Tag: human rights

My Right to Remain Silent: Empowered Speechless

silence

My Right to Remain Silent:
Empowered Speechless
Xahej Bajipura
February 19, 2017

“Are you sick? Did you lose your voice? Are you ignoring me?”
These are some of the typical comments others—concerned—ask me when I don’t speak on Sundays.

Actually, I feel at my best—physically, mentally and spiritually—when I fast from words. It’s the best “diet” I have ever been on!

rumi

For over a year, I have been practicing maun vrat—vow of silence—for the purpose of slowing down and connecting with my true self. Spiritual leaders like Mahatma Gandhi are known to have done this for extended periods of time as well.

mother-teresa-on-do-it-anyway

I started off being silent for one hour, slowly extending the maun for 5-6 hours and now I can go over 24 hours to 48 hours without speaking. That’s not to say I have not had my fair share of expletives. For example, I couldn’t hold back some four-letter words when slightly burning myself from sparks while moving incense during a self-Abhyanga massage 😉

aka Self-Massage using lightly warmed sesame seed oil

aka Self-Massage

Those who know me as fast-talking and chatty are impressed when they see me speechless. While they believe it must take tremendous willpower for me to be silent, in reality, I prefer being silent for the multitude of benefits and ease I feel.

you-can-feel-the-soul-in-silence-mother-teresa

My day begins with a smile as I wake up in gratitude for a happy new breath, without rush or expectations.

weapons-of-mass-distraction

Digitally detoxing from news, social media, YouTube, advertisements (according to marketing research we are exposed to 4,000-10,000 advertisements a day), environmental messaging, phone calls, text, and emails helps center me by forcing me to look inside.

digital-detox

I pre-write a note if necessary so others are aware of my practice.

A note I wrote before attending Diwali festivities

A note I wrote before attending Diwali festivities

Friends, co-workers, family, and those I encounter on the weekend –cashier or juicer at grocery store, strangers, etc. know or come to learn I do not speak Sundays and respect my practice. We laugh together when they too act silent and mime communication. Many are proud of me, give me blessings and say they would love to attempt it themselves.

enjoy-the-silence

However, communication is not always perfect. In some instances, my attempt at sign language is misinterpreted.

One Sunday afternoon, I was carrying my teacher’s rolling cart—so filled I had stopped using the lid soon after I bought it. I planned to take the elevator. As the couple before me entered the small quarters of the elevator, I was going to wait for the next one. Instead, I was invited to get on the same elevator as the couple.

Gentleman: We’ll fit. Join us.
Me: Not having any pre-written notes (or free hands to carry any), I nodded and smiled to be polite.
Gentleman: Which floor? We are going to the fourth.
Me:I flicked up three fingers equating to the third floor.
Gentleman: {Slightly confused and attempting to clarify my response} Which floor?
Me: I went to the buttons and pointed at “3.”
Gentleman: Oh good! For a minute, I thought you were flipping me off in some other language! You put the fingers up and down quickly.
Me: I nodded “no” but despite the shock and embarrassment I couldn’t hold back my laughter

no-phone

I look forward to my weekly practice; it feels good giving myself a break from a hurried life that cries to reach an ever-moving destination. Instead, I savor the steps of my right-on-time journey as I listen to my inner guidance system and accept where I am. The hardest part of silence is breaking the fast because I am most at peace on this day. It can also be tough for those close to me who want me to make exceptions or start talking before I choose to.

calm

I am truly my ideal self on the days I practice silence. My mind is a blank canvas, less fogged up by worries, doubts and fears. I am more focused on what is important to me, including my health, relationships, spirit and service (Show and Heal). My heart is more open and loving. I have clarity and higher self-esteem as I feel better about myself. Over time I have been able to maintain benefits from maun vrat even when I am not silent.

blank-canvas

One of the greatest lessons I have learned is that words are not always necessary and smiles, laughs and body language can be more effective at times. Other times, trying to prove a point does not make a difference or can make situations worse.

