Recitation — Disabilities — Civil Disobedience

The day was a school holiday, a chance for us to do something special in teaching the girls.  This would not necessarily excite everyone but the day’s activities were split into Recitation in the Morning, and Verbs in the Afternoon.  I know I’m laughing as I write this.  We are still playing catch up.  The Class V girls had a Bengali poem that was fun and not too long, a poem about environmental pollution.  So it was a chance for them to get past just reading as quickly as they could, while staring painfully at the ceiling.  The girls were nervous so I suggested they do a show for the little ones, and for the teachers downstairs.  I tell them nervous just signals you have to get used to doing something.  Well, it was a lot of fun.  Each did her recitation, and then I asked them to do it together and then I suggested the little ones try with them.  Our little ones can’t speak, but they love being part of things. 

Shishur Sevay Recitation Team

A couple of years ago Ganga joined in recitation, and did her recitation in her sounds, with a rhythm, and then stopped, pleased with herself.  I asked her if she wanted to try.  She did.  But sounds did not come out.

Ganga trying, and big sister trying to help

 Ganga shows her feelings.

Bornali (front left) and Rani (back) are having a good time. Ganga knows the word "jealous" as we tease her with that often.Bornali tries too....

 Ganga doesn’t really belong developmentally or cognitively in this group.  She does if measured strictly by her disability in that she cannot care for herself at all.  She cannot walk or talk or feed herself.  She can tell us when she needs to go to the bathroom, but she cannot take care of those needs on her own.  But cognitively she is among the smartest at Shishur Sevay.  She is also among the hardest working.   
Well, Ganga is funny too, very funny.  I’ve started taking her along with the big girls when we go places.  I ask myself, “If Ganga were not in a wheelchair would I be taking her?”  We went shopping for Puja outfits and took her along, just the day before the recitations.  The girls took turns carrying her as there was no way to use a wheelchair, and she has outgrown it too.  She sat patiently while eight girls tried on outfits.  She looked out the window at another stall where dresses were hanging.  I thought we should get her an outfit too, as she clearly wanted to join in, and so I was set to get new clothes for the other little ones.  We left the store and went to another downstairs store, walking past the dresses hanging from the ceiling.  In the other store, Ganga kept saying no to whatever the man brought, and kept arching her back and looking with her eyes at the stairway going up.  Finally I got smart and asked if she wanted to go upstairs to where she had seen a dress.  That got a big grunt, her current form of yes.  We took her up and she showed the dress she wanted.  She would have no other!  Then we picked out, or rather she helped pick out dresses for the others.
So on this day, following the Recitation, we decided to bring out the new dresses. 

Ganga is pleased

 Ganga chose this one for Bornali

Bornali is very happy with her dress


Sonali, the most spoiled, the most adored

 The dresses cheered everyone, except Rani, who had fallen asleep in her chair.
Ganga requested one more photo.
 I write about Ganga because she is on my mind a lot.  With all the others, abled and not, I think we are providing all the resources we can to meet their needs, given where we are.  With Ganga, I feel limited by where we are, by lack of expertise, lack of vision.  I have technology but I’m still the IT person here.  When I had the children with disabilities in special schools, they basically got the “orphan treatment.”  And of course, since Ganga cannot speak, there are those who think I’ve lost my mind and just imagine her interest and intelligence.
If Ganga were in the US or UK or Australia or New Zealand where her role model Mackenzie Kench 
is, she would be in school, probably at grade level for her age.   This is her favorite video.  I should show it to her again regarding recitation.  In the video Mackenzie is failed on recitation because the voice is not her own.
I’m constantly interrupted as I write.  I just learned that our children with disabilities are being harassed at the local park, or rather the childcare workers are being told they cannot sit on the swings with them.  These swings are used by adult men and woman all the time.    The first person who objected, a few days ago is the mother-in-law of the local councillor.  She said the swings are only for her.  The next was a very large henchman of the local councillor who said the swing was his.   Today the harassment came from a neighbor two houses away, a nasty man who came to “mediate” the night of the riots and grabbed my arm to move me inside the house.  I yelled at him to take his hands off me and leave.  No, he was not being kind.  He was trying to be the big male who would control me by sending me away.  His involvement in this now makes me think it’s personal.
So I guess tomorrow I will go with the kids and I will sit on the swings with them, and tell any complainers to just call the police.  The irony of it all is that when we first started, and long before we had kids here, I gave the councillor money to fix up the park, and the swings.  I just wanted to fix it for the local kids.
We used to use the park a lot but as the girls got older, they were harassed by boys, which happens here in all parks eventually.  The parks are mostly for big boys, men, and little kids. 
Another irony, I was appointed as Honorary President of the Puja Committee for that park three years ago… it’s really hard to follow the politics here.  
Recently someone offered to intervene on our behalf with the new administration, at a very high level.  The local councillor was told to protect us.  But instead he made it public in the neighborhood that he would not, which leaves us more vulnerable than before.   People often ask me why I don’t go high up to ask for help.  Well, I don’t really have those contacts, and if I try and fail I’m worse off than before.  It has happened more than once.  It was a lesson in not asking for help.
Well, tomorrow I’ll do my civil disobedience.  It used to be so great in the park.

The Early Years When We Could Sit On The Swings


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September 2011
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