I have been writing about women empowerment, gender equality, rights of epicenes and other issues pertaining to our society as a whole, but I am confused... Confused about how many more fractions we would have to formulate in order to justify the definition of ‘being normal’... Confused about what comes to our mind when we hear the word ‘disabled’... Confused about why we always visualize people who cannot walk or talk or do everything that ‘normal’ people take for granted upon hearing the word ‘disabled’...

Who are the ‘normal’ people? Is the word synonymous to ‘men and women’, which automatically eliminates the transgenders from the list? This is certainly unacceptable but let me take the liberty to agree to this notion for the sake of argument. I really wish this supposition had solved the problem, but this is not the case. The ‘normal’ people demand further sectionalisation to draw a line between themselves and the disabled – those with some bodily and/or mental defect. Therefore, on the basis of aforementioned premise, we have reached the conclusion that ‘normal’ people are men and women who have fully functional brains and are able-bodied. But is this verdict amply justifiable?

In a recent visit to Islamabad to attend a conference, I happened to closely observe a differently-abled person and the behaviour of others with him. When I first saw Ali among the very much enabled people, I was reminded of Tina Richardson’s words:

“I look out onto this world I’m in and hope that one day all people will be accepted and valued as they are.”

I saw people interacting with Ali, helping him in getting food, finding him a seat, bringing him water and that is it… no one was actually willing to sit with him and listen to what he had to say. Men helped him out with the aforementioned primarily to impress their female fellows (a nice and easy tactic for courtship!) as I saw girls standing next to him getting involved in conversations with other boys as soon as they were done with the pretension of succouring him. I saw him sitting alone in a corner and eating his dinner with a sphere of silence around him in a hall full of cheers and laughter.

On the third night the whole group planned to visit Monal. I was particularly excited as I had never been to this renowned restaurant before and I expected it to be an indelible memory with my new friends. As with most of the informally contrived plans this one was also subjected to cancellation owing to our hyperbolised pre-departure planning, but even that was a cherishable memory for me. What scarred it were the tears which Ali was trying to prevent from falling but were getting deposited on his lower eyelid. What changed these moments from unforgettable to worth forgetting was the diminishment of hope from his face while he was enviously looking at people before the calling off of the plan. He was not disheartened because of the abandoning of the plan; he was filled with melancholy and despondency for the reason that no one had asked him to join the group initially. He did not complain… he did not utter a word… he just sat in silence while his fellow members vociferated the different aspects of the group’s cancelled plan.

An interesting dimension which distinguishes the sufferings of the third gender from that of the disabled is the endorsement of the former by individuals and heedlessness at the communal level, and these dynamics being the opposite in the case of the disabled – they are recognised as ‘special’ by the public in general but their existence remains oblivious to the individuals and is merely used, and that, too, occasionally, to benefit the ‘normal’ ones.

It is assumed by a majority that people like Ali are rendered incapable of performing certain tasks which normal people can do without much effort. This may be owing to a physical or mental disability. But confusing this with abnormality is a postulate that can be challenged in any tribunal and would fail to be vindicated due to lack of substance and substantiations. In order to prove their equality to their ‘normal’ fellows, they actually work fourfold the required level. Ali was one of us, the ‘normal’ ones, as we with all our abilities and capabilities were standing on the same floor on which he stood with all his inabilities and disabilities.

The world knows Stephen Hawking for his contributions to physics and cosmology, but no one forgets to mention his disability every time his name is cited. The question is who is not handicapped in this world? Women and transgenders are handicapped by their sex, the ‘disabled’ are handicapped by one or more of the various types of inabilities they have, and men by their survival in the several waves of feminism. We all are handicapped. So why allot the designation to a snippet? Why don’t we enjoy living in our skin and let others live in theirs? Why do we have to look for others’ faults in order to feel gratified and accomplished?

Walking does provide a sense of progression to a person who advances by steps, but so does rolling the wheels of a wheelchair to a person who measures his footsteps in terms of revolutions of the wheel. You are reading this article at opportunity costs of doing something else, but do not forget reading it out to a blind who might smile after hearing it.