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I Can March 5, 2006

Posted by K in Ablility, Fiction.

“You’re not normal. How can you even think of getting this job?” The executive behind the impressive desk looked disdainfully at the girl seated in front of him. “Please don’t waste my time.”

At the first glance, to all eyes she appeared ordinary enough. If you looked carefully, however, you would notice that she had no legs. Below her knees she wore artificial feet. She had lost her feet in a motor accident a few years back.

A steely glint was visible in her black eyes as she scraped back her chair and stood up.

“I pity you,” she said simply and strode out to the door.

At the door, she paused, grinned, and said, “There’ll be a day, Mr. Ramlal, when you’ll wish you had invited me to a cup of coffee.”

And then, she was gone.

Zainab sighed. Life was not easy for a ‘cripple’. Especially if that cripple was looking for a job. So what if she had trained her artificial legs to become a part of her body? So what if she could do everything by herself? To ignorant beings like Mr. Ramlal, a cripple was a cripple was a cripple.

People had never been comfortable with disability. It made them feel awkward, embarrassed to acknowledge a missing arm or leg or sense.

Zainab, herself, had been no different. After the amputation, she had believed her life to be worse than over. She had felt as if she were stuck in between the worlds of the living and the dead, not being able to live, and being denied the pleasure of death.

Depressed and listless, she had allowed herself, one day, to be wheeled to an orphanage where her family volunteered.

She noticed a little boy in the distance, pretending to be a duck. Every time one of the ducks around him flapped their wings, he would flap his arms in time. When they tucked their beaks under their wings, he would comically put his head under his knee. As they waddled about, he waddled too.

Zainab laughed out loud, and felt the warm sun after a very long time.

“What’s his name?” she asked the girl who was wheeling her about.

“Oh, that’s Duckie, our resident clown,” said she with a laugh. “Duckie loves the ducks so much, that the name stuck.”

“How old is he?” asked Zainab.

“He’ll turn five tomorrow,” replied the girl, and asked her whether she would like to talk to him.

The sun went behind a cloud right then, and Zainab shivered.

“No, I think I’ll go home now. Would you please tell my mother that I’ve left?”

All day that day, the image of the boy with his head under his leg kept popping into Zainab’s mind. She decided to pay the orphanage another visit.

The boy was with the ducks again, this time trying to straddle one like a horse, and ride it. The duck gave a loud quack and waddled off, leaving a giggling boy flat on his back.

“Duckie! How many times do I have to tell you not to trouble those poor ducks? They’ll stop laying those beautiful eggs; then what will you have for breakfast?” A lady caught sight of his antics, as she came out of the orphanage.

Zainab frowned. Why was she speaking like hat? Enunciating the words clearly, as if chewing them before carefully laying it before an invalid?

The lady caught sight of Zainab, and smiling, came over to her.

“Leela told me you were asking about Duckie yesterday,” she said. “Isn’t he an absolute pet?”

“Yes he is,” replied Zainab, absently.

“Why were you speaking to him like that?”

The lady looked surprised. “Like what?”

“You spoke as you would to a little baby learning to talk, not to a five year old.”

The lady smiled. “Duckie is learning to talk. You see, he is hearing impaired, and he was diagnosed very late. Thus his vocabulary is equivalent to that of a three year old.”

Zainab was shocked. “He’s…deaf?”

“Not deaf, hearing impaired,” corrected the lady gently. “You see, one of the first things I learnt, as the sibling of a blind boy, was that the words we use often reflect the way we feel, and vice versa. Words like ‘deaf’, ‘retarded’, while being perfectly accurate in their description, are associated with negative emotions.

People have associated weakness and inferiority with such words, and when we use them, we automatically, without knowing it, reflect the same. So I’ve decided to stick to hearing impaired.”

Zainab nodded. “He doesn’t look it, you know. He’s so happy…”

The lady looked surprised.

“Why shouldn’t he be? He’s alive and he’s loved,” she said. “Oh look, he’s actually managed to sit on Quacker! That boy…!”

Zainab looked at her retreating form, not really seeing.

“Why shouldn’t he be?” the words echoed in her head. “He’s alive and he’s loved.”

That night sleep was hard to come by for Zainab. She twisted and turned, but it was no use. Duckie and the lady’s words kept popping up in her head.

“It’s time for me to do a little soul searching,” she thought. “Maybe some of my perceptions will have to be re-perceived.”

Why did everybody assume that a disabled person had a miserable life?

Why were they pitied at all? It was just assumed that everybody wanted to be physically ‘complete’.

But would an Eskimo ever rue the fact that he hadn’t tasted butter chicken?

Or should the birds pity the humans because they can’t fly?

Next morning Zainab woke up feeling as if a huge load had been lifted off her chest.

She had decided to live.

Ten years on, one cold November morning, a woman in whites could be seen instructing a group of children about the correct grip for leg spin.

She walked over to the nets, took a short run up, and bowled a perfect leg spinner. Grinning at the awed silence, she ordered them to practice until they were comfortable with the new delivery.

The woman was Zainab. And this was her cricket coaching academy. Today she had not only made a name for herself as a cricket coach, but was also the president of a leading sports management company.

She had never thought she would be where she was today. Her mind often went back to that warm, sunny day, when a little boy and a few ducks had shown her the meaning of life, and she said yet another silent thank-you to the boy who had given her the courage to live a happy life.

Duckie had been adopted soon after she saw him, but at her request, the orphanage lady had arranged a correspondence between them. He was now a high spirited fifteen year old. He went to one of the best schools in his city, and had made a name for himself as a pianist.

“Zainab! There’s somebody here to see you!” Yelled an aspiring cricketer.

Zainab looked up, startled, as a balding man approached her.

“Hello, Zainab! How are you? We have heard so much about you!” The man paused. “What, you don’t recognize me? I’m Ramlal of UniSport Ltd. I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance.”

“We are opening a new branch office and I was wondering if you would do us the honour of heading it.”

Zainab looked incredulously at Mr. Ramlal. Then she burst out laughing.

“I don’t like coffee, Mr. Ramlal!” she threw back over her shoulder, as she went over to rejoin her students.

Poor Mr. Ramlal was left opening and shutting his mouth like a goldfish.



1. pallavi - March 5, 2006

oye me n my computer just gave you a standing ovation!
brilliant in every sense of the word
way to go:)

2. sporadicblogger - March 7, 2006

honney thou art good for my ego 😀

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