Parvathy Gopakumar

@parvathygk98 | contributor
I'm an upper limb amputee doing my graduation in Law.

Rebuilding Self-Esteem After a Limb Amputation

As a 12-year-old, I once went on a fun outing. Nobody expects one of those to turn out the way it did for me. Without me even realizing what was happening, my world changed. I woke up, days later, to the grim news that a bus had run over my right hand, which had to be amputated below the elbow. I was rather quick to cope with the change; worries an older person would have had, like what opportunities I might miss, or how I’d “manage” my life, or whether someone would want to marry me didn’t cross my mind at all. I felt the discomfort that accompanies starting a new life, but I wasn’t sad. Everyone around me told me that it was going to be OK and I believed them with all my heart. My loved ones kept me occupied with some activity or another while I was in the hospital, and I liked receiving their undivided attention. After a month or so, I went back to school just to see everyone, and I was warmly welcomed. Everyone stuffed chocolate in my mouth, kissed me and patted my remaining arm. It was wonderful to be back. I was so overwhelmed by the love I was receiving that I could barely wait to attend regular classes again. But I could only do so when my residual limb healed. On my first day back, during break, my friends sat me down and were updating me about the stuff that I had missed — who had a crush on whom, which classmates were fighting with each other. The conversation somehow reached the topic of what their families thought about my amputation. “So, my father was telling my mother how it would’ve been better if Paru just died rather than go through all of this,” my friend said. “You know what? My parents were saying the same. My mother was saying that death would’ve been better than living as a woman with one hand,” said another friend. My body grew numb as I sat there petrified, knowing that everyone had somehow come to a consensus that death was the better option to living with one hand. I didn’t listen to a single word that was taught in class that day. Suddenly, my life felt grim and I felt cheated by everyone who had told me I would be fine. I wondered what else they hadn’t told me and was scared of finding out. If adults were of the opinion that my life was going to be worse than death, then it must be true, I thought. I wondered whether my family felt the same way. I couldn’t tell anyone what was going through my mind. I was afraid of others realizing how broken I felt inside. Asking for help didn’t seem like an option, as it meant giving people access to my thoughts, which I didn’t want to share with anyone. So I came up with the idea that I would fake it till I make it. Since I was the brand new disabled person in town, I was suddenly getting a lot of attention. Wherever I went, people used to point at my hand and talk in hushed tones. Some had the courage to come up and talk to me about my “condition,” some couldn’t contain their amusement at the sight of a child amputee and, on top of that, some would speculate about the body part I had just lost. Everyone had some advice or the other for making my life easy, none of which helped me at all. In fact, all of them left me feeling more confused than ever. I remember being bombarded with motivational videos from all sides. “That video I sent to you last week? Did you see that woman doing all the household chores with one hand? Told you, all is well,” or “X person’s relative Y doesn’t have a hand but she still manages to drape a saree beautifully, you have nothing to worry about.” As if I wanted to drain my energy and mental peace worrying whether I’d be able to be the ideal bharatiya naari with only one hand. I started to make others feel bad about themselves, and I spent a considerable amount of time discussing other people’s lives. It gave me some sort of schadenfreude to know that other people were also going through hard times. I yearned for attention so I could show them how cool I was. I even used to make sexist, racist and homophobic comments, thinking a mean girl image would be better than a sad disabled one. There have been times when I wanted to hug someone and cry out loud, but I chose to fake-laugh and discuss boys instead. I couldn’t let the people around me know of the emotional trauma I was going through, as I was afraid that I would attract more pity than I was already getting. Whenever I did try to make people understand that everything was not as all right with me as I pretended it to be, they either didn’t know what to do with me or they dismissed it saying I was just another attention seeker. The pressure I took upon myself was having a very bad effect on my mental health and happiness. I thought I would make my parents upset if I shared it with them, so I refrained from doing so. I was all alone in this. One incident that I specifically remember is when I was in the ninth standard. I was in queue to give some biometric information. When my turn came, there was a lot of confusion regarding the procedure to be followed when a person can’t give the biometric impression of one hand at all. I was asked to remove my prosthesis and pose for a photo keeping both my hands in a weird way, so my left hand and my stump could be seen in the picture. My tears were literally choking me as I had to do this in front of a packed room. My eyes were wet but I kept laughing at the silly jokes I cracked myself. I remember crying in a bathroom with the tap open that day. It was only much later that I realized it was completely OK to feel sad at times and to seek help from others. Gradually, I tried to detach myself from the toxic things I was doing in my life. After years of constantly denying who I was and trying to fit in with the rest of the world, embracing my true self wasn’t easy at all. It was harder than figuring out how to cut the fingernails on my remaining hand by myself and much harder than learning to tie my shoelaces. In my initial years of being a disabled person, all I wanted was to prove I wasn’t one. Seeing my reflection in the mirror without my prosthetic hand used to make me very uncomfortable, and I would avoid full-size mirrors because it would show the reality I was struggling to accept. The sight of my bare stump used to send chills down my spine and I ended up wearing full-sleeve clothes all the time. I had a hard time accepting my new body, but expected others to do so, and got disappointed if they couldn’t. I wish I had been able to let others know what I was going through. I wish I had been confident enough to tell my mathematics teacher I couldn’t do geometrical constructions using a ruler and a pencil together, rather than sitting there silently, watching others do it. I wish I had been strong enough to ask for help rather than struggling all by myself. But things have been different ever since I realized my mental health is important. I could proudly take off my prosthetic arm and show my stump to the judge in a jam-packed Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal court this year without feeling bad about myself or cursing my destiny. I no longer compromise on my peace of mind so that others can have a certain perception of me.I have given up on making conscious efforts to prove how chill I am about living with an amputation. Instead, I have taught myself to love that part of myself as well. The hollow part of my prosthetic arm is where I hoard chocolate at times, and I love applying nail polish on the silicone fingernails these days, because why not? It took me almost six years to accept my disability as a part of who I am, and it no longer overpowers my personality. If there is one thing this experience has taught me, it is that it is vital to recognize that people with disabilities often have to deal with immense mental health difficulties as well, and we must make this a priority.

