Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Seeing....a function of more than your eyes!


My disability journey has not just opened my world to different and diverse perspectives, but also to a set of very very interesting people.

My first interaction with Divyanashu was post the marathon run. I got a message on Facebook and his profile picture had him with Senior AB...I was'nt sure how to react to that!

The message contained the usual congratulatory messages and telling me how amazing I was (I absolutely know that!!). He runs a nonprofit organization which promotes adventures sports for People with Disabilities, was blind and was into adventure and outdoor sports ...all in the same sentence, and wanting to get in touch.

Our conversation started as extremely polite, which lasted for about five minutes. We broke ice when I asked him if he grew drugs to fund his NGO(he’s confirmed he does’nt). We eventually discovered we were both mad people and had the same crazy sense of humor...pretty much cut out of the same cloth!

Recently he travelled to Bangalore and we decided to meet. He was to travel straight from the airport and I was to meet him for lunch. 

Of course much after confirming the plans, realization strikes!!

He's going to uber, and I’d probably need to give directions ...how do I pick the call? Well let's say if we manage that, how do I direct him through the stairs.... What if I fall and he falls too... And then of course how do I eat? Well I can't feed him... Way too many minor details to consider!! So of course Bindu was invited for lunch.

While I got ready to meet him, I thought does it matter if I did make the effort, how's he even going to appreciate it? (Vain women I know!). I could be in my PJs and he wouldn’t know.

The first impression of meeting him was just sheer warmth! You know when you meet someone, and it just clicks and seems like it’s not the first time you are meeting them. 

While we steered our way through the restaurant, my thought runs through how this would be first interaction with someone who is blind, there are no reference points. In hindsight, it’s what someone goes through when they meet me for the first time - no reference point!

We sat down, and ordered our drinks and food. It was interesting to watch, because he just got on fine, as far as he was nudged in the right direction. The conversations flowed, and I realized I had so many questions. 

Do you see with more than your eyes? Do you meet someone and feel their aura? Do you visualize things? Is it difficult? And the one question I did not ask, but wish I did, how does he decide what to wear (he lives alone)?

Divyanshu turned blind overnight when he was nineteen due to glaucoma . I'm thinking that it could be as disturbing as to lose a limb. I'm not sure what it feels like, but like any devastation in our lives, we eventually still cope. The beauty of his story is that he chose to still lead his life on his terms. He is India's first blind solo glider and like that wasn't enough he recently tandem cycled 500 plus kms across Leh-Ladakh... Gobsmacked aren't you!?

While I was processing this entire new world, I felt maybe it was a great world, where you meet someone and you’re not judging them for their looks or for what they wear... You truly just listened and liked someone or not for what they said or what you felt... You cut out the noise and preconditioned notions. 

It's a world of listening, touching and feeling... In a sense the perfect world - a true human world.

Divyanshu spoke about being a very visual person; he creates pictures of everything in his head. I loved what he is said "everybody in my world is beautiful.. I imagine everything to be very beautiful"

What a beautiful thought!

Our eyes functionally let us see, but I guess to really see and feel you need more than your eyes, you need a beautiful soul and a big canvass to paint whatever picture you want.

You can choose to make it as beautiful or as ugly as you want...


Friday, 27 May 2016

Urban Legend...Nah Just Super Specially Abled

Blade Runner...Survivor...Wonder Woman...Urban Legend...

A few descriptions of me over the last few weeks...well how do I feel about them?

Very overwhelming…Larger than life!!

Did I plan on any of this? The answer is a plain 'No'. If you had asked me 4 years ago or in fact even before that if I’d ever run a marathon…the answer would have been ‘No’.

The whole thing started off with just a way to be healthy and being able to achieve the very mundane tasks of walking, climbing up stairs, sitting and getting up from a chair. Over a period, it just became something I began to enjoy. My legs began to feel like an extension of my own body and not an add on. Just the pure freedom to run, feeling free...and in some twisted way a control over my own body!

