Read on to find out about the gem LSR’s Dramatics Society has created and why it is a play we must all go to see.
The Dramatics Society of Lady Shri Ram College has created a marvel in their street play, crushing the myths against people with disabilities, called Today’s Special. It takes you through a roller-coaster with its stellar acting, splendid music and inspiring story. In a few minutes it is able to encapsulate so many aspects of a person with disability’s struggle and how we as individuals have not just refused to acknowledge this, but also worsened it by humoring their hardships.
The play starts with a girl getting ready for a race, only for situations to reveal how she suffers from a problem in her leg, as the audiences’ reaction changes to silence, it clearly shows how in our daily life reactions are not much different. Why should she be seen different? Is a question that arises in our minds and continues when in the next breath the play depicts how in a school, little children draw people with disabilities as monsters, and not heroes.
The connotations attached to the people with disability do not end at ‘different’ but are also ‘villainized’. These negative connotations are not reinforced by strangers but also by their blood. One such scene shows how the sister of a person with disability, embarrassed by her sibling, locks him in a room on her birthday party to not be seen by anyone.
LSR’s play also talks about the provisions for people with disability. They show the seemingly negligible percentage of reservations in jobs, the constant running from one place to another due to the absence of infrastructural facilities and the pressure put by school authorities to put their children in ‘special’ schools. This brings forth the third connotation attached to the people with disability : they are ‘special’ or devyang. The question of whether these people should be put on a pedestal, whether they should be inspirational or godly is purely subjective and debatable.
Keeping in mind even their daily struggles are far greater and incomparable than what abled people must go through, their lives and endurance does become an inspiration for all of us. But for some, the idea of being ‘different’ could arouse feelings of isolation and alienation. Do they want to be seen as different? Do they want for no distinctions to exist? Do they want their struggles to be reflected in its true essence? Subjectivity arises in the spaces between these questions. More than our opinion, what matters is their own and for us to respect those.
Their sublime music also stands out in course of their play. The play takes a dig at the song “Ladki Aankh Maare” for its “Tusshar Kapoor ki awaaz mei..” which instantly puts light on the internalised and covert discrimination we are all guilty of. Whether or not we danced to this song since it came out or liked Tusshar Kapoor’s character in Golmaal, how many of us realised the grave insensitivity both carried? Or how we have laughed at Rani Mukherjee’s dialogue in the film, Black, “mujhe lagta hai baarish hone wali hai..”.
Today’s Special ends on a powerful and beautifully written aspect of sex and dating life of the people with disability. In a heart wrenching scene, it depicts the sexual assault of a girl on a wheelchair by her caretaker and misunderstands this as love. The thoughtless and insensitive comments and questions on the technicalities of sex by abled people to the people with disability is a scene which accurately depicts how sex has been made a taboo. While the last scene shows how a girl with a disability meets someone who brings her out of guilt and embarrassment, the audience is left with several thoughts of self-reflection.
LSR’s play is a movement. Authorities, film makers and we as individuals have failed the people with disability on several levels. Beyond a few tokenistic measures and facilities no tangible step towards their lives have been truly made. Shonali Boses’ “Margarita with a Straw” is one of the few gems which speaks their story and the possibilities of self-discovery, romance and so much more. But even though such films win awards, it fails to win hearts at the Box Office and thus remains few.
At an important time like this, where political parties are demanding votes, we should demand a change. Better facilities and infrastructure for the people with disability at schools, colleges, universities and other buildings, genuine and apt reservations at offices and other places, better laws are some ideas which can become a starting point in this journey. As a society, we need a change of thinking and mindset. Emotions of shame, guilt or embarrassment should not be attached to the individual or his or her disability or their families. Now as for ourselves, we need to reflect on our actions towards the people with disability. The ability to overlook the larger picture and simply laugh along comes from a place of privilege. While we have no control over how we are born, what we make of ourselves is what speaks volumes. And therefore, it becomes our prerogative to stand with the people with disability and to bring some sensitivity- that person may not be your sister or brother, mother or father, but is an individual in and of themselves and deserves this respect.
Feature Image Credits: Shivani Dadhwal for DU Beat.