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Walking towards hope

R Sriram Srinivas, who has multiple disabilities—mental retardation and spastic diplegia—takes a breather during his yoga session at home. P Settu, his yoga therapist, who has been teaching Sriram two years now, says that Sriram used to be inattentive and restless, but now follows instructions well and has mellowed down significantly.  



Images and text by Naveen P M

Walking towards hope (2/9)

M Vanitha, Sriram's teacher, helps Sriram wear his dance apparel before the start of the 'World Differently Abled Day Cultural Programme' at Don Guanella Special School in Chennai. Due to Sriram's condition, simple tasks such as putting on clothes can become a chore and he often ends up needing some assistance. 


Walking towards hope (3/9)

Sriram rides his bicycle—fitted with a custom-made backrest—flanked by special education teacher, G V Arumugam. Arumugam has known Sriram for 15 years and was initially hired to teach him basic reading and writing skills. On Sriram's parents' request, he started to assist Sriram in walking and then taught him how to ride a bicycle so he could improve his muscle tone. 

Read Sriram's story here


Walking towards hope (4/9)

R Devi helps Sriram read a clock at Sai Sri Ram Training Centre. Sriram has difficulty reading and writing even basic words, and has a hard time grasping universal concepts such as time, date, and money. Devi is Sriram's favorite teacher. Sai Sri Ram Training Centre has eight students with special needs, two teachers, and a domestic help. The school functions from 10 am to 3 pm and keeps the students busy with a plethora of activities such as coloring, computer games, and yoga.


Walking towards hope (5/9)

M R Karthik, physical trainer, subjects Sriram to one of the many "balancing exercises" to improve his balance and correct his "scissor gait". Karthik has been training Sriram for the last two years. "In the beginning, Sriram could hardly stand for a minute on his own and displayed a lot of traits commonly seen in persons with Intellectual Disability (ID), such as lack of eye contact, droning, drooling...," says Karthik.

Read Sriram's story here


Walking towards hope (6/9)

Sriram and his classmates from Sai Sri Ram Training Centre perform to a medley of Bollywood songs at the 'World Differently Abled Day Cultural Programme' held in Don Guanella Special School, Chennai. P Dharani Kumar, a professional choreographer, composed the dance moves for this performance. He visits the school every weekend to teach dance to these students. "Sriram usually has trouble recollecting and executing my dance moves but he stepped his game up through some spontaneous moves," he said. 

Read Sriram's story here

Walking towards hope (7/9)

Sriram is ecstatic after receiving a silver medal for the Standing Long Jump event. His driver, D Alvin (right), and Sriram's mother, R Vanitha, gather around to congratulate him, at the Special Olympics Sports Meet held on YMCA Grounds, Chennai. Sriram shares a special bond with Alvin and the two can often be seen engaging in healthy banter. 


Walking towards hope (8/9)

Sriram does a lap of backstroke at The League Club, Chennai. His parents introduced him to swimming at the age of seven after a doctor suggested hydropathy as treatment. Sriram has been training under U Sathish Kumar, swim coach for children with special needs, for one year now. Sriram won four gold medals in as many events at two swim meets for para-athletes held last year in Tamil Nadu.


Walking towards hope (9/9)

Dr J Paul Devasagayam, Area Director, Special Olympics Bharat, Tamil Nadu, reviews Sriram Srinivas's progress with his mother, R Vanitha, during one of their monthly meetings at his 100-square-foot office in Purasawalkam, Chennai.


Beyond Relocation: Moving abroad was easier than moving within the country

The Bride compares two moves and finds that, surprisingly, she felt more lonely when surrounded by family
The Bride

Before I moved to Hyderabad when I was 23 years old to pursue a Master’s degree I had lived at the same address in Mumbai with my parents my entire life. I was only stirred out of my complacency by the need to follow a man across the country. Because following a man was too pathetic to contemplate on its own, I decided to make it worthwhile by enrolling in a Master's programme. This meant that I landed up in a different city from the man in question, thus somewhat defeating the purpose, but nevertheless close enough that we’d see each other more frequently.

I was excited about moving. I looked forward to living alone and to the college experience. Unfortunately, I was disappointed on many counts. I opted not to stay in the hostel, mainly because the loo put me off, and lived with my uncle and cousin instead. Although staying with family had its advantages, ironically, I found myself lonely, knocking about in an empty house much of the time. Because I lived away from college, I was left out of many of the activities that presumably went on in the hostel. Overall, I found myself with too much free time on my hands. I had been used to full-time work, and the Master’s programme was structured so that I didn’t even have class every day. Because I couldn’t ride a two-wheeler, and there was nowhere near enough to walk to, I found myself marooned at home in a city where anyway women don’t sit around in public alone.

After the first semester, my boyfriend got a job overseas and moved. So the main reason I had moved to Hyderabad ceased to exist. My boyfriend was coping with his own adjustments and grew distant. I found myself in frequent bouts of angst, loneliness and despair. In the midst of it, I was involved in trying to plan a wedding with a man I found emotionally distant and who I believed had betrayed my trust by moving away. Even my uncle noticed and in an attempt to help, bought me a cooler. My cousin gave me the name of a counselor and for the first time in my life I saw one. I am not sure we made much progress, but I gained clarity into at least some of my own defense mechanisms and unhealthy patterns. By the end of the Masters I had a more active social life, but I still was happy to get as far away from Hyderabad as I possibly could.

Two years later, I got married and moved to Hong Kong. Again, for a man. Strangely enough, although I knew no one in Hong Kong except my husband, I adjusted fairly quickly. It helped that my husband and I were in a sweet spot, and so one source of my angst was gone. I also got a job that provided me with a built-in social life so my adjustment was even easier. I was still haunted by the loneliness of my time in Hyderabad and found it triggering to come back to an empty house when my husband travelled, which I solved by socializing after work.

Later, I began having marital problems. Maybe they were problems that had their roots in my earlier dark phase in Hyderabad, or from parts of my childhood. I haven’t really figured out the roots of my demons. Hong Kong has been great to me, but good psychological support is extremely expensive. Strangely enough, I am convinced that I am better off in a foreign country than back home, even with the lack of support. If I had to move back, I fear I would face culture shock a third time.

The writer is a media professional of Indian origin based in Hong Kong. She blogs at www.thebluebride.wordpress.com

This story is from Beyond Relocation, a series on migration and how it impacts our emotional and mental health. Read more here:
1. We need to acknowledge the emotional impact of migration: Dr Sabina Rao
2. Organizations must help employees transition: Maullika Sharma
3. Moving was all of these: a challenge, and adventure and an opportunity to learn about myself: Revathi Krishna




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