Community Voices

Sexuality and Disability #LimbAmputation  #Sexuality

www.youtube.com/watch

I did this Tedx talk, last February. I would like to know what you guys think about this. Might be hard to understand my accent but I would really appreciate if you watch it.

Dating as a Woman With a Disability in India

I was in high school when a guy first told me that he liked me. Don’t get any ideas, people. It didn’t feel good. My right hand had been amputated following an accident the year before. The guy and I had been chatting on Facebook, and I saw something of this sort coming, but I didn’t expect him to put it the way he did. His exact words were, “I know there are a lot of good girls, but I like you.” That’s when it struck me hard that I was not like other girls, because I was an amputee with a prosthetic hand. It seemed to me that all my attempts to fit in with my abled friends, in the “normal” world, were futile. Thanks to this guy, I felt like I was inferior to other people for the first time in my life. I started putting my prosthetic hand under my desk in class so other boys couldn’t see it easily. Although my 13-year-old self did a good job of pretending not to care, the incident left me feeling scarred. Two years later, I was in love for the first time. The boy I was in love with was a good friend of mine, and the vibes I got from him were different from the vibes I got from other boys. He made me feel good about myself, but we never talked about my disability. Neither of us were comfortable talking about it. I told a good friend of mine that he liked me and I liked him too. She was happy for me, but ended up spoiling the moment by saying, “Oh, he must be such a great guy to like someone like you.” That hurt. A lot. While I looked at her in disbelief, she continued, “Look at you. You don’t have your right hand, but he still likes you. I think you guys are going to be great together, Paru.” Her comments made my inferiority complex soar and my self-esteem hit rock bottom. “I am not lovable, and this dating thing won’t work for me,” I thought. So I let go of my first love. I figured maybe I should channel my libido into doing other productive stuff and I ended up concentrating on everything else but dating. I remember right after the film “Bangalore Days” was released, a year after the incident with my friend, so many “broad-minded,” “kind-hearted” fellows asked me out. (The lead character in the film falls for a radio jockey called Sarah, who is disabled.) Was it because of the similarities between me and the character of Sarah? We were both disabled, had short curly hair and wore spectacles. Almost all the boys who asked me out then did bring up the fact that she and I were strikingly similar in some ways. Anyway, I didn’t even consider accepting any of these people because it took them a film to realize I could be loved. As usual, I moved on. Everything was fine, but then last year, I overheard two of my aunts talking. “Paru is 18 now. She will get married in 10 years, but only someone with an extremely large heart can love her.” Although I was kind of glad these ladies were kind enough to give me a 10-year deadline, I realized nothing could change the reality that I would always be seen predominantly as a person with a disability. Nothing. Not even the fact that I am a pretty good quizzer or that I scored well at the entrance examinations I wrote, or that I am studying at India’s best known law college. If the fact that I am an independent, strong woman doesn’t help my case, I don’t know what will. People compliment me on my wit, my sense of humor, my “cute” face and even my sense of style. But when it comes to dating, my most dominant feature seems to be my prosthetic hand. I’ve faced quite a lot of sexual violence — creepy guys staring at me, people groping me, and stalkers. But violence has nothing to do with love. And when it comes to love, romance and dating, I am only faced with its absence. What I get instead is sympathy. On the off chance someone does like me for who I am, my messed up self-esteem and sense of inferiority find their way through, and boom! I am back to square one. I love and trust myself so much, but when it comes to dating, I tell myself it is not for me, because I believe that eventually, the guy will screw everything up by showing me unnecessary sympathy, or some random person will poke their nose into my business by saying he is the Mahatma of the century because he’s dating me. Nonsense! It’s high time we stop looking at people through this lens of unnecessary sympathy. People with disabilities don’t need anyone to sacrifice their lives for us. As for me, I don’t want to be single forever, but I’m not in a hurry, either. Things will happen when they have to. I am sure everything will fall into place for me one day, but either way, I will thank you to keep your valuable comments and suggestions to yourself, dear society. I’m good without them. Peace.