What the hell I can't brush my teeth on my own, but I can run without anyone's help!

These are my moments of looking up in the sky, and saying a silent "damn you, there's no stopping me"

And I don’t think I chose running…Running chose ME!

Was it easy?

It was hell! A good hell...

Well the original plan was to run with my legs (for you guys prosthetics legs). We’ve (Coach Aiyappa and I) been training for about two years. I wake up at 5 am and work out at Kanteerava Stadium. I go for Pilates with Anisha Naidu 2-3 times a week. Both their primary goals has been to make my life as miserable and tough as possible (You need to read this as "build strength and endurance). It's been a journey - one that has required me to push myself every single day. Not just my body, but realising that it's my mind that makes me go the last 100 metres.

There were days at 5am in the morning when my alarm rang that I questioned my own sanity "What the hell is wrong with me?" "Do I really need to do this?".... But something did push me! I came everyday from the work out pooped....but also rejuvenated by the sheer sense of accomplishment and feeling that I grew my wings...added a few bones and feathers each day....my wings of freedom!

Then the blades arrived. We went for fitment for about a month, I got the blades about 2 weeks and 2 days before the run.

What do the blades feel like?

Imagine yourself on really pointy high heels and then imagine being on a trampoline...if you are a man who has never worn heels...I cannot explain it to you!

I look and feel totally bad ass in them!

They gave me a natural bounce and push. It gave me more wings.

How did I feel on D-day?

Obviously pressure! I feel exactly like I was going to write my board exams. There were 20k people, the whole place was buzzing with energy.

How I felt through the run?

It was a mixture of emotions – like a Bollywood movie, the day had every bit of excitement, song, dance, music, high emotions, action, love, drama!

Started slow, as it was a mad rush of people and I did not want to fall. The first 6 kms were great, and then I felt dizzy. We were targeting the 90 min finish, the break put me back. At a point I was totally disappointed with myself (still am). We then decided to finish. We had to stop twice again to adjust the legs. It was an extremely humid day, and the prosthetics get extremely sweaty. So once your sweat builds up, the legs get extremely uncomfortable, so we need to remove them and put them back on. Ofcourse our Bangalore roads - just adds to the much needed drama!

The one thing that helped me through this besides having people that I love with me, was the number of people through the run who cheered for me or just passed by with a thumbs up – my running this marathon was a re-affirmation to our own selves that we survive – no matter what!

We finished! Phew! I was done and I just wanted to find a corner to sleep.

By the time I recuperated I felt - Exhilarated. Relieved. Happy. Could I have done better? An emphatic "Yes"!

Post the run I've been repeatedly asked "Why running" "Who is my inspiration" "What motivated me" "What is my future goal"...
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When I sit back and think...the answer is "I really don't know"

The script to my life changed in 2012 and after that I have left the universe to take me where it chose. I just do what I do. I do not know where I get my strength from or how I endured it - I just do!

Did I ever plan to run, take part in a marathon or be on the first page of a newspaper? Never ever part of my script... it all just happened! I did not plan on losing my limbs in the first place remember.

Why running... just because i can! I have my wings fitted on and I don't plan to ever take them off.

Motivation... because it is the person I am! I refuse to give up without a fight. It is in my Malayali DNA or I'm just too stubborn probably.

Goal...only one "be happy" “live in the moment” - NOTHING else in the world matters

One thing that's niggled me through this entire process has been a few reactions from people around me "She still has a big smile" "You still look happy" "Did people treat you differently" "Do you feel bad when you go out with your friends"

Why do we expect someone who is disabled to look unhappy? Why do we expect someone who is disabled to lead sad and miserable lives? Why do we not expect someone who is disabled to party? Why do you think a marriage will fall apart after a disability? Why don't we think that it is possible to just accept your disability and lead super normal lives?

Clich├ęs isn't it?

Your disabilities I've realized are only in your mind.