Cherish your life with all its unique flaws and blessings- My Take by Sundari Sivasubbu, Author
In My Take this week we have Sundari Sivasubbu from Chennai, author of the book 'A Bumblebee's Balcony'. Her book received positive reviews at the Chennai and Delhi book fairs. Sundari, who works for the CSR division of HCL Foundation, is a painter as well.
I have cerebral palsy from birth. This affected all my physical activities including standing, walking, balancing, coordination, hearing, vision, muscle power, muscle tone and even sensory perceptions. When I was younger, I managed to walk and climb steps with support. But I fell down frequently and always had some injury, cuts, bleeding, fracture, sprains or swelling on the head due to falls. As a kid, I used to hate the wheelchair. I got my first job in 2006. I felt I could be more productive and independent in a wheelchair. I got my first wheelchair in 2007, a joy-stick operated one, and it definitely has liberated me and has enabled me to explore life in a more dynamic manner!
Steps into the literary world
When I was nine years old, I was asking my mother a series of questions about the concept of gravity that I had learnt in school that day.
I asked my mom if gravity is the same for everybody why does it act more on me? I asked her why I fell down when everybody else was standing, Why my hands shake all the time, Why I needed support to walk when my friends can walk on their own, Why we needed to go to hospitals and physiotherapy centres instead of just going to schools and why my body behaved differently when it looks just like anybody else? All she did was calmly smile at me. Soon, it began to look like a poem. I had just started reading poetry in school and loved it immensely. My joy knew no bounds when I discovered that I could also create a poem. I was barely ten. Amma gave this to my special school newsletter and that was how my first poem was published.
Once I discovered my love for writing, it didn't matter why gravity acted more on me. Instead, I fell in love with the art of writing, something that strengthened me from the inside out. Later, it shaped my identity to a large extent. Writing has been the strongest coping tool for me.
When I was 23 years old, I had gone to visit a temple with my cousins. I had just got my wheelchair and was rejoicing my new found freedom. I noticed a woman who was around 70 years of age. She was tall, slender and had short grey hair. She looked very elegant and graceful. When I smiled at her, she began to walk towards me and we exchanged a few words. She told me that she had a disabled daughter who had still not coped with her disability. She told me that she wished her daughter could meet me so that she can be smiling and positive too.
I had always wanted to write a memoir since when I was a 10 year old. But I consciously committed myself to the book after this incident. Her daughter was 50 years old and was still unable to cope with her disability. I wanted to share my story and tell people like this old woman's daughter that it's ok to be vulnerable, to be angry, and to be scared. I wasn't always smiling or positive.
As I grew up, my understanding of my condition called cerebral palsy also evolved. With that awareness, evolved my understanding of situations, experiences and challenges. Many people have told me that I inspire them in some way. I did not intend to inspire or preach anything through this book. But I wanted people to get an insider view of living life with a disability. There is also a growing tendency to call a person with a disability as brave, courageous and inspirational, and that's it. Many times, there's no real inclination or attempt to be inclusive. We need to talk more about disability to bridge the gaps in people's attitude. These were some of the points which pushed me to complete the book.
I have a lot of support from my family, especially my mother. I had to face many difficulties while growing up, especially as a teenager. In fact, I even fell into depression. But my family encouraged me to hone all my gifts, be it writing, painting, public speaking or my work.
I'm thinking of a children's book next. It will be about an issue faced by someone close to me. I want to create awareness on this issue through some creative illustrations. With my hectic work schedules, my personal timelines are quite spaced out. Hopefully it comes true soon.
I work for a company where I have a lot of responsibilities. But my teammates are very supportive of my special needs. My bosses are exceptional leaders who walk the talk when it comes to Equality and Inclusion. I wish other companies and teams have the same disabled-friendly attitude.
I don't differentiate between disabled and non-disabled writers. It's the writing that matters. To aspiring writers, all I want to say is just write and keep on writing! Only when you write you will discover your own unique style and be comfortable with your voice. Try to get your work known among your circle of friends and acquaintances first and gauge their feedback and improvise on your shortcomings. Try to utilize all platforms like blogging and social media. But keep writing and be passionate about your craft.
Please do not wait for a tragedy or disease to start living your dreams. Life is never perfect for anyone. Do not postpone things waiting for that perfect moment or wait for all your problems to disappear. They will never go away. Just learn to be happy and grateful and cherish your life with all its unique flaws and blessings.