Only children can demonstrate inclusive love, unfettered as they are from the conditioning of society, finds out Priti Monga, P.R. Officer, at Shroff Charity Eye Hospital in Delhi.
One morning this summer, a group of 10 visually impaired children was brought to Shroff Charity Eye Hospital (S.C.E.H.) in Daryaganj, Delhi, for eye check-ups from a school for blind children. The driver of the bus told staff, in a worried tone, that the children had been sent to the hospital unescorted.
Concerned staff in the Paediatric Ophthalmology Department at S.C.E.H. immediately took charge of the little patients. The formalities were quickly completed and the children were made comfortable in the cheerful waiting area of the children's building. The examinations began, but as it was going to take sometime before everyone got their turn, the waiting young patients naturally started to explore their environment.
My office is in the same building, and soon I heard little gruff sounds, shuffling feet and unsure rattling of the washroom door. As I am blind too, I could understand the plight of the children groping around. I decided to see if I could help them.
I stepped out of my office and put my hand out to push open the bathroom door, so I could find out where the trouble lay. My hand had barely touched the door when a small boy stopped me from entering by telling me there was someone inside. I was a little surprised. I asked him, "Are you with the group which has come in from the school for the blind? How did you know I was going to push the washroom door open? Can you see a little?"
"Yes, I have come with them. I am sighted and am not a student there," he said, a bit suspicious of my motive.
I was puzzled; I asked him how he came to be with this group. He told me, "My friend is one of the students and so I volunteered to come with all of them, to look after them." I was even more surprised as it did not seem that this little fellow could take care of himself, let alone of 10 blind children ranging from 11 to 15 years in age. I asked him how old he was.
"I am about 10 or 11 years old and my name is Amar," informed the tiny caretaker. Our conversation was interrupted by two blind boys wanting to drink water and one more wishing to go to the bathroom. Amar left me rooted to the spot with amazement, and rushed off to execute his duties.
The group stayed at the hospital till 5 in the evening and Amar rushed around busily all day; getting water for some children, taking others to the bathroom, instructing others how to operate the complicated lock of the bathroom door. He even made sure the gang went to the canteen for lunch. Between his tasks he would chatter and giggle happily with all the waiting blind boys.
Amar did not realise he was demonstrating a very important but often forgotten fact. We blind people need help in many of our day-to-day activities but I have seen very few occasions when this assistance is rendered without a fuss. It can only come from children, as they have not yet been conditioned to treat disabled people as objects of pity and dejection. I wish to emphasise the point that inclusion is something we are born with, while exclusion is something that society has developed and nurtured.
The day all of us can see this as a fact, we would be living in a completely inclusive society.