The thing that you’ll read below is an effort to revive my non-filmi writing (an informal new year resolution that I’d put a few hundred words on paper without really being bothered about the outcome), I doubt if you’ll gain anything by reading it. The purpose of putting it up here is to show off my pearly handwriting.
Writing using paper and a pen is a tedious business, not at all romantic as some people make it out to be. Yet I always imagine or dream of doing that. I envy people who can fill up pages while attending a press conference or sitting in a seminar, while I have to be alert and make an effort to remember everything that is being said. The cell phone or the tablet has been a boon for me as I can note down a few points or type out questions I wish to ask. Here also sometimes, I have to convince people that I am not engrossed in a video game or distracted by a sms or an email. There is one advantage of writing in a book for me and that is the fact that I am not distracted by a new notification in FB, or updates on twitter or a new email in the inbox. The other good thing about writing like this is the fact that it curbs my tendency to be overly dependent on online dictionary to check if the new word blinking in my head is apt in the context that I wish to use it.
This is the first time I am trying to put something this long on paper after my student days. Once in a while I used to write letters to my friends after that, but, that too has stopped for a long time now.
Thulasi Kakkat, a friend and a photographer with The Hindu whom I met at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale last Saturday, he was there to cover Shashi Tharoor's visit. He got excited seeing a camera fixed on my wheelchair and wanted to check how he looked from my vantage point. So, here is the result:
The rest of the pictures are commonly seen in the social as well as mainstream media and mine are taken at weird angles . Still I am trying to get a few exclusive ones and put them here.
While piecing your
past together as if it was a jigsaw puzzle, you may come across a few
pieces that are blank and don't fit anywhere or there would be a
couple of colourful pieces that you wouldn't find the space for them
to fit in.
You may be standing
at a point and wondering how did I reach here? But, your mind refuses
to budge even to share the memories of the journey. If it is a sad
point you feel it is ok and try to start a new journey or start
afresh. But, if it is a happy point people around would like to know
about the journey and the only answer you can think of is “I don't
know, it just happened”.
If you are
attempting to tell a fictional story it is easier to be convincing as
you gloss over a few facts and convey something like leap of faith,
the person being at an happy point got lucky, and he/she may have
worked hard. But, he/she was at the right place at the right time and
In real life, what
seems like a happy or successful point externally may be full of
turmoil and turbulence internally. And, this success could be the
outcome of the darkest period spent by the person in his/her life.
The challenge is to
draw a picture of life juxtaposing all these without making it look
messy or cringey (not sure if it is the right word). Most of the
times I fail to do it.
My review of this book has appeared in the Jul - Sep 2014 issue of Success & Ability.
I have always felt lucky to be born disabled. No, it is not because of the privilege that I have been looked after by people from the time I was a baby till well into my forties as if I haven’t grown up, as some friends like to joke. But, it is because I have seen a few people (who are my friends now) becoming wheelchair-users in their prime, they all have been brave and somehow surmounted the ordeal. The latest addition in this list of friends is Shivani Gupta. I had heard a lot about her as an award-winning crusader for the disabled.
But, when I heard about a book on her life on the social media, I felt a little sceptical as we Indians are not good at saying it as it is in writing at least in writing. Yet, I got the book without being sure that I will ever finish reading it. And, to my surprise I was visualising the author’s life without knowing that I had started turning pages (though I was reading an ebook).
What happens when the dreams of a twenty-two year old girl’s dreams are crashed in a car accident. Obviously, the fact would take time to sink in, and, it would be a painfully slow. The realisation that your life has gone topsy turvy and things will not be back to normal ever again is hard hitting. You may find Shivani’s life story familiar to some extent, as it covers medical negligence and the lack of knowledge in the medical staff to deal with her case.
For me, the book really begins when Shivani starts describing things after the rehabilitation (meaning that she had accepted being a wheelchair user). She dwells on matters that we in India tend to brush under the carpet or gloss over. The family is believed to be sacrosanct here, especially if you are disabled they become your support system. Shivani tells us about the issues between her father and her helper about how to take best care of her that made her wish to get out of the protective umbrella of the family. She achieved this when she gets a job as a peer counsellor at the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (where she herself was treated) and she started living on the premises to avoid travelling from home to the centre on a daily basis. The space provided to her was far from comfortable, but, with dogged determination she survived there until she got apartment of her own in the vicinity.
There are more nuggets from her day to day life that endorse her determined outlook and her wish to make everything she went through worth its while.
The other thing that strikes you about Shivani is the audacity with which she talks about her relationship with Vikas, an occupational therapist whom she had met at her place of work. He was a much younger man full of life and passion for his work. He saw a hero in her and their relationship developed into something that would be a taboo even in this day and age. They got romantically involved and their courtship continued for many years before his parents agreed to their marriage. In between they did many interesting things like learning about inclusion and accessibility in foreign lands. Most importantly, they launched an accessibility consultancy and audit firm (not a NGO) AccessAbility, a pioneering thing in India.
But, as luck would have it Vikas lost his life just a few months after the marriage in a car accident. And, this book is Shivani’s tribute to him. In a way, writing this book helped in coming to terms with her loss. A word of caution to the people who read books to experience the flourish of language, this book is not for you as it is plain, simple and to the point.
As the final words, we can say that the book No Looking Back is more about the Art of Bouncing Back.
These lines are playing in my mind for the last few days in a formless way, I couldn't do anything better with them, so just put them down as they came. Maybe it is the result of reading too much about Robin Williams' death.