When Tamana was born, exhibiting classic symptoms of autism and cerebral palsy, the family had several big decisions to take. This is the second part of Tamana’s story. (read the first part here.)
By Shayama Chona
God’s plans started unfolding themselves! I knew that there was a long and arduous journey for us with Tamana. All the family members suddenly realised that there was a real challenge which could only be met in togetherness. My dear husband, who is now a retired Major General, then had risen to the rank of a Lieutenant Colonel and was to be posted from pillar to post. We took a decision that I will stay put in Delhi for Tamana’s rehabilitation.
He made the sacrifice and moved from station to station while he laboured hard to become a proud Major General of the Indian Army. On the other hand in Delhi, I laboriously worked with my two children, bringing them up with my heart and soul. My son had to be admitted in a school and Delhi Public School, RK Puram was ready to accept him on the condition that I also join the school as a teacher. I gave up my lectureship at college and took to school teaching.
In my decision, I foresaw an opportunity for Tamana to be integrated in a regular school. While she was treated in AIIMS and the Army hospital, she finally stood, walked and even to people’s surprise started riding a tricycle. Life became inexplicable. Every night the three of us, Vikram my son on one side of my lap, Tamana on the other in deep slumber and I, the mother, lost in her corrections, tiresome in tears, constantly longed for that glimmer of hope when Tamana’s journey to light would be less dark and gloomy.
Special education, physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, grooming and training in social skills went hand in hand. Some days we succeeded, some days we failed, some days we cried together and on some we laughed but finally she entered the portals of DPS as the first integrated student. The entire DPS fraternity woke up to her presence and came forward to hold her hand only to lift her up and somewhere my spirits uplifted too. We used to drive to DPS RK Puram together every day. I had no idea that I would become the Principal in 1992. With that position, I changed the mindset of the education system towards integration and inclusion of the disabled.
Today, thousands of students with special needs are attending regular schools and inclusion has become an integral part of the Right to Education.
Tamana finished her class XII at DPS and today is a regular teacher at DPS Nursery school in Vasant Vihar, New Delhi. She skips, hops and jumps with the babies and is loved by one and all.
Of course, the hardships and obstacles that the family, especially the parents and siblings, face in bringing up kids like Tamana cannot be explained in words. However, at the end of every tunnel there is light, which is like a lit candle that kindles many other candles.
Disability is not a disease, the disabled are not untouchables, they are like you and I. They have emotions and feelings that are purer and kinder.
(This is a fortnightly column by Dr Shayama Chona, who is a Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri awardee, an educationist, social activist and former Principal, DPS RK Puram.)