By Shahid Husain
The disability rights issue in the United States grew out of the civil rights movement, said Dr Kanta Kochhar-Lindgren, an associate professor at Washington University. She is currently visiting Pakistan as an American cultural envoy. At a meeting held in her honour by City Naib Nazim Nasreen Jalil at the City Council, Dr Kochhar-Lindgren said that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights did not mention the rights of the disabled and it is only during the last two years that the United Nations has started addressing the issue. “Many of us came of age during the civil rights’ movement. There were several ways of communication, so I developed an interesting art and worked for the national theatre of the deaf and did some research on it,” she said. “I worked for the concept called the third ear. What is the possibility of another way of hearing, of listening?” She said that it was an experience with the chords of senses and its “extra space,” and her work was on people who were deaf and who were cross-culture. “I have to work at a different speed with them if they are deaf or different,” she said. “Can you create a space for a different kind of exchange? Critical reasoning is important but critical reasoning is not everything.”
Dr Kochhar-Lindgren told The News earlier that her visit of Karachi had left a “very positive” impact on her. She said that she visited the Indus Art Galley, Arts Council of Pakistan and other centres of art and culture and found “many talented people” in the city. “It is a very dynamic city and I am honoured to be here,” she said. “We would like to see more exchange programmes between Pakistani and American universities,” she said, adding that she was of the view that some partnership could be materialised in the realm of arts at the university level. Earlier, Dr Kochhar-Lindgren and US Consulate General Public Affairs Officer Elizabath O. Colton, who had accompanied her, were briefed by City Naib Nazim Nasreen Jalil. “We are trying to change the system; we are trying to change mindsets,” she said, adding that the feudal mindset does not work in Karachi and one of the indicators was that there were tens of thousands of working women in the city. “Your very presence here proves that the city is not so violence-prone,” she said. She conceded, however, that the Taliban do visit Karachi for “recreational purposes and to collect funds.”
Jalil said that the main issue in Pakistan today was gender discrimination despite the fact that 51 per cent of the population comprised women. Colton said that there were many clubs and individuals in the US which the responsibility for cleaning roads. She hastened to add that they don’t get paid for it. The visit of the American cultural envoy culminated in a dance performance by eminent artist and classical dancer Sheema Kermani and her team, including Huma Naz and Babar. One of the performances was based on a Qawwali of Amir Khusro.