An uphill battle
Disability lies only in the mind. VR Ferose talks to Darpan Mago about his latest book narrating the stories of specially abled people
When Ashwin was born, the doctors told his mother that he was suffering from cerebral palsy. She was informed that she gave birth to a child who would grow like a motionless vegetable. The boy had impaired muscle coordination since birth. Ashwin, who is a quadriplegic, defied all odds and made his way to become a software engineer.
Gifted, a book by Sudha Menon and VR Ferose has beautifully shattered all limitations constructed by the society and placed itself as a celebration of the human spirit. The book has nearly 15 stories of people with special needs, who were often chained by the word ‘handicapped’ and kept in wraps. Ferose informs, “I believe that everyone is disabled. The definition of disability varies from person to person. One needs to question the very definition in the first place. Be it mental or physical, every human who is living is disabled in some way or the other. We all are at the same place. At the end of the day it is all about perspective. There is something you can do now, which you might not be able to do in a few years, may be when you grow old. Naseeruddin Shah has written a beautiful blurb for our book and he also mentioned that ‘Sab nazariye ki baat hai’ (it is all about perspective).”
One of the most touching story in this book is that of Ashwin. He has a friend named Bharat and with passing time, the bond of friendship grew stronger. It is a story of sacrifice and friendship that isn’t commonly spotted in the society. “Bharat put four years of his life on hold just to become a scribe for his dear friend Ashwin and assisted him in writing his exam during engineering. He lifts him from his car seat and puts him on the ground, just like a mother would do. He feeds him bit by bit, patiently, and also wipes the access food tickling down his chin. I remember when Ashwin’s mother told me that what she does for her son is what every mother would do, but what Bharat (as a friend) has been doing, only one in a million people would think of ever doing,” says Ferose.
These are some stories, which we might have heard from our friends or dear ones but are rarely documented. With a holistic view on disabilities faced by people, the book makes a space in the mainstream arena. Ferose informs, “If you watch the movie Barfi!, it talks of a brilliant story of differently-abled person. The success was related to the fact that the movie was part of mainstream cinema and prominent actors played the roles. I want these stories to be documented as part of mainstream media and attract huge number of readers. The more people read it, greater will be the levels of awareness.”
Ferose feels that beyond the trait of insensitivity, awareness plays a big role in bringing a change to mindset. “People aren’t insensitive but lack awareness. The focus shouldn’t be on sympathising but treating specially abled people with due respect and consideration,” adds Ferose.
Initially, the book was planned as a leadership book but then the idea expanded to present stories of heroism and courage. It is now left to the readers to form their own interpretation and seek inspiration from the narratives of these 15 people. “Gifted has accounts of people with various difficulties like disabilities since birth or due to accidents. There is an ace musician who plays with one hand and a leg, a partially blind artist who rose to become a comedian and a visually impaired marketing manager who secured a job at a big multinational. These are the real people, who have made it big in their lives despite all odds,” says Ferose.
Ferose is the former managing director of SAP Labs India and Sudha Menon is a bestselling author in India. “The book is in reprint and has already taken a ‘goodwill gone viral’ phenomenon. You can also gift the Gifted,” says Ferose.
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