“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” — Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
For those of you who do not know, I am Aarush Bhat and I was born blind.
This just like anything else came with its own sorts of challenges that had to be faced, milestones, and hurdles that had to be crossed, mysteries that had to be uncovered.
In this post, I will attempt to break one of those challenges down with you guys and try to explain my take on it with the help of certain real-life experiences and my learnings from them.
First of all, challenges are everywhere. Everybody has to fight for what they want that is nothing exceptional. Problems will and do come but as my mother says “what matters is to focus on, and strive towards finding the solution to said problem.”
So, what is this hurdle I’m referring to? What is so important that I think it deserves the first post on this blog?
Well! As I mentioned previously there are many different kinds of struggles one has to go through in their lives and I had to as well. What it always came down to at least for me was to not give up on it no matter what!!! Even if the entire world was pulling me back, if I felt like moving ahead, I moved ahead. If I felt that something was right then it was worth fighting for and I did fight for it. However, there was one little hurdle. One roadblock that didn’t rely on just me. I could strive to the best of my abilities but if others around me weren’t willing it would be of no use.
That challenge was “ Inclusion”
I have been able to manage my studies quite well- first using braille then making use of my computer and a screen reading software. I can also move around just fine, with the help of a cane, and live my life independently. However, one thing where I struggled and still do to a certain degree is being included. When it came down to blending in with the community interacting with them, being a part of their discussions, activities that’s where people weren’t especially enthusiastic. Therefore, having to go through that all most on a daily basis at one point, I made it my mission to turn this situation around entirely. To prove myself and prove that I was very much capable of doing what everybody else could do just in a different way. So yes, I am a firm believer in Inclusion and intend to make this world as inclusive and open-minded as possible until my very last breath.
So, what do I really think Inclusion is? To explain this, I will now share two little anecdotes with you from my own life.
You see, we’d have these sports periods, usually early in the morning. In these periods, the teachers would either assign a sport that the students then had to play in teams or sometimes they’d allow them to go do whatever they’d like. I say they because it was a reality that I was included in this activity at least initially.
From the very first day, I’d be given the ‘sidelines’ treatment where I was told to relax on a chair and breathe in fresh air while everybody else ran around the ground sweating and screaming at the top of their lungs.
I tried persuading them, quite a few times but it never really worked.
When I was in 3rd grade or so there was this game student in my class used to play called odd-eve. Whether they invented it or got wind of it from some other school I do not know but it got quite popular and so much so that often children would come from other classrooms to play during lunch break or between subject periods whenever they could find the time. It was basically this form of cricket where there’d be a batsman and a bowler and you’d represent a number using your finger from 1 to 9 and if you’d be the batsman that would be your score which would be added up. However, if the bowler by any chance raises the same number as you do then you’re out. This initially was another famous trend that I was not a part of but I tried talking to my classmates anyway to see if they’d include me. At first many were hesitant but I literally hounded one of my good friends until he gave me a chance. So I started playing and what I’d do is touch the hand of the bowler slightly to see what number they’d raise. Nobody really seemed to have problems with it and soon enough, I started participating in their team matches regularly. I remember there were some people who’d try various antics such as raising some number that would be different to mine then immediately switching to the one, I’d put up essentially attempting to take me out of their game by cheating. However, people would always be there to watch my back. There were of course players of my team who’d stay there keeping a track of the opposing team’s every move with hawk-like eyes. Finally, enough though I believe once the captain of the rival team disqualified his own member because he tried to pull a similar stunt.
I hope that gives you a basic idea of what I mean. In the first story, I had to sit the entire sports period out where I could be playing fun little games with everyone and enjoying myself thoroughly.
In the second, I wasn’t excluded. All it took was a change of heart and a change of mindset.
All it took …….was that kid to give me a chance.
I don’t really blame anyone though; I think it’s mostly about lack of knowledge and experience. Which is why people are doubtful. After all, when I got a chance to prove myself and was able to do relatively well nobody was stopping me(of course the ignorant ones are always there and will remain to be so) but most did accept me into the fold and I got involved just fine. The reason I think that it was easier with my own classmates is because of age. Childhood is a time of wonders where you try new things, where you explore and are ready to take risks. I just think that kid was ready to take one as well.
Whenever I try to explain Inclusion to people, they keep asking for examples. That is the very first question all most all the time. “Ok Aarush, we understand.
But how exactly do we be inclusive?
What do we have to do?” Well, I hope the above clears that up.
In essence, I think the key is to be more open-minded and trusting. Both of yourself and the other person. As for the blind people themselves, I don’t think we’re completely innocent as well. I’ve observed that due to the somewhat unwelcoming treatment many of us develop these walls around ourselves. Walls that we don’t let anybody cross even if they’re really trying hard enough. So, for all those who believe in this, I urge you to be a little more patient and give the other person a chance. Try to explain your needs to them and your ways of doing things. Make them feel comfortable around you. Basically, give them the treatment that you hope to get from them. After all things like these are never one-sided.
As for the sighted, try to return the favor. Be patient, trusting and calm. If both sides work together as a team I am certain things will turn out well for everybody.