Our story in content collaboration with ‘One Step At A Time’ brings this time an inspiring and moving piece from a mum who has been through various challenges.
Nalina Girish is someone who was affected with polio since she was 11 months old. Mother of two teenagers she has many facets to her personality. She is a wheel chair tennis player holding 206 world ranking. She has been the doubles winner in “Indian Wheelchair Tennis Tour” having secured third place in singles. According to her one of her dreams that came true was her attempt to travel solo outside India.
“I did realize that I am not a normal child, but did not understand why I was different and would often question until when would this continue. I had hope on doctors and also on those routine painful treatments hoping they would make me normal. This was until I hit teenage phase. After four surgeries to release contraction of my legs in turn to walk with calipers, I realized that I will be different for ever after which I refused to take any treatments and become wheelchair bound.
I never felt I was dependent except in public places or family functions. Because I was not allowed to move around on my own, and I was been carried by my parents or brothers. People had bundle of questions like who gives me bath how do I get dressed up and so on. Also I did have a lot of myths about my marriage which were put into my mind.
Motherhood was a totally a new experience to me. Though I had practiced to live with disability it was a quiet a new challenge to become a mom both physically and mentally. Right from my pregnancy test and monthly check up not only I had challenge even hospital staff and doctor had a new experience. Though I was excited of becoming a mom, I had fear of will my baby be normal and will my condition affect the growth of the baby. There was this constant debate between my strength and weakness within myself as I had no experienced person to share their journey and answer my doubts. At times my mother and doctor answered few questions but a lot remained unanswered. Later, I had my own experience during my second pregnancy but challenges were different as my first kid was only two years old and I my body was not as strong as in my first pregnancy.
I feel it is more important for people on wheelchair to take up the sport of their choice as it improves our life in all aspects. It takes care of our physical activities which are more important to maintain our health and fitness. It improves our mental happiness and gives confidence in physical ability.
If I have to remember my school days, there were times of course when I would cry alone sitting in classroom and asked God why he had made me like this and I think it was indeed answered by him, though slightly delayed.
I would suggest the parents of special children to feel more proud and nurture them as God has chosen them to give the responsibility of his special creation to them. I would like to give message to schools and colleges to consider special children not only for academics but also to include sports activities for them .”
Talking on her solo trip, Nalina fondly remembers, ‘ It was someone else’s confidence in me who pushed me to take the solo journey, I did not regret about my decision in turn I felt I lived my life to the full. The trip made me more confidence in all aspects and helped me to come out of the shell which was made of myths about disability. I enjoyed the taste of independence in public places by doing all that I had never thought would give a try to do those things in my own city. I went on foot paths on my wheels for the first time and the best part was I was not stared like an alien by people around and felt I also belonged to the same species. I was on buses, tubes and city trains on my own which was my childhood dream which I had thought would never come true.
In Paris, I sat down in road side restaurants and sipped their variety of wines. I went to cabaret shows where I was not judged, saying being a woman and someone with disability – I was alone in such place. When I was back home after 26 days I felt I was the happiest person on earth.
I think India needs to gear up in following what ever the government rules says not only on websites and books but also in real aspects. Like rules says all public places should be accessible but reality is different. And where ever it’s done also most of the facilities only for name sake for example some places I am forced choose steps than those scary ramps. And in some malls washrooms will be locked or it will used as store rooms or staff wash rooms. And I suggest that people should understand the true meaning of “accessibility” as it does not only mean ramp for wheelchair. It has a wider meaning as disability has different requirements.
My family has been very much supportive and went beyond their way to take care and make things happen for me. In fact I feel it’s the effort of people around me made me so happy in life. I always tell people whenever they say that I have achieved so much that I have not the achiever. I compare myself to a beautiful building where my parents and brothers are the foundation to the building , my husband is the pillar to the building, my teachers and friends have been the walls of the building and my children are interior which made the building beautiful. There is so much effort of each one of them in different stages of life without which I would have not been the same person.
Yet I do feel my family- my parents particularly, in my younger days, did not get enough emotional support from the society to deal with my condition and support me. They were themselves going through the stress of having a child dealing with disability. My parents were pulled down saying they have a disabled girl at least if I was boy it would have been better. Things have been better but it’s a long way ahead.
On a final note Nalina mentions, “ My win at the tennis tournament surely made me more confident than I was before. I still play tennis and my children had played a huge role in supporting me for sports. I do feel my condition made them stronger independent and responsible at a very young age as they realized their mom was not normal like others. Their innocent questions and suggestions made me think of doing some things which I never felt the need to do it before, like I learnt driving because of my son as he wanted me to drop and pick him up from school like his friend’s mom. Their rewards of love and compliments like ” you are the strongest Mom”, ” you can do what ever I wish to motivated me to do things which I would have never thought of doing with out them.”
We wish Nalina the very best in life and thank her and the team for sharing her story with us.
Nalina is part of One Step at a Time group. If you are interested in joining the One Step at a Time Support Group, then please send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org