Disability is Possibility

A beyond the World Experience



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by Isuri Kaviratne


We believe that there are certain activities the disabled aren’t capable of doing; regardless it’s mental disability or physical disability. Headstand, I’m sure, if you are asked to consider, would fall into this category. So-would backspin, while dancing. That’s where you and I went wrong.


Sunera Foundation’s annual drama festival ‘Samanalayaya’ was staged on July 16th, scattering away everything you and I believed the disabled are capable of.


If you are sensitive to the issue of the disabled, you may question my use of language since we in Sri Lanka prefer the term differently-abled to refer to the disabled. I say no. They are disabled and I do not mean it in a derogatory way. Disability is a fact. Whoever was there at Lionel Wendt on July 16th would know that disability is also possibility.


There’s strength in, acknowledging their condition, accepting it and leaving it be, without marginalizing them. For instance, there was a drama called "City Life" where a gamarala (a villageman) with his wife, visits the city for the first time. Being a comedy, the drama succeeded in keeping the audience bursting with laughter throughout the performance. But the important feature in the drama is that a main character, the wife of the villageman, was having voice impairment and was incapable of making legible sound. The marvel of Sunera trainers is that she was given a main role and dialogues too, though incomprehensible when she speaks. The remedy taken was that by the dialogues of other characters, the audience could understand what she might have said or meant. And if she had taken part in National Drama Competition... I’m 100% positive that she would have won an award for her acting skills since it was beyond this world. Simply put, excellent performance.


That’s why I would not insult her by calling her differently-abled. She is disabled. But her abilities are way better than what you and I could ever hope to achieve.


It’s beyond my understanding how the trainers managed to produce a drama that had no dialogues but managed to capture the attention of the audience for twenty minutes. The drama was about a group of veddah (indigenous) people going hunting. They set a trap and two deer get caught. The rest of the deer attempt to rescue them and finally succeed with the help of one Veddah who was later punished for his actions. He was left along tied to a tree and the same herd of deer he saved, come to his rescue too. "One Good Turn Leads to Another" managed to get the empathy of the audience, who gasped when the two deer got captured and who sighed a sigh of relief when they were saved. Later I got to know that the trainer himself is disabled. Being deaf and dumb, he was unable to direct a drama with dialogues, therefore, he produced one without dialogues and succeeded in his attempt.


The drama "Raigamaya and Gampolaya" reminded the audience. of the old folk tales they listened to as kids. It should be commended how the actors were used for multiple characters throughout the drama, from pipelines to cows to people. The dialogues and actions of the actors truly captured the essence of the rural village in Sri Lanka.


There were two dances too, at the drama festival. A girl in a beautiful red costume danced to her hearts contentment to a famous Sinhala movie song. A sight to embrace and a memory to carry with you to ponder upon in a pensive moment. She forgot her disability and she made us too, forget her disability. She proved she was talented and worthy of applause.


The second dance was for the famous song, Gangnam Style. The moves I referred to in my first paragraph, happened at this dance. The dance movements were quite advanced and included headstand and backspin. Man, they did it well. No one could tell that all the members of this dancing team are having either autism or down syndrome. I’m positive none of the people in the audience that night could perform either of the two moves. And why should we call them differently-abled when they are more abled than us.


I understand the reality that all of the disabled can’t perform like that. But it’s unfair to marginalize them without letting them have a chance to show us what they are capable of. The society should be more welcoming, more understanding of their disabilities and adjust to suit their requirements, the same way we adjust to suit the requirements of, say, politicians.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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