Some Benefits I Have Experienced So Far
1. Happier & relaxed
2. Prioritize Prayer & Meditation
3. Better listener (not interrupting anyone speaking!)
4. Take time for Self-Care with Self-Abhyanga Massage

abhyanga

5. More at ease in physical activities & activities throughout the day
6. Consciously breathe, eat, and observe thoughts
7. More forgiving & less judgmental

yoga

8. Conserve energy (a must as a teacher and human rights advocate!)
9. Slow down
10. I love myself more, thus love others more
11. More compassionate to self and others

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12. Have more time in the day (less time on phone/online) to accomplish what needs to get done and rest!
13. Increase Patience
14. Become more Grateful
15. Skill of holding my tongue, filtering thoughts before they come out (not saying everything that pops in my head)

dont-every-mistake-my-silence-2

Indian Kids called “crazy” for being born with developmental delays, special needs

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Racing with the true stars

Racing with the true stars


Racing with the Stars
Special Care Center for Slow Learners
Originally Written on April 7, 2013
(The message is the same and few changes in the school’s website can be found here http://www.universalwelfare.org/)
Xahej Bajipura

“Reality is in our tears and Acting in our laughter.”
The wisdom of Gujarati Poet Kavi Saif applies to the naked truth of the lives of the mentally challenged as quoted on Special Care Centre’s website: http://www.universalwelfare.org/.

On a warm spring mid-afternoon in March 2013, I was graciously welcomed with a contagious cycle of “Namaskars” ​ by 57 giggling, sparkling children at the Special Care Center for Slow Learners also known as Universal Welfare Trust of India in Gujarat, India. Translation of “Namaskar” from Sanskrit to English is “the divine light in me honors and respects the divine light in you.”

For being within a country and part of the world holding one of the highest rates of the inexcusable female infanticide epidemic, Special Care Centre must be widely recognized for the intrinsic value placed on every single living child within its campus borders.

Each child is beautiful, productive, and indispensable in the real world created by Special Care Centre. Equal opportunities in play, in school, and in work are given to each girl and boy child regardless of their family’s income. Not one rupee is accepted from the children’s parents who generally come from low-income households.
Upon their son with Cerebral Palsy expiring at the age of 19, married couple founders Sangita Patel and Kishore Solanki set out on the mission to gain knowledge and resources for children living with Cerebral Palsy and their families.
“Not only one person started the school,” clarified Patel.

On the 25​ th ​ of September in 2005, the birth of Special Care Center welcomed the re-birth of 35 children into a “whole world that is different,” expressed Solanki. “There is no one to call the children crazy,” he upheld with poise. And it is undeniably true.

[Due to lack of knowledge, many families may not understand their children’s special needs and may have trouble accepting them. See footnote below article for more information.]

What is amusing is that Solanki too was once called “crazy” for seeking to open a school that realizes the potential of every child despite his or her normal genetic conditions. Today the home has been enlarged to include a total of 138 girls and boys from the ages of 6 to 23. 80 students live within the Special Care Centre’s borders while 58 students commute ‘up down’ (back and forth from home and school) by bus or personal vehicle. Annually children are surveyed in their homes during March and April. There is an academic staff of 22 adults to take care of the children. The school is all donation and charity run, with no government assistance (unfortunately).

Children from multiple backgrounds and different classifications are chosen: mild, moderate, severe for Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation with speech, vision, and/or physical problems; Paraplegia, Quadriplegia, and Hemiplegia; Microcephaly, a neurological condition also known as “small head” where children especially within families have a lower IQ and smaller head than children of the same age and sex.

It is profound that I found none of the children to be any different than the thousands of children I have been in contact with my whole life. These children were in fact one of the most prosperous, adept, and civilized people I have ever met. What is most significant and telling of the progress made in the Special Care Center is visible through its services provided to the children at a very early stage in their development. Solanki enlightened me that the advantage of children coming in as early as 6 years of age is that they “are 24 hours here [within Special Care Center], so inevitably development is much faster.” In two years, “they become so smart,” added Patel. The following treatments are given beginning at age 6: early intervention, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, multi-sensory environment, music, dance, cultural activities and yoga therapy.

Details of their treatments can be easily accessed on their webpage, http://universalwelfaretrust.org​ . Ages 6 to 9 are placed within pre-primary nursery program; ages 9-12 are in primary; ages 12-15 pre-teenagers are in secondary; ages 15-18 teenagers are in pre-vocational; ages 18-20 young adults are in vocational. The vocations include screen printing, door mat making, tailoring, Diwali candle decoration, paper bag making, and weaving. The profits from the vocations and goods produced by the children go directly into the individual savings bank account set up for the children.

On my visit, I was most taken aback by how incredibly polite, obedient, and responsible I found the children. I was impressed by the fact that I never once heard the word “No,” or witnessed signs of disrespect and displeasure from any child’s mouth/body language. What stands out about the children of Special Care Center is how smart, attuned, and independent every child is. While swinging, the children and I maturely discussed the whole process of screen printing exam papers they print for India’s national and regional schools. The children wake up at 6am and go to sleep at 9pm. Throughout the day, they take care of academic, campus, and personal hygiene duties ranging from attending classes, studying, cooking, sweeping, folding clothes, and grooming themselves and peers who need extra assistance. They receive regular times throughout the day for playing and relaxation.

Furthermore, what is usually taken for granted with children without disabilities is a concerted effort task here, including learning to walk, speak, play cricket, and socializing. That concerted effort in teaching and training makes strides in the children’s worlds. On the school’s grounds, I raced with (and lost to) 4 girls, including 22-years-young Kailash Balvantbhai Halpati (Amalsadi village) who has competed at district, state, and national levels for the 100 meters running. She will now be racing internationally as she will be flying to Australia; 17-years-young Piyush Ganesh Gamit (Valde Khusd village) and 20 years young Pritesh Revabhai Gamit (Bhud Bhunja village) will be competing in swimming and bocce ball tournaments. This is not the first time Special Care Center has produced successful competing all-star athletes. At the 2011 Athens, Greece Special Olympics 15-years-young Nayana Gamit of Katasvan-Vyara District, brought back the Gold in handball sport.

Graduates are earning their own money outside the school doing the following work: television/mobile phone repair; metal welding; screen printing paper; and sari painting as in the success story of one graduate, Pragnesh Prajapati, in particular.

Special Care Centre proves perfectly that children with guidance, love, and support are capable of unpredictable high achievement. This school brings awareness to the untapped athletic, academic, and professional potential in each and every child. Their philosophy and training illustrates how no one, not even the child, may know what the future has planted for them; a nurturing and relaxed environment is what can help each child discover his or her talents and improve the quality of life for the child and family. Thank you Special Care Center for caring for our children who are not only our future, they are indispensable in our present. For more information please visit ​ http://www.universalwelfare.org/.

**** Footnote on the stigma of disability in Indian culture****

http://cirrie.buffalo.edu/culture/monographs/india.php#si2

excerpt from:

Working with People with Disabilities: An Indian Perspective

Priya E. Pinto, M.S., M.S.W.
and
Nupur Sahur

Copyright © 2001

“In some villages, people with disabilities are shunned, abused, or abandoned at birth, since parents are ashamed of their disabled child, cannot envision a viable future for the child, and fear social isolation themselves. This may be due to the religious beliefs that may attribute the cause of disabilities as punishment for past deeds. Thus, disabilities are hidden from the public whenever possible. Also, in cities environmental barriers are so severe (few sidewalks, pedestrian traffic signals, curb cuts, or ramps) that most people with disabilities are simply not able to go out in public (Paterson, Boyce & Jamieson, 1999).”

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