Dating as a Woman With a Disability in India

I was in high school when a guy first told me that he liked me. Don’t get any ideas, people. It didn’t feel good. My right hand had been amputated following an accident the year before. The guy and I had been chatting on Facebook, and I saw something of this sort coming, but I didn’t expect him to put it the way he did. His exact words were, “I know there are a lot of good girls, but I like you.” That’s when it struck me hard that I was not like other girls, because I was an amputee with a prosthetic hand. It seemed to me that all my attempts to fit in with my abled friends, in the “normal” world, were futile. Thanks to this guy, I felt like I was inferior to other people for the first time in my life. I started putting my prosthetic hand under my desk in class so other boys couldn’t see it easily. Although my 13-year-old self did a good job of pretending not to care, the incident left me feeling scarred. Two years later, I was in love for the first time. The boy I was in love with was a good friend of mine, and the vibes I got from him were different from the vibes I got from other boys. He made me feel good about myself, but we never talked about my disability. Neither of us were comfortable talking about it. I told a good friend of mine that he liked me and I liked him too. She was happy for me, but ended up spoiling the moment by saying, “Oh, he must be such a great guy to like someone like you.” That hurt. A lot. While I looked at her in disbelief, she continued, “Look at you. You don’t have your right hand, but he still likes you. I think you guys are going to be great together, Paru.” Her comments made my inferiority complex soar and my self-esteem hit rock bottom. “I am not lovable, and this dating thing won’t work for me,” I thought. So I let go of my first love. I figured maybe I should channel my libido into doing other productive stuff and I ended up concentrating on everything else but dating. I remember right after the film “Bangalore Days” was released, a year after the incident with my friend, so many “broad-minded,” “kind-hearted” fellows asked me out. (The lead character in the film falls for a radio jockey called Sarah, who is disabled.) Was it because of the similarities between me and the character of Sarah? We were both disabled, had short curly hair and wore spectacles. Almost all the boys who asked me out then did bring up the fact that she and I were strikingly similar in some ways. Anyway, I didn’t even consider accepting any of these people because it took them a film to realize I could be loved. As usual, I moved on. Everything was fine, but then last year, I overheard two of my aunts talking. “Paru is 18 now. She will get married in 10 years, but only someone with an extremely large heart can love her.” Although I was kind of glad these ladies were kind enough to give me a 10-year deadline, I realized nothing could change the reality that I would always be seen predominantly as a person with a disability. Nothing. Not even the fact that I am a pretty good quizzer or that I scored well at the entrance examinations I wrote, or that I am studying at India’s best known law college. If the fact that I am an independent, strong woman doesn’t help my case, I don’t know what will. People compliment me on my wit, my sense of humor, my “cute” face and even my sense of style. But when it comes to dating, my most dominant feature seems to be my prosthetic hand. I’ve faced quite a lot of sexual violence — creepy guys staring at me, people groping me, and stalkers. But violence has nothing to do with love. And when it comes to love, romance and dating, I am only faced with its absence. What I get instead is sympathy. On the off chance someone does like me for who I am, my messed up self-esteem and sense of inferiority find their way through, and boom! I am back to square one. I love and trust myself so much, but when it comes to dating, I tell myself it is not for me, because I believe that eventually, the guy will screw everything up by showing me unnecessary sympathy, or some random person will poke their nose into my business by saying he is the Mahatma of the century because he’s dating me. Nonsense! It’s high time we stop looking at people through this lens of unnecessary sympathy. People with disabilities don’t need anyone to sacrifice their lives for us. As for me, I don’t want to be single forever, but I’m not in a hurry, either. Things will happen when they have to. I am sure everything will fall into place for me one day, but either way, I will thank you to keep your valuable comments and suggestions to yourself, dear society. I’m good without them. Peace.

