SOCIAL SKILLS (Acceptance and Inclusion- 4 )

(Acceptance and Inclusion- 4 ) by Jaya Sudhakar and Siddhanth Palaparti

The rains bring fond memories of Mumbai, rains and Mumbai are inseparable. Even as the southwest monsoon leaves its magic over the island city year after year, every Mumbaikar or even a visitor has countless observations and multiple stories to tell about the ‘rain experiences’. Over the years, Siddhanth has thoroughly enjoyed the Mumbai monsoon in all its glory – from stretching out his hand to feel the first rains of the season, looking forward to going to school wearing a raincoat, sailing paper boats in the puddles of rainwater, to relishing hot ‘butta’ or freshly roasted cob (with a dash of lemon dipped in salt and spices) procured from street vendors. As he grew older, he used to have anxious moments too when dark clouds and impending rain delayed the possibility of going outdoors.

The peak of the rainy season – the months between July and September- brought with it numerous festivals and the joy associated with them.There was a Shiva temple near our home and Siddhanth loved to see the stