Arpan, my younger brother, is a special child. He has a physical disability called Achondroplasia, because of which his bones don’t grow, and his stature is short. He also has a learning disability- he can understand information, but is unable to churn it out properly in writing and speech.
In society, accessibility to education, livelihood and an independent, comfortable life, is very difficult for people with physical and mental disabilities. For Arpan too, it was no different. Education, in particular, was a challenging experience. Considering everything, Arpan came through beautifully.
He first attended Samadhan, a school for special children, before switching over to a school run by Lady Irwin College. After that, he studied at Shri Ram School’s learning centre and gave his 10+2 exams from NIOS. With perseverance and dedication, he completed his BA in tourism from College of Vocational Studies, Delhi University.
What we realised through the process was that schools in India aren’t equipped with resources to accommodate children with disabilities. For Arpan, getting into what we consider “mainstream” schools was not an option. Most children like Arpan are asked to enrol in special schools. It was only when the Shri Ram School started a learning centre that he was able to enrol in a ‘regular’ school, interacting and learning with other children.
But such opportunities are rare for children with disabilities. What we really need is for a lot more provisions to be made in the mainstream for children like my brother, encouraging healthy interaction with the rest of the world. How else will there be better acceptance and understanding of children with special needs?
For Arpan, dealing with everyday life is doubly hard because of a lack of these. People like to stare, tease and bully anyone who is even slightly different from themselves and such reactions often make him scared and angry. Consequently, he avoids going out too much, which isn’t easy and can get lonely.
Despite the difficulty, my brother has always done very well, and has always tried to prove people wrong. He was always inclined towards the performing arts and decided to pursue a career in music. He learned how to play the Casio as a child, and decided that he wanted to be a DJ. Determined to succeed, he even completed a professional music production course at the Beat Factory. There, he met Avnish Maken (DJ Mac), who took an interest and decided to teach Arpan how to DJ. Avnish even set up his equipment at our home, and would come over for teaching sessions. Thanks to his determination to learn and grow, today, Arpan can mix music professionally.
However, getting the right kind of gig is proving to be a challenge for Arpan. Generally, crowds are not sensitive to him, which upsets him. Many a time, we have faced situations where people assume he will not charge a professional fee. So, despite having the necessary qualifications, Arpan doesn’t have a steady ‘job’, which makes it hard for him to be economically independent.
What is truly inspiring, however, is that Arpan never stops trying. One thing we have all learned from him, in fact, is to never give up on our dreams. He likes to make people dance, and for that pleasure, he is determined to face any challenges that come his way. What he needs is a more supportive system, where people are more accepting of difference and learn to value it, rather than judge it. After all, why shouldn’t he be given the opportunity to realise his dreams, just like the rest of us?