In addition, we don’t buy shirts for him. It’s not easy for him to button things up and we just feel he’s more comfortable in tees…and we’re worried he’ll nibble the buttons off! The only shirt he owns:
With regard to trousers, he doesn’t have any jeans. They don’t allow him the mobility trackpants do, and again, it’s simpler for him to pull the trackpants up than wearing jeans, zipping it and then buttoning it up.
He doesn’t wear caps because he doesn’t like anything or anyone touching his head. Lately however, we’ve trialled putting caps on and seeing how long it takes before he whips it off and throws it across the room.
Shoes are another consideration. His fine motor abilities, while improved over the years, are not that developed for him to be able to tie shoelaces. Velcro shoes work best. I must tell you though, it’s quite hard for us to find adult shoes that have velcro on them! But when we eventually do, we snap them up! So he wears sports shoes or sandals with velcro, which are easier for him to wear.
Clothes shopping for him is not without limitations, but even within that, I think he looks rather smart, doesn’t he? 🙂