10 April, 2021

The Bonfire Of The Sympathies

The Bonfire Of The Sympathies
See Manji Ramani holding the brush in his mouth and paint with deft strokes. Or talk to the ever-agile Kanubhai Sailor. You will forget that Manji has no hands. Or that Kanubhai limps. For these two, as for the 3,500-odd members of Ahmedabad’s Society for Physically Handicapped (SPH), bodily disability is just a state of mind. They extend the old adage—‘we want your sympathy, not your pity’, employed by some organisations helping the disabled—to a level of total freedom. At the SPH, they are looking neither for pity nor sympathy.

How else do you explain their resolve not to have any able-bodied person join them? The SPH is of the handicapped, by the handicapped and for the handicapped. None of its members is, in the conventional sense, able-bodied. "Our organisation was born out of defiance to sympathy," says Kanubhai, SPH president. The movement began in 1974 when six handicapped college friends decided to reject the 50 per cent grace marks they got to compensate for their inability to participate in sports. "We went to the authorities and told them that we did not...

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