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Khanbhai was born with a physical disability, Spina Bifida.  But this is not where the story is. This is a story about a strong willed lady trying to live and work as everyone else or even better. But what happens when the society tries to clip her wings? What happens when society dictates what she can and cannot do? What happens when the society stigmatizes and teaches her not to expect the love of a man?

All these blows that life presents to Nafisa only become motivation to help others in a worse situation. They become her driving force in raising awareness about disability especially in the Asian community.

This book challenges our thoughts about the physically challenged:

“Someone ‘normal’ could be so depressed, with so much on their plate, their hearts could be tearing apart, they can barely focus and think straight, yet we still give them the chance to work, to get married, to have a family and a social life, because ‘everyone deserves a chance to prove what they are really capable of.’ Then why can’t we offer the same opportunities to those who are disabled yet still can do what any other normal person can do?”

I bet, like me, you can’t answer that. Can you?

She goes on,

“I can’t totally deny that there are some disabled people who can’t do some things because it is simply beyond their power, beyond their abilities and capabilities but there are those who have stood out from the crowd. They are always there but they end up seating on the pavements of the road, begging. Sometimes it is because this is the easiest way out of their troubles but sometimes, they really have no other way except this. And this is because you have stigmatized them; we have.”

This is what we say to cover up the stigma;

As much as they could be outstanding, hardworking, beautiful, strong…there would always be a ‘but’ in the middle of the sentence.

“She is capable and talented to do the job, but she doesn’t have legs…”

“He has outstanding qualifications, but he is deaf…”

“She is beautiful, she would have made a wonderful wife and mother, but…”

 This book speaks to the heart of a presumed ‘normal’ person, begging the question;

 “If we can accept ourselves with all our unseen imperfections and flaws, why then not accept those whose flaws are visible and can be seen?”

Reading this book, you get the feeling that ‘normal’ is elusive. People do not necessarily qualify as normal because they are in possession of full body parts.

Nafisa proves herself as rising beyond ‘able’ through her organisation, Dear Diary Initiative. She oozes a positivity and so much life that you can only admire.

As she talks about her journey and the challenges that have come with it, you can only feel a deep admiration but with a twinge of guilt  at how we have failed these special people in our society. At how we frown upon physically challenged people fall in love with the ‘normal’ ones. At how families are unforgiving of a ‘normal’ person who chooses a physically challenged person as a partner. You’ll think of the times we’ve applauded people who got married to the blind and deaf but in the secrecy of our houses, wonder how they could.

“Have you ever seen the fuss we make when someone gets married or marries a blind girl, or an albino, or a man with no legs, or a lady who is both deaf and dumb? We make it seem like they are aliens, they belong to a world that is close to ours but not exactly the same as ours. Why then don’t we exaggerate the same way when someone marries a totally distorted soul? A soul that is crying out for help? Is it because they are beautiful on the outside or that they are good at covering their pain with a lovely smile?”

With a book like this, we can only hope that we will get more accommodative of everyone because for sure the unseen flaws of ‘normal’ people can be worse that the visible incapacities. We can only hope that we would, in our little ways help even by not inhumanly throwing unnecessary stares at them. We can only hope that in our private businesses, we can give them a chance to prove themselves for they are specially gifted. We can only hope that we can think of streets as the pathways they are and not as homes to people whose only crime is their physical limitations. We can pray that families do not send out members who are physically challenged to the streets to fend for them. We hope that we can learn and not wait for such natural calamities to happen to us for us to be more sensitive.

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