My job allows me to meet people from all walks of life. NGOs, government, media etc etc etc. We’re used to seeing people in a certain way. We expect them all to be the same, and yet different. But in one way or another, we assume that all people we meet professionally will be physically and mentally normal. It’s not a conscious decision, but just the various dimensions of living and earning require one to be … well, fit!

So yesterday I met some one. A very senior guy. My first impression of him was of his gentle face and incredibly affectionate mannerism. One of the few men who can be respectful and affectionate without being patronizing, who recognize you as a professional without judging you by your age and sex. While mesmerized by his gentle mannerism, I was taken aback when I noticed his physical disability. It is not a big one, mind you, but enough to set him apart from the rest. And there he was, leading the meeting, being a leader, with all the confidence that only a certain amount of character can instill. I am now even more in awe of him than before.

During my masters from Pakistan, one of my class mates always outdid the rest. She always got a Gold medal and was always leaps and bounds ahead of every one else, except me. I always trailed a mere two points behind her. It did not bother me much though. I knew she was brilliant and far more hard working than I could ever be. It took me more than one semester to find out that she had a physical disability. Again, something small, or perhaps not so small but something she dealt with so maturely that we all forgot to notice it. The same girl beat our professor at a Table Tennis match, and today became the first Ph.D. scholar from the batch. I respect her immensely. Not because she is brilliant or because she got a foreign Ph.D. while bearing and raising two children, but more so because she is of a stronger character than all of us. God knows how she reacted when she first found out about her hearing issues in one ear. I shudder at the thought. More so, I wonder how her parents reacted. But more than that, how did they manage to raise a well balanced confident child who goes out and wins over the world. This academic par excellence that they have raised outshines us all and it’s all in how she was raised.

I still think I should have got the Gold medal in the last semester, but she definitely deserves the gold medal in life!

I was narrating this to my husband who said, you know, if you think about it, wearing glasses is a problem. Not being able to see right can ruin your self confidence, or wearing glasses at a young age when surrounded by children who are not afraid to be mean can diminish your person. I suddenly fell back twenty eight years when at a mere age of 30 months I had an operation and was forced to wear glasses with an eye patch for almost a year. Children mocked me, laughed at me and called me names. I remember till I reached my teens to be referred to as: chashmatoo; chaar ankhon waali; ainkoo etc etc. How did I deal with it? I withdrew somewhat, but then again I did not. You see I was loved. Loved immensely by two doting parents and more so by two doting sisters who made me feel special and precious every minute of every day. When kids shunned me from the cool group, or when I was told they didn’t want to be my friend because I looked funny, I thought of how silly they were to not see how special I really truly was. As I grew older and the glasses came off, a lot of the same kids returned to my life, more because they too were adults and could see beyond the obvious. But for me the difference was nothing but amusing. How many people now thought I was pretty: Haye kitni piyaari ho gayi hai? And I thought, hee hee, silly, I was always pretty. You just couldn’t see it!

It takes a lot of love to raise your children with confidence and self respect. I’m still not very confident but I’m still self assured, as much as I was at when I turned three and wore my eye patch to school, immune to children laughing and pointing at me. I see all these great amazing people around me and I love the parents that they had, the parenting that helped them attain their full potential and the inspiration they give me. How they beat the odds, no matter how small those odds you and I might think they were. But for some one they were big and they overcame them to lead us, to be better than us and who wouldn’t be proud of that?

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