Love, sex and disability

Love, sex and disability

Author Malini Chib, who was in town recently, wonders why women with a disabling condition are considered asexual and are supposed to be bereft of emotional needs?

When did your family first get to know of your disabling condition?

I was born in Kolkata in 1966. My mother was in labour for a lengthy 40-hour period and during this process, the umbilical cord got entangled around my neck, resulting in a lack of oxygen for a few seconds to my brain. That resulted in me having a severe disabling condition called cerebral palsy. I am told that the paediatrician in charge kept repeating to himself: ‘It was a mistake. I should have carried out a Caesarean… Let’s see if she survives… I am not sure if she will survive… at the most 72 hours”. But I survived and my parents decided that shifting to London would be the best bet to address my condition. So, we went.

How much of what you’ve achieved in life will you attribute to the fact that you come from a very privileged and well-educated family?

I am fortunate that I came from a very well educated family. Both my grandfathers had been educated in England and my great aunt was Lotika Sarkar — the first woman from India to have gone to Newnham College, Cambridge. Both my father and uncle had their higher education at Cambridge too. I educated myself, learnt to type with my one little finger and speak through the Lightwriter. I have two international Masters degrees in Women’s Studies and Library Sciences and Information Management. I’ve traveled extensively in India and abroad and have delivered a lecture at the Sorbonne University as well. I have lived alone in London, learnt to navigate through the traffic with my electric wheelchair, gone holidaying with friends to France and pub-crawling in London too.

Your book, One Little Finger, mentions the divorce of your parents as one of the most traumatic periods of your life…

After the Centre for Special Education was set up, my mother put in a lot of her contribution. While my mother was eager to spend her free time with my brother and me, my father wanted more of her time so that he could take her along with him when he needed to socialize and network for being in the advertising profession. This led to little time for each other and a realization that they were incompatible in many ways. My parents got divorced and what followed was a traumatic time for my mother, brother and me. I was eight and my brother three. Although I had no friends, my cousins were, and still remain, my close friends.

You’ve also desired a man who confessed to have feelings for another man…

Yes. He was a dear friend called Zubin. He understood me perfectly. We shared a great deal together. One day, Zubin told me that he loves men sexually and had a partner from Belgium. I was devastated. For days, I would weep silently. I was 21 then and wanted male attention like all my other girlfriends. I have had a hard time accepting that I’m trapped in a rejected body that is not sexually attractive. But most men look at me as asexual.

What do you think is society’s assumption about sexual urges of disabled women?

Society thinks it is enough to include disabled people but what about including their physical and emotional needs? Once when I had said that I too have sexual desires, people around me had asked: “Why would you need sex?” I have also written an article on this titled “No Sex Please, You’re Disabled”. I admit to have outbursts too. Weddings often served as reminders that I possibly would never share such an equation with someone.
 Despite all this, you remain a very positive person. What keeps you going?
I believe that life is beautiful. I have my moments when I can’t control my tears. When I go to a restaurant and the waiter offers the menu card to everyone at the table except me, I feel bad. Even today, people who don’t know me automatically address the person I am with. They will talk about me in front of me but never with me! I’m a completely different person on the Net. Social networking has opened a new world for me. I realize I’ll continue to struggle and adjust to the reality of people shunning me. It’s the attitude of people that can make me feel included or excluded. I think, the art of living lies not just in confronting our troubles but minimizing them and focussing on the positive sides. Most of us are swimming against the tide of trouble but we need to make it to the shore and not let the wave engulf us.
Having written an autobiography, what would you want to pen next?

I don’t know. May be, a romance. I love reading romances.

The Times of India

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