It was not going to be an easy conversation. And there were no specific questions I wanted to ask. I just ask her to go ahead and say whatever she felt and only if she was comfortable doing it. And in just a few minutes, I’m praying hard… willing the tears that are threatening to stream down my face to stop. Thankfully, the glasses help… never mind if my vision is clouded because of the lurking tears.
She breaks down somewhere in the middle… and all I want is to reach out and hug her. But she’s not looking for any sympathy… I can see that. The strength is very much there… it’s an emotional moment for it’s not easy telling a stranger about your life with your ‘precious’ child.
I understand. I am a mother myself, but one who until recently, considered spending 30 hours in labour to be the greatest suffering of them all. Till I attended a session of the Special Children’s Group of SAI Group Oman last year and interacted with mothers of children suffering from autistic spectrum disorders for a story I was doing for my magazine. I spent around two hours talking to mothers, the occupational therapists and seeing first-hand the selfless work of the volunteers which translated into complete devotion to the kids.
I left a part of me there… with the SCG family. Over the year, I went about my work till there came an opportunity to work with the family again for a seminar on autism. My effort was miniscule but my learning was huge. I wanted to do something more. But somewhere within, something was stopping me. It was my own selfishness that believed that I would be hurt. But after a conversation with my dear brother, I decided to attend a session. As always, I was welcomed with open arms.
After four interactions with SCG, what do I feel? They gave me their hearts so that I could broaden my mind! Initially, there were feelings of helplessness… and immense sadness. Mostly, it was the crying that was sometimes difficult to bear. But when little N comes and shakes hands and touches my cheeks each time, it’s much more than what 18 years of writing has given me that I thought gave me the greatest joy. When little big boy J holds my hands and claps them together with a huge smile on his face, I thank God for the innocence still left in this world. I thank Him for the unconditional love that only these children can give. For this is what makes them ‘precious’ and not just ‘special’.
I know I’m not a patch on all those wonderful people who are part of the group. I know my work constraints will mean that I cannot be a regular, but I do intend to keep going there whenever I can.
Because it’s the kind of love that makes me feel truly special…
(It’s World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. The Special Children’s Group functioning under the SAI Group Oman comprises a group of experts, therapists, counsellors and volunteers who aim at providing motivational support to parents and involve children in various activities to develop their basic skills.)