Very near to where I live is a renowned rehabilitation centre for handicapped people. They have a very beautiful park cornered by tall Asoka trees (Saraca asoka). Ever since I moved into the neighbourhood I had been observing the facility. One day I found my way into this park. I was not the only one strolling. The jogging strip was mostly used by the general public (my neighbours) while a narrow strip led to an embanked playground.
At first I saw children playing, but as I walked closer I noticed their evident physical disadvantages. The swings had special safety belts, the sand pit had wheelchairs stationed by its side, nobody was running and there were wardens supervising every small cluster. I was shaken by the sheer multitude of possible deformities- hands, legs, eyes, mouth. I knew this lava of emotions erupting within me. It was sympathy sprinkled with disgust and a pinch of compassion. What if I end up like this one day? Wouldn’t that be the end of the world? I turned around in haste and spilled a palette. This little girl had her back towards me. She was painting with a brush in her mouth. Tears ran down my face and I rushed outside. I vowed to return only when I had something to donate to these unprivileged children.
Well that opportunity came last week. A huge hoarding was put up on the main door of the rehabilitation centre. They were exhibiting some of the handicrafts produced by the handicapped children. My colleagues were more than happy to accompany me. We were the first ones to reach the exhibition that Saturday. Our faces were swollen with pity and remorse. We had planned to buy random items amounting to rupees one thousand per person.
After a long stroll I stopped at a painting. The little girl with no arms was sitting next to it. She smiled at me and I knew exactly what to do with my 1000 bucks. I looked around to find the sales person. Noticing my gaze the little girl enquired if she could help me? Her eyes pierced me to the veins. I could see her excitement at the prospects of me purchasing her painting. It pained me to think how she must have waited all week for a charitable man like me. She was still waiting for an answer when I did the inappropriate thing. My eyes bounced to and fro between the canvas and her arms. She must have noticed it because now her eyes were wandering across the room and finally resting on the floor. All I ever wanted was to help her. My intentions were to bring joy in to her otherwise tragic life. Shouldn’t she be elated on meeting a kindhearted man like me?
And then her custodian walked in to break the awkward silence. She helped the girl back in to the chair. The girl lit up in her presence, much like she would when I would donate money to buy her paintings. The lady accompanying her looked at me with a pleasant smile, “Yes Sir, May I help you?”
I replied, “Actually it’s quite the opposite. I would like to help the centre by purchasing this painting.”
The Lady was delighted to hear this and asked me to follow her to the brochure desk. She handed over some flyers and asked me to make the payment at the counter opposite the main gate. There were candles, dolls, terracotta, jute bags etc. in the catalogue. I found all of them to be very intricately crafted. But I told the lady, “My heart weeps for that child. It is her grave misfortune that lugged me to this place.”
The lady turned around and handed me her cell phone. I will read it aloud for all of us, “Indian child prodigy wins Celeste International Art competition; Indian girl amongst the finals of Hornsby Art prize; Girl who paints with mouth is youngest graduate of National art academy…” And all her paintings including the one on display were neatly wrapped around the text. I had no right to sympathize with this girl. She was a winner. I was looking up to someone who was rebuilding not only her own world, but also enriching lives around her. Who am I to sympathize with her? She is free, independent and triumphant. Who is she? Didn’t I already mention it- She is a person with no arms.
Written by Blaze Arizanov Kaspian Edited by ‘bhilash