Dating as a Woman With a Disability in India

I was in high school when a guy first told me that he liked me. Don’t get any ideas, people. It didn’t feel good. My right hand had been amputated following an accident the year before. The guy and I had been chatting on Facebook, and I saw something of this sort coming, but I didn’t expect him to put it the way he did. His exact words were, “I know there are a lot of good girls, but I like you.” That’s when it struck me hard that I was not like other girls, because I was an amputee with a prosthetic hand. It seemed to me that all my attempts to fit in with my abled friends, in the “normal” world, were futile. Thanks to this guy, I felt like I was inferior to other people for the first time in my life. I started putting my prosthetic hand under my desk in class so other boys couldn’t see it easily. Although my 13-year-old self did a good job of pretending not to care, the incident left me feeling scarred. Two years later, I was in love for the first time. The boy I was in love with was a good friend of mine, and the vibes I got from him were different from the vibes I got from other boys. He made me feel good about myself, but we never talked about my disability. Neither of us were comfortable talking about it. I told a good friend of mine that he liked me and I liked him too. She was happy for me, but ended up spoiling the moment by saying, “Oh, he must be such a great guy to like someone like you.” That hurt. A lot. While I looked at her in disbelief, she continued, “Look at you. You don’t have your right hand, but he still likes you. I think you guys are going to be great together, Paru.” Her comments made my inferiority complex soar and my self-esteem hit rock bottom. “I am not lovable, and this dating thing won’t work for me,” I thought. So I let go of my first love. I figured maybe I should channel my libido into doing other productive stuff and I ended up concentrating on everything else but dating. I remember right after the film “Bangalore Days” was released, a year after the incident with my friend, so many “broad-minded,” “kind-hearted” fellows asked me out. (The lead character in the film falls for a radio jockey called Sarah, who is disabled.) Was it because of the similarities between me and the character of Sarah? We were both disabled, had short curly hair and wore spectacles. Almost all the boys who asked me out then did bring up the fact that she and I were strikingly similar in some ways. Anyway, I didn’t even consider accepting any of these people because it took them a film to realize I could be loved. As usual, I moved on. Everything was fine, but then last year, I overheard two of my aunts talking. “Paru is 18 now. She will get married in 10 years, but only someone with an extremely large heart can love her.” Although I was kind of glad these ladies were kind enough to give me a 10-year deadline, I realized nothing could change the reality that I would always be seen predominantly as a person with a disability. Nothing. Not even the fact that I am a pretty good quizzer or that I scored well at the entrance examinations I wrote, or that I am studying at India’s best known law college. If the fact that I am an independent, strong woman doesn’t help my case, I don’t know what will. People compliment me on my wit, my sense of humor, my “cute” face and even my sense of style. But when it comes to dating, my most dominant feature seems to be my prosthetic hand. I’ve faced quite a lot of sexual violence — creepy guys staring at me, people groping me, and stalkers. But violence has nothing to do with love. And when it comes to love, romance and dating, I am only faced with its absence. What I get instead is sympathy. On the off chance someone does like me for who I am, my messed up self-esteem and sense of inferiority find their way through, and boom! I am back to square one. I love and trust myself so much, but when it comes to dating, I tell myself it is not for me, because I believe that eventually, the guy will screw everything up by showing me unnecessary sympathy, or some random person will poke their nose into my business by saying he is the Mahatma of the century because he’s dating me. Nonsense! It’s high time we stop looking at people through this lens of unnecessary sympathy. People with disabilities don’t need anyone to sacrifice their lives for us. As for me, I don’t want to be single forever, but I’m not in a hurry, either. Things will happen when they have to. I am sure everything will fall into place for me one day, but either way, I will thank you to keep your valuable comments and suggestions to yourself, dear society. I’m good without them. Peace.

