Food for thought

Talking appropriately with special people

It was enlightening to meet Asifa, a few days ago, (her name is changed here). She sat on her wheelchair saying that a friend of hers who is special, sat in a taxi and the driver says, ‘Baji, kiya hua tha?’ (Meaning what happened? (that you are without a leg.) So, she has a sense of humor, and is quite fed up of these perpetual questions, so she asked him, instead,

‘but tell me first, what happened to you?’

‘What do you mean?’ he asked, surprised.

‘You are so dark, and your hair is almost gone.’ She said.

He got the point, one hopes.

That’s what I mean.

As a society, Pakistanis are great people. But when it comes to being tactful or minding our own business…. we can be the worst! We specially fall short while talking to people with special needs.

Need to make changes:

I mean, already our special people are having a tough deal, in our country:

  • The number of institutions aren’t enough, these must be increased. There should be visiting teams at mosques in each community, geared to the special needs of people there.
  • Our public need to learn how to behave around special people: e.g.
    • Do not stare at them.
    • Act normal.
    • Talk to them as you would, to a normal person. Take conversations with them to normal things, as you would, with others.
    • Teach sign language to children in schools, so they can communicate with deaf persons.
  • We still have to make changes and additions in all buildings, paths and roads to cater to wheelchair requirements.
  • Have lifts in schools with more than one floor. (It should be compulsory for private schools. ) All markets must have ramps or slopes for wheelchairs. All doors need to have handles and opening devices within range of handicapped persons.
  • Every house that is being built now, must have a ramp in entrance area, by law. Even if it isn’t by law, you can do it. As I have done too. Believe me, no one will stop you.

Dichotomy of behavior:

There is such a dichotomy in human behavior; the society in Pakistan, looks down with pity at people/and families having person with special needs. (Many actually believe the family has been punished for their sins!)  Taking pity on them, not realizing that more than half their problems are due to our society not providing facilities for them, which isn’t their fault but the culture and society’s. Once these are provided everywhere, as is the case with developed societies, things would improve for them too.

Old people’s home:

It is a fact that old people are not special people, yet they do have special needs like small children. They also need to be cared for. We must take interest in these institutions and provide for them as much as we can.

Be careful how you converse:

Do you know, the old people’s home, I’m going to, does not allow anyone to meet the inmates any more. This is because they go into depression after the visits. If you are going to ask each one who left them there? Why did they do it? For God’s sake, how would they know? Anyway, it is really no business of yours, how they got here. You are here to make them feel good while they are here.

One needs to be sensitive. So, what to say? Each one has a story to tell. Do go and listen to them, be courteous, pleasant and be happy around them. Stop being the picture of doom and gloom. Stop asking nosy questions. Give them an opportunity to talk, if they feel like it.

Change your own attitude towards them:

A change of attitude is extremely important. We need to realize, that it is us, who aren’t doing enough for them. Then make changes in our own lives and at workplace to facilitate all handicapped persons.

How can we think that we are superior? When we are falling short on so many accounts? Each one of us has so much to improve in ourselves.

Steps to take:

  • Find out an institution for special people or an old people’s home, and visit it once a day, week or month. Whatever suits you.
  • Take up some responsibility there. If you have resources, or not, in both cases, I’m sure you can do a lot. The moment you visit, whatever you feel is a short coming is like a signal to yourself to help in that field. In fact, share your own situation with the management. They will let you know where you can be of use.
  • Use your time wisely. In Karachi SOS village, they asked me to give tuition to selected students. I would do that every week.
  • Here in Islamabad, I’m able to help with the school fees of a few students for Mashal and CSS schools through my followers. Funds are coming even from as far as Australia.
  • In the old people’s home, they let me know what they need. Recently, they needed mattresses and blankets and one great follower’s friend immediately provided these. Similarly, clothes, rations too have been provided. Even adult pampers which are a need sometimes. So give what is needed, don’t add to their problems.
  • It feels so great to be of some help. You can use your time, money or skills to make a difference in their lives. Your own silly depressions in life will stop.
  • You can play music for them, or read out books. Take along home made food. Whatever, you do, do it with consultation with organization.
  • You all know about the bridal projects we do together. It is like a ripple of goodness that has kept continuing. All because of you. There is no limit to possibilities.

Attitude of gratitude:

We need to help with gratefulness to the management for accepting our help. In Pakistan I’ve found that people do so much, one feels rather small sometimes. But that mustn’t stop us. We are doing our bit, at our own level and scale, that we can manage. Others are doing at their own scales.

Once my youngest daughter and I went to a Noori hospital to offer iftari in Ramzan for patients for one day. They said, one person is giving Ramzan to all patients for entire month! (We were amazed.) So, this is the scale here. But as we can see it isn’t everywhere, we both know we can make a difference too, wherever we are in whatever way we can.

While living abroad:

It is vital for us to do volunteer work while being abroad also. There are homeless in USA, Canada and every country on earth. Let us spare some time and effort in our lives to say Thank You to our Allah by making a difference in someone else’s life.

Stay blessed my amazing Readers. I really have grown to love you all so much. Honestly, you are the best. ?

Note: All photographs  provided by author.


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  1. As always thought provoking.
    My third born sibling Babar was three when he had attack of polio on his whole body. After immediate treatment everything became normal but his left arm is still affected
    I remember babar not going to his class as his friends were mocking him, and Ammi went to his class and requested his class fellows to be nice to him.
    His teacher was not in pic so she took another step and told her class that she has a boy with the same disease
    So it played a huge impact and I remember afterwards babar was a happy school going boy.
    Yes we need to address this for how to act and behave in such situations.
    Much love your way. ❤️

    1. Shireen Gheba Najib says:

      My dear Kiran,
      Our people genuinely do not realize how to deal with it. This is why I felt it is important to educate people on how to do it: ‘Just be your normal self – for God’s sake!’ is the message of this post. Also, ‘do not be judgmental’. These are things that can happen to any of us, any time.
      Now I know why you are so strong and yet so sensitive. Stay blessed, lovely one.

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