Friday, December 31, 2010

Indian author with CP tells of her survival and success in her new book, One Little Finger

From Indian Express. Congrats to Malini, who I met in August 2010!

Malini Chib’s birth was extremely traumatic. The doctors shook their heads and regretted the decision of a normal delivery. One of them even predicted that she won’t live more than 72 hours. But 44 years later, her first book One Little Finger is an inspiration for thousands and her story worth a read.

Chib (pictured), fondly called Molly, has cerebral palsy. At ADAPT, Spastics Society of India located in Colaba, she moves around in her electric wheel chair. Dressed in a blue kurti and black skinny jeans, Chib uses a Lightwriter to communicate with people who find it difficult to understand her speech.

At times, her mother Dr Mithu Alur, plays interpreter and says, “She is a talker, a definite talker.”

Malini is exhilarated at the mention of her book and says, “My friends say I am an open book.” Simply told and extremely honest, Molly’s story is touching and inspiring with dabs of humour splashed across the pages. The book is a peek into her life — the friends she made and lost, the time spent with her cousins, family vacations, education, some rude shocks and freedom.

The just-released One Little Finger, published by Sage Publication, derives its name from the fact that Malini uses one of her fingers on the left hand to type her 50,000-word story on her laptop.

She talks about the painful childhood experience of visiting Indian doctors who treated her like a vegetable. However, the highly-trained medical professionals in the West were more caring. And that helped in her upbringing/education.

“Things have improved here but it can get a lot better. Doctors and teachers in the West have a background in disability studies which is what is missing in India,” Malini says.

Alur further adds, “A lot of people use terms like ‘these people’ or ‘you people’ for the disabled. There is a lot of ignorance and cultural oppression.” It was this attitude towards the disabled that led Alur to start a revolution of sorts. In 1972, she set up ADAPT Rights Group that promotes inclusion of the disabled in the society and advocates the need for disability-friendly infrastructure. Now, the group has spread to 20 Indian states.

Over tea and dhokla, the conversation with Malini touches many subjects: potholed Colaba Causeway pavements; shopping at Linking Road; her old friend Zubin who she has lost touch with, a Christmas invitation, disastrous family vacations and her brother Nikhil Chib, owner of Busaba restaurant in Colaba. She also shows the papers she had written while pursuing her masters in Women’s Studies, one of them being ‘Does she take sugar in her tea?’. A famous BBC radio programme by the same name was the inspiration behind this paper.

“Even in a place like London, I have come across people who would question me if I moved out of home alone. If I am with my carer, they would talk to that person instead of directing a question at me, as if I can’t hear anything,” she says. One of the things that Chib writes about extensively in the book is ‘inclusiveness’. “I support inclusive education — a child with special needs must spend a lot of time with others. It helps in the person’s growth. We need to address diversity and celebrate it,” says Alur.

Malini is planning a book-reading and talk at St Xavier’s College, where she spent four years completing her bachelor’s degree. In the book, she mentions how the infrastructure in the college was not disability-friendly. Lack of ramps and lifts at the college was a big problem. Years later, the situation remains the same.