Dating as a Woman With a Disability in India

I was in high school when a guy first told me that he liked me. Don’t get any ideas, people. It didn’t feel good. My right hand had been amputated following an accident the year before. The guy and I had been chatting on Facebook, and I saw something of this sort coming, but I didn’t expect him to put it the way he did. His exact words were, “I know there are a lot of good girls, but I like you.” That’s when it struck me hard that I was not like other girls, because I was an amputee with a prosthetic hand. It seemed to me that all my attempts to fit in with my abled friends, in the “normal” world, were futile. Thanks to this guy, I felt like I was inferior to other people for the first time in my life. I started putting my prosthetic hand under my desk in class so other boys couldn’t see it easily. Although my 13-year-old self did a good job of pretending not to care, the incident left me feeling scarred. Two years later, I was in love for the first time. The boy I was in love with was a good friend of mine, and the vibes I got from him were different from the vibes I got from other boys. He made me feel good about myself, but we never talked about my disability. Neither of us were comfortable talking about it. I told a good friend of mine that he liked me and I liked him too. She was happy for me, but ended up spoiling the moment by saying, “Oh, he must be such a great guy to like someone like you.” That hurt. A lot. While I looked at her in disbelief, she continued, “Look at you. You don’t have your right hand, but he still likes you. I think you guys are going to be great together, Paru.” Her comments made my inferiority complex soar and my self-esteem hit rock bottom. “I am not lovable, and this dating thing won’t work for me,” I thought. So I let go of my first love. I figured maybe I should channel my libido into doing other productive stuff and I ended up concentrating on everything else but dating. I remember right after the film “Bangalore Days” was released, a year after the incident with my friend, so many “broad-minded,” “kind-hearted” fellows asked me out. (The lead character in the film falls for a radio jockey called Sarah, who is disabled.) Was it because of the similarities between me and the character of Sarah? We were both disabled, had short curly hair and wore spectacles. Almost all the boys who asked me out then did bring up the fact that she and I were strikingly similar in some ways. Anyway, I didn’t even consider accepting any of these people because it took them a film to realize I could be loved. As usual, I moved on. Everything was fine, but then last year, I overheard two of my aunts talking. “Paru is 18 now. She will get married in 10 years, but only someone with an extremely large heart can love her.” Although I was kind of glad these ladies were kind enough to give me a 10-year deadline, I realized nothing could change the reality that I would always be seen predominantly as a person with a disability. Nothing. Not even the fact that I am a pretty good quizzer or that I scored well at the entrance examinations I wrote, or that I am studying at India’s best known law college. If the fact that I am an independent, strong woman doesn’t help my case, I don’t know what will. People compliment me on my wit, my sense of humor, my “cute” face and even my sense of style. But when it comes to dating, my most dominant feature seems to be my prosthetic hand. I’ve faced quite a lot of sexual violence — creepy guys staring at me, people groping me, and stalkers. But violence has nothing to do with love. And when it comes to love, romance and dating, I am only faced with its absence. What I get instead is sympathy. On the off chance someone does like me for who I am, my messed up self-esteem and sense of inferiority find their way through, and boom! I am back to square one. I love and trust myself so much, but when it comes to dating, I tell myself it is not for me, because I believe that eventually, the guy will screw everything up by showing me unnecessary sympathy, or some random person will poke their nose into my business by saying he is the Mahatma of the century because he’s dating me. Nonsense! It’s high time we stop looking at people through this lens of unnecessary sympathy. People with disabilities don’t need anyone to sacrifice their lives for us. As for me, I don’t want to be single forever, but I’m not in a hurry, either. Things will happen when they have to. I am sure everything will fall into place for me one day, but either way, I will thank you to keep your valuable comments and suggestions to yourself, dear society. I’m good without them. Peace.

