(This has been previously published in Times Of India, Epaper in the Soul Curry section http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/relationships/soul-curry/When-the-world-abandoned-my-special-child/articleshow/49046764.cms )
Two years after our marriage, Armaan was born. Everyone in the family was ecstatic and there was a whiff of celebration in the air. Armaan’s grandmother, whom we fondly call Amma, invited all relatives and a ritualistic ceremony was organized – it was a grand affair and money was splurged with both hands.
Armaan was the apple of everyone’s eye, Amma pampered him to the extent of spoiling him. I had to remind her at times that over indulgence into everything he demands is not good for him. I feared him turning into an impudent and materialistic adult. But my words of caution were never taken seriously.
However, the ‘happy’ times lasted only for a year, until we discovered that Armaan had a learning disability and is developmentally delayed. After numerous visits to various doctors and specialists, we got to know that Armaan had an Autism Spectrum Disorder. And that he will never be able to lead a normal life. It seemed like a scourge when the doctors broke this news to me. I went back home and locked myself in the room and howled for hours questioning God about the injustice. Why only my son? I was numb and started to carry a macabre look; I completely froze to what was happening around me. It took me months of bereavement to come to terms to what was happening to Armaan. Whenever a person faces a problem in life, the apparitions from the past start nudging that person and the skeletons start tumbling out of the closet. One starts to look for answers of all troubles in past misgivings. But I had never done any harm to anyone in life, still God played this cruel joke on me. All this made me turn into an agnostic atheist who was just pulling her enervated soul along, life became meaningless to me.
I was oblivious to the fact that the real turmoil had to begin. People, who were mollycoddling Armaan till now, started ignoring him. He was no longer showered with expensive toys and blessings. All this cause my heart to ache and I was down in the dumps. He was my baby and life didn’t change for me just because of some medical diagnosis. And unlike others, I had no choice.
Armaan always garnered attention of everyone around — for all the wrong reasons. His poor social skills, unusual gait and unclear speech caught eyeballs of everyone. Some gave a sorry look while others looked frightened but no one allowed their children to play with him as he was considered ‘mentally unstable’. Our parenting skills were questioned by our relatives and my womb was blamed for his medical condition. Amma wanted her son to abandon me and remarry. This would ensure she gets a medically fit heir- a healthy grandson.
My life revolved so much around Armaan that I never had the time or energy to react to these situations. My emotional landscape had no place for all this gibberish, thankfully my husband was supportive and loved both Armaan and me. My life had no motivation and I didn’t know what will be my son’s future. He was growing up physically but there was a huge gap in mental development. I was flustered as there seemed to be no end to this whirlpool. It was like a black hole which was swallowing me into its depths.
One day I stood in my balcony while looking at the kids playing in the park. A few days ago while I was sitting on a bench in the same park, I saw a group of young mothers engaged in a light-hearted conversation with each other. They were talking about their kids and one of the mothers was miffed with the class teacher of her child. Her child had a stage performance in his school where he got a chance to speak a line on the stage while other children in the class got three lines to speak on the same platform. What an irony! How ungrateful some mothers are…we all should be thankful to God if our children can speak well and walk straight. For mothers like me it is a chimera.
I was day dreaming and imagined Armaan playing with other kids. A tear rolled down my cheek. Suddenly, Armaan came and pulled the corner of my kurta, I bent down to look into his eyes, he said, “Smile Ma!” In a jiffy, all the scenes from Armaan’s birth, his infancy, diagnosis by doctor …everything flashed in front of my eyes. My conscious whispered …You have got a star child who has a beautiful soul. How I ignored this aspect all these years that despite a huge developmental chasm, Armaan was a very sensitive child. He had a profound sense of love towards nature and he bonded well with the animals. In fact, animals were surprisingly attracted to him. All these were signs of a recluse and pure soul that I never noticed because I was too entangled to manage things at periphery — How will my son grow up, who will take care of him when I am not around and his financial independence. I was perplexed by too many things on my mind.
After a few days a thought dawned on me, so what if Armaan can’t read fluently or isn’t good in calculations, I can give him ways to express himself. I would call it a divine intervention of sorts and there has been no looking back since then. We got him colours and paints of different kinds. Now Armaan paints his emotions beautifully on the canvas, for me his each and every work is an outburst of emotions. I can see a melange of his thoughts and moods in his paintings.
Now I know why this happened to my child. God sent Armaan in my life as he wanted me to have a new perspective and think beyond the obvious. He sent him as a healing angel in my life, Armaan added layers to my being. I feel more conscious and awakened than what I was before.
Is he a special child? Well, I don’t know if he is special but yes, I am a special and gifted mother!