Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Space for all ... the deaf and the dumb.

There are two mentally handicapped children in Varadappanaidupeta, the hamlet next door, who roam free without anyone feeling the need to institutionalize them. They come and sit in anyone's doorway, and are accepted normally. Bharati’s mother-in-law had some mental imbalance. She was an extremely sensible lady, but now and then would get a persecution complex. Once she tied up all the vessels at home and said they had originally belonged to her and set off for another village. All kinds of odd and deviant behaviours are tolerated peacefully.

A lame boy Devarajulu, a squint eyed lady Eashwaramma, and a deaf lady Bangaaramma can exist without feeling odd. Kiranmayi, lame in one leg, used to drag herself and move and nobody would react, though they had pity in their hearts for a girl child being in this state. It was when we brought her to Chennai for her artificial leg, that from the bus stop onwards people started staring and pointing and their crudeness made her feel an oddity.

Savudu Bangaaramma, whose name itself means deaf Bangaaramma, comes and sits down for a chat and people very normally hold conversations with her. They would speak very softly but with gestures and clear lip movements. I would start talking very loudly to her, and her small grandson Janardhan had to remind me to not shout as she cannot hear ! She responds with speech and actions.

The lame boy may be called kuntodu, meaning limping fellow, or a dark fellow may be called karrodu meaning coal back fellow, and Bangaaramma may be called savudu Bangaaramma, but these are only matter of fact names, and are taken as such. In a city, when there are deviations, the observer and the observed feel there is something wrong.


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