Friday, 4 November 2016

Inspiration Porn everyday

From past many months now I have been associated to this word 'Inspiration' quite often. All things written about me uses one of the following phrases,  'overcoming disability', 'brave', 'suffers from', 'defying the odds', 'despite disability', 'resilience', 'epitome of willpower', or my favorite, 'inspirational'.

A few months back an acquaintance of mine messaged me of Facebook that he was feeling depressed and suicidal, but, after seeing a few pictures of me on Instagram, he found strength to live his life. What surprised me was that he mentioned "If you in spite of your disability can live your life in a normal way, I can definitely live my own". Or once my boss said "I am sure you would have reached greater heights in your career if you were not disabled". Or my co-worker once told me"I am so proud to have worked with you, you do what you love in spite of you begin a woman and being disabled". Or a few weeks back a recruiter did some google search before interviewing me and when she met me, she asked me about my disability. "Which leg? What is your accident story?" Well for everyone who is reading this, you might feel what is wrong with these statements? These people are finding inspiration out of me, or are appreciating me and my courage to do things I love, or genuinely wants to know more about me. I always try to take these statements as it was intended, as a compliment, and return it by saying a thank you. But, honestly, no, These statements are trying to bring me down to this new word that is now my identity. How would you feel if world perceived you or your condition as so pathetic, so unfortunate, miserable, that they started calling you 'inspiration' merely because you woke up today? Something that they could never do if they were you! sometimes its degrading and implies that my own existence is something to be overcome, that living my everyday life is above and beyond what anyone expects of me. 

What's your excuse? These words are meant to provoke an able-bodied person's pity and make them self conscious how easy everything is for them. The bar is so low for them that even a person on wheelchair/an amputee is able to do it. What is your excuse? huh? Making people bad about self and thus motivating them to work hard towards their goal. 

The problem with Inspiration porn is not just related to disability, it grows on fetish of tragedy. We feed these fetishes. Because be feel intense emotion which makes us feel good about our own lives. In the Rio Olympics, it was not just Paralympics that was portrayed as superhuman thing. Even the Olympic Refugee team was admired and pitied. Their stories of fleeing their war-torn countries, their terror, their fear was publicized and shared in news papers and social media. 

Inspiration porn to able-bodied fails when you guilt people to work harder by motivating. People quickly go back to their real procrastinating self. Later on, a disabled person is reduced to a stereotype able bodied people use to motivate each other. They share such stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and sometimes feel good about themselves and again try and push themselves out of wherever they are stuck. 

Inspiration without activism equals exclusion. After thousands of people sharing my story, only thing I got in return was popularity. Disabled people are still treated in the same way as they were being treated before. No one came forward to make places more accessible, or put in some money for my training or covering my costs. There is still inequality, still people are excluded.  

I don't think my disability has anything to do with who I am as a person. I just want everyone to realise their potential like I realised mine. So whenever I go out to speak on some platform, I tell people how I found my potential and motivate people to find theirs. I normalize my disability as any ordinary episode. It is never overcoming disability, it is always accepting to live with it that matters.

I am not others. I am a person. I have my own aspirations, dreams, frustrations,  and goals. I reach some every day and some are more lofty. However, they are mine. My disabilities do not make me beautiful or unique . I am complex person. I do have disability, and I have not overcome it. It remains, permanently, just like my ideas. I have my own set of problems,I have completely forgotten how it feels to keep both the legs on ground and I have very faint memory of running. Most of my issues are related to attitude, access or tech. Now a days I hate stairs, and have to deal with blisters and pressure sores from my prosthetic. But that is all normal to me, just as having two working arms and two working legs may be normal for you. It is just the world is not made for one legged person.

I like to be called inspirational when my family or my friends say that. Because they know how much I have given in to reach the place I am today. They know my tears, pain, hard work.  It’s nice to have people notice it, your life, your situation, your struggle and your fight and I don't mind being called inspirational by them. They also know how adamant, stubborn, irrational, demanding, perfectionist, obsessive, and sometimes stupid I can be. 

I am not the best para-badminton player in India. But I am best that plays with a prosthesis on. I am still adapting myself. On court I am not as fast as I was before. But does that stop me? No, It doesn't. I am learning new ways to adapt myself to my prosthesis. Sometimes the support I need from my prosthesis is minimum. Sometimes my prosthesis weighs me down too. But, we find our own ways. I know where I stand and I know what I can do. I do not have unrealistic goals. Yes, but I know what needs to be done to be better day by day(This is what I think makes me a better person). A very few people who play badminton understand the struggle that I go through when I am on court. And the appreciation I get from them is what matters. These statements 'in spite of this prosthesis you are able to move so much or hit such few shots' are what makes me go stronger and learn faster. My life hasn't turned out how I wanted it to be, I still have so many unfinished goals and aspirations. But does that make me  worthless? No, because I matter.

Shout-out to disabled people who aren’t “inspirational”, who are unemployed or stuck with a job they don’t like, who didn’t do well academically and/or had to drop out of school, who aren’t in a position to live and take care of themselves independently even if they would like to, who don’t “just get on with things without complaining”, whose lives didn’t work out in the way they were hoping for, who haven’t “overcome” their disability in the way that society tells us we’re supposed to. You exist, you’re worthwhile and you matter.