Dating as a Woman With a Disability in India

I was in high school when a guy first told me that he liked me. Don’t get any ideas, people. It didn’t feel good. My right hand had been amputated following an accident the year before. The guy and I had been chatting on Facebook, and I saw something of this sort coming, but I didn’t expect him to put it the way he did. His exact words were, “I know there are a lot of good girls, but I like you.” That’s when it struck me hard that I was not like other girls, because I was an amputee with a prosthetic hand. It seemed to me that all my attempts to fit in with my abled friends, in the “normal” world, were futile. Thanks to this guy, I felt like I was inferior to other people for the first time in my life. I started putting my prosthetic hand under my desk in class so other boys couldn’t see it easily. Although my 13-year-old self did a good job of pretending not to care, the incident left me feeling scarred. Two years later, I was in love for the first time. The boy I was in love with was a good friend of mine, and the vibes I got from him were different from the vibes I got from other boys. He made me feel good about myself, but we never talked about my disability. Neither of us were comfortable talking about it. I told a good friend of mine that he liked me and I liked him too. She was happy for me, but ended up spoiling the moment by saying, “Oh, he must be such a great guy to like someone like you.” That hurt. A lot. While I looked at her in disbelief, she continued, “Look at you. You don’t have your right hand, but he still likes you. I think you guys are going to be great together, Paru.” Her comments made my inferiority complex soar and my self-esteem hit rock bottom. “I am not lovable, and this dating thing won’t work for me,” I thought. So I let go of my first love. I figured maybe I should channel my libido into doing other productive stuff and I ended up concentrating on everything else but dating. I remember right after the film “Bangalore Days” was released, a year after the incident with my friend, so many “broad-minded,” “kind-hearted” fellows asked me out. (The lead character in the film falls for a radio jockey called Sarah, who is disabled.) Was it because of the similarities between me and the character of Sarah? We were both disabled, had short curly hair and wore spectacles. Almost all the boys who asked me out then did bring up the fact that she and I were strikingly similar in some ways. Anyway, I didn’t even consider accepting any of these people because it took them a film to realize I could be loved. As usual, I moved on. Everything was fine, but then last year, I overheard two of my aunts talking. “Paru is 18 now. She will get married in 10 years, but only someone with an extremely large heart can love her.” Although I was kind of glad these ladies were kind enough to give me a 10-year deadline, I realized nothing could change the reality that I would always be seen predominantly as a person with a disability. Nothing. Not even the fact that I am a pretty good quizzer or that I scored well at the entrance examinations I wrote, or that I am studying at India’s best known law college. If the fact that I am an independent, strong woman doesn’t help my case, I don’t know what will. People compliment me on my wit, my sense of humor, my “cute” face and even my sense of style. But when it comes to dating, my most dominant feature seems to be my prosthetic hand. I’ve faced quite a lot of sexual violence — creepy guys staring at me, people groping me, and stalkers. But violence has nothing to do with love. And when it comes to love, romance and dating, I am only faced with its absence. What I get instead is sympathy. On the off chance someone does like me for who I am, my messed up self-esteem and sense of inferiority find their way through, and boom! I am back to square one. I love and trust myself so much, but when it comes to dating, I tell myself it is not for me, because I believe that eventually, the guy will screw everything up by showing me unnecessary sympathy, or some random person will poke their nose into my business by saying he is the Mahatma of the century because he’s dating me. Nonsense! It’s high time we stop looking at people through this lens of unnecessary sympathy. People with disabilities don’t need anyone to sacrifice their lives for us. As for me, I don’t want to be single forever, but I’m not in a hurry, either. Things will happen when they have to. I am sure everything will fall into place for me one day, but either way, I will thank you to keep your valuable comments and suggestions to yourself, dear society. I’m good without them. Peace.

Dating as a Woman With a Disability in India

I was in high school when a guy first told me that he liked me. Don’t get any ideas, people. It didn’t feel good. My right hand had been amputated following an accident the year before. The guy and I had been chatting on Facebook, and I saw something of this sort coming, but I didn’t expect him to put it the way he did. His exact words were, “I know there are a lot of good girls, but I like you.” That’s when it struck me hard that I was not like other girls, because I was an amputee with a prosthetic hand. It seemed to me that all my attempts to fit in with my abled friends, in the “normal” world, were futile. Thanks to this guy, I felt like I was inferior to other people for the first time in my life. I started putting my prosthetic hand under my desk in class so other boys couldn’t see it easily. Although my 13-year-old self did a good job of pretending not to care, the incident left me feeling scarred. Two years later, I was in love for the first time. The boy I was in love with was a good friend of mine, and the vibes I got from him were different from the vibes I got from other boys. He made me feel good about myself, but we never talked about my disability. Neither of us were comfortable talking about it. I told a good friend of mine that he liked me and I liked him too. She was happy for me, but ended up spoiling the moment by saying, “Oh, he must be such a great guy to like someone like you.” That hurt. A lot. While I looked at her in disbelief, she continued, “Look at you. You don’t have your right hand, but he still likes you. I think you guys are going to be great together, Paru.” Her comments made my inferiority complex soar and my self-esteem hit rock bottom. “I am not lovable, and this dating thing won’t work for me,” I thought. So I let go of my first love. I figured maybe I should channel my libido into doing other productive stuff and I ended up concentrating on everything else but dating. I remember right after the film “Bangalore Days” was released, a year after the incident with my friend, so many “broad-minded,” “kind-hearted” fellows asked me out. (The lead character in the film falls for a radio jockey called Sarah, who is disabled.) Was it because of the similarities between me and the character of Sarah? We were both disabled, had short curly hair and wore spectacles. Almost all the boys who asked me out then did bring up the fact that she and I were strikingly similar in some ways. Anyway, I didn’t even consider accepting any of these people because it took them a film to realize I could be loved. As usual, I moved on. Everything was fine, but then last year, I overheard two of my aunts talking. “Paru is 18 now. She will get married in 10 years, but only someone with an extremely large heart can love her.” Although I was kind of glad these ladies were kind enough to give me a 10-year deadline, I realized nothing could change the reality that I would always be seen predominantly as a person with a disability. Nothing. Not even the fact that I am a pretty good quizzer or that I scored well at the entrance examinations I wrote, or that I am studying at India’s best known law college. If the fact that I am an independent, strong woman doesn’t help my case, I don’t know what will. People compliment me on my wit, my sense of humor, my “cute” face and even my sense of style. But when it comes to dating, my most dominant feature seems to be my prosthetic hand. I’ve faced quite a lot of sexual violence — creepy guys staring at me, people groping me, and stalkers. But violence has nothing to do with love. And when it comes to love, romance and dating, I am only faced with its absence. What I get instead is sympathy. On the off chance someone does like me for who I am, my messed up self-esteem and sense of inferiority find their way through, and boom! I am back to square one. I love and trust myself so much, but when it comes to dating, I tell myself it is not for me, because I believe that eventually, the guy will screw everything up by showing me unnecessary sympathy, or some random person will poke their nose into my business by saying he is the Mahatma of the century because he’s dating me. Nonsense! It’s high time we stop looking at people through this lens of unnecessary sympathy. People with disabilities don’t need anyone to sacrifice their lives for us. As for me, I don’t want to be single forever, but I’m not in a hurry, either. Things will happen when they have to. I am sure everything will fall into place for me one day, but either way, I will thank you to keep your valuable comments and suggestions to yourself, dear society. I’m good without them. Peace.