“If you don’t step forward to break barriers, no one else will”- My Take by Sweta Mantrii
Sweta Mantrii from Pune is a stand-up comedian, writer and disability rights activist. Sweta, who has spina bifida, talks about disability in her work.
I was born with Spina Bifida which affected my left leg. I was born and raised in Pune and the city has offered so many opportunities to me. Since the past few years, I have been freelancing as a stand-up comedian. I am a writer too.
I have been talking about disability and related issues for a long time. Most of my discussions are focused on creating barrier-free environments for people with disabilities. I made a documentary called Disability a State of Mind and screened it at some platforms. I realised that I want to focus more on disability and do works related to that. That is what I have been doing since.
I did my first show in December 2016 though I was unsure of whether I could do it. I did it because I wanted to try something different, something new that excites me. After that, I started doing quite a few open shows.
There are various formats in stand-up comedy. I think I was basically telling things in a different manner. Till date, I have done over 10 shows across Pune, Mumbai and Delhi of ‘With This Ability’.
I hope to break stereotypes about disabilities. Nobody can tell you what you can or cannot do. Even today, people assume that I need help while crossing the road or climbing the stairs. Society feels that a disabled person cannot even date! It is high time we break all that.
Lack of accessibility is always a pivotal issue that must be addressed. I have 80% mobility and still find most places inaccessible. I am unable to use a public washroom. All this affects my performances too. It is high time our places becomes more accessible and disabled friendly.
Works to empower disabled community
Currently, my performances are around 20 to 25 minutes. In months to come, I hope to increase the time. In fact, I hope to talk for at least an hour. I also want to take my work to corporates to initiate dialogue and inclusion. More disabled people must be given opportunities.
If you don’t step out to break barriers, no one else would. It is our life and we have to face the world strongly. It is important to lead a dignified life. Do not feel guilty about holding public spaces. A disabled person deserves equal rights like everyone else.