(Acceptance and Inclusion- 3 )

(Acceptance and Inclusion- 3 )- by Jaya Sudhakar and Siddhanth Palaparti

Growing up in Mumbai, ‘the melting point of cultures’, Siddhanth was naturally exposed to varied languages, religions, customs and traditions both in our neighbourhood and in his school, therapy centres and sports club. The rich Indian tradition of celebrating festivals contributed immensely to enhancing his social skills and giving him a happy childhood.

Siddhanth was a part of all our building festivities and celebrations along with his friends, be it Holi, Satyanarayan Pooja or the New Year Celebrations. Holi was marked by worshipping the Holika Dahan in the adjoining areas and celebrating with a riot of colours the next day. Right from 8 am in the morning, Siddhanth’s bunch of friends would come to call him. The pichkaris, colours and balloons would always excite the kids. Later on it became a tradition in the building to celebrate the entire day of Holi. Breakfast, lunch and dinner orders were given to caterers. They would be elaborate buffet meals in the courtyard on the ground floor. As all the residents would gather down for breakfast, it used to be lovely to see the glowing faces of many of the senior citizens whose movements were otherwise restrained. They would wholeheartedly bless the children in their warm affectionate ways. Many grownups would join the kids in the fun and frolic with colours and water, indulging the child in them. The evening celebrations would be the best with games like musical chairs, Housie and dumb charades.

Similarly, the annual Satyanarayan Pooja also provided a lovely opportunity for Siddhanth to bond with our neighbours. We would go down and sit for the Pooja and watch with gratitude as Siddhanth’s sitting tolerance increased with advancing age. He loved wearing traditional clothes, listening to the sacred chants and the community dinner that followed. In his teenage years, the dinner gathering in the courtyard of both the Holi festival and the Satyanarayan Pooja provided opportunities for him to regale his audience with Hindi film songs which he played on his Casio. He would enjoy belting out one favourite song after another as the evening progressed.

As these were regular annual celebrations, we observed that over the years, Siddhanth became better accustomed to the social norms and looked forward to them. We did keep in mind his limited attention span in his early years and his sensory challenges. His comfort was of utmost importance to us. We kept gradually increasing the time duration of his participation and we ensured that his skin was well moisturized with coconut oil before playing with colours during Holi festival. We understood and respected his feelings whenever he had reservations about stretching his palm to receive prasad which was sticky in nature.

This blog cannot end without recounting one Holi incident when Siddhanth was in his late teens. It amused my husband and me when Siddhanth asked his father with a big smile if he could borrow the latter’s old T – shirt for playing with colours. We weren’t surprised, Siddhanth’s love for clothes is legendary in our family circles – it was the manner in which he asked for it – very sweetly to circumvent messing any of his own T-shirts, that truly melted our hearts.

Author Jaya Sudhakar

Jaya Sudhakar has done her Masters in Physics and was employed as an Asst.Manager in a PSU. Her son’s diagnosis urged her to seek voluntary retirement from service . She is actively involved with Forum for Autism, Nayi Disha and The Spectrum Autism. Friends,tending to plants, reading, writing, music, movies, travelling and a little bit of spirituality are her perennial energy boosters.

Typing of story in Word and Creative graphics done by CreativeSaathi Siddhanth Palaparti, Jaya’s son

Siddhanth is a budding graphic designer, coder and music lover. He has graduated in computer applications and completed several certificate courses. His work trajectory includes internships, freelancing and voluntary work for social causes. He derives immense happiness from remembering birthdays and wishing everyone for it. Swimming, travelling and playing music on the keyboard are his other passions.

2 replies on “SOCIAL SKILLS
(Acceptance and Inclusion- 3 )”

So relate to the building n strong society culture in Mumbai buildings.we were in Mumbai for the first 4 years of my daugthers childhood…n yes we have some lovely memories. 😍

Couldn’t agree more Gouri. We live in Hyderabad now & faced the lockdown within a few months of our moving in. So you can imagine how it must’ve been. Slowly & steadily we have found our way around here and are building memories …. yet Mumbai will always be Mumbai holding that special place in our heart.

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