Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Three Frogs Who Jumped Out Of Well

Sometimes we live in a well and lose our ability to imagine anything beyond the walls of the well. If not exactly frogs in well, my two children and I were almost going through that phase in our lives. Our two big leaps happened when we shifted from the confined city life to a village and then from the village to USA.

Rayyan my son was very much loved by my family, but that also meant the precious baby was over protected. Farheena was my special needs daughter, so in a way she ended up being overprotected as well. My house and my family turned to be their first well and they could not see anything beyond it.
There came a time when I decided that my children need to see the world beyond my own family. So, unwillingly, breaking many hearts, I moved on to live independently with them to a village called Byndoor. Rayyan now learned shopping for household groceries, cleaning, playing outdoor games, go out trekking, swimming and many more life skills which he missed in Bangalore.
Enjoying beach fun in Byndoor

 Unfortunately, the rural surrounding hampered Farheena’s social life, though she found some good friends out there. I thought we have jumped out of the well, not realizing that we are just in another well. We lived in our room of 7 by 9 feet and felt good about it.
Sometimes blessings come in disguise and I can say, so was my cancer. Though a life threatening condition, breast cancer has been one of the reasons for many of the positive breakthroughs in my life. My window to the outer world opened up through my need to connect with other cancer survivors for emotional support.  Since I could not find support group anywhere around me, I reached out further and further, finally ending up with a support group in USA. Talking about my cancer experience, the bond started to build up between me and other survivors, especially between Paula Gerding.
With passing days, Paula became the loving Pee aunty to Rayyan and Farheena with whom she would connect through webcam regularly. Farheena, my special needs daughter fell madly in love with Paula and wanted to meet her. This gave birth to our travel inspiration. Traveling to USA was easier said than done.
Visa, travel expenses and many other things were supposed to be taken care of. We were not one of those world traveler types. My children had not even traveled outside our state. Yet we did not give up, neither did Paula. One fine day, we just reached to the skies and traveled to USA.
The warm welcome we received at the Tampa Airport
 It was an out of the world experience for us. I know many people travel to USA from India, but I am not sure how many of them get to live with the Americans like we did, especially with a person like Paula.

If we were touring USA, we would never experience something like this.
From city to village life and now to USA, Rayyan was exposed to different environment which were worlds apart from each other. 
Rayyan learning to take care garden. 

What surprised me the most was the change I could see in Farheena. She was laughing, playing, and communicating with almost everyone around there. Her expressions changed. She wasn’t peeked into curiously by the Americans, but instead she was called a pretty girl, appreciated, welcomed and greeted with a ‘Hi’ even by people not known to us. She soon became the star of our group.
Learning photography with Sandy
Farheena has mobility issues though she walks around. There were many times when I had to stay back with her or ask Rayyan to stay with her so that one of us could complete shopping or any other work. USA was much friendly towards special needs of people. She could go to movies, parks, resorts, shopping malls since she had enough support to give her access everywhere. Ramps, wheelchairs, railings, toilets and other things made a huge difference to her life.

Never seen her smile like this before....
More than that it was the people around who were open minded towards special needs people that touched my heart. No one peered at her as though she was some weird being. No one questioned what was wrong with her. She was treated like any other person around, but with a bit more love and care. It was amazing to see her waving to the people and greeting everyone with a big smile.

The girl who was terrified of dogs, suddenly accepted them as her best friends. They would wake her up every morning and she for once did not grumble when getting out of her bed.

The Indian Saree was a craze among my American friends. This made us to organize a Saree party. Friends from different states of USA gathered in Florida for fun with Sarees.

They learned so much about India and our culture by meeting us and living with us.
There were simple messages passed on. One of the issue with Paula initially was why I was took the leftovers so seriously and packed them into the refrigerator instead of disposing them. Slowly she learned to see my point of view of how it finally makes a huge difference to our budget and also to world food crisis. Sometimes I could just spread the table for four for a lunch or dinner with only the leftovers which I had modified to suit our taste.
We discussed everything from arranged marriages to religions, sexual preferences, parenting styles, corporal punishment and many more. There were times when we would disagree and agree to allow the other to disagree on the issue.
For a middle class family it was tough decision to travel to USA and live with our American friends. We knew that the lifestyle, food, culture and everything would be different, but we never realized that experiencing something different and new would be so enriching and beautiful. We loved the new world we visited and wanted more of it.

When I came back to India, I was changed. So were my children. It motivated me to take my career seriously and also take up education and learn something new. Slowly in the last one decade, we worked and carved a new life for ourselves.
After observing Farheena’s change in USA, I decided to give her the second best option and slowly settled down in Bangalore. She started enjoying her time - first in special school and then in vocational centre. She also made friends here and learned to communicate with them through social media.
Rayyan made firm career choices and ended up doing what he loves to do. It was a proud moment for all of us when his team was one of the top 5 chosen for the XPrize.
As for me, I settled down with a Montessori and Daycarecentre of my own. It was a dream I always cherished. I am sure that my travel and my experiences in USA had a great influence on my becoming financially independent person. Initially there was a desire in me to change the world, but my travel inspired me to change myself. This eventually changed my world as well. 
Though busy right at the moment, we have plans to travel and meet our friends in different parts of globe. We want to experience the world not like tourists visiting the famous monuments and tourist spots but like friends and visitors who would get a glimpse of different culture and lifestyle from the close quarters. Our exploration would be of the real world and not just the famous tourists centers. We want to love the world as it is - different from our own world yet beautiful and lovable in its own way. 


Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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