July 05, 2020
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New Hope

Living with a handicap

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New Hope
Climb Every Mountain: Radhika'S Story
By Indeera Chand
HarperCollins Rs 145; Pages: 210
IGNORANCE about psychical and mental disabilities have led to various stigmas and taboos associated with them. As a result, there is a lot of social pressure on the disabled and their families. Or else there is a show of pity that barely hides a "thank God, none of us has this problem" sort of attitude. More than sympathy, the disabled need social acceptance so that, equipped with a basic education and some vocational skills, they can lead self-dependent lives.

Indeera Chand writes a first-hand account of a mother's efforts, her achievements and failures as she tries to bring up her youngest daughter Radhika, who has Down's Syndrome, in a way that would make her self-dependent and be able to live with dignity.

How does it feel to know that one is afflicted with Down's? The two essays by Radhika that precede her mother's account, give us some idea. There is a hint of wistfulness: "I felt sad and I think that Mum and Dad were also disappointed that I was not going to be like my sisters who were smart and clever in studies." But there is a joie de vivre and a sense of purpose in life. There is her warm response to her solo painting exhibition, which made her parents proud of her: "That made me feel happy, good and fulfilled because I could do something which gave others so much joy." Indeera dwells on the initial duality of her own emotions regarding Radhika. A recurring dream is clearly indicative of her apprehensions and secret wish to rid herself of her problem child somehow. "One night I dreamt I had put Radhika in a box, shut the lid and hidden the box under my bed. After a few days I opened the lid a wee bit—she sighed and I quickly shut the box." At the end of the book one realises that many more mountains are to be climbed, using the metaphor of the title. Climb Every Mountain is an indirect appeal to every sensitive reader to extend some support to the disabled. More and more people need to read a book like this and realise their social responsibilities vis-a-vis the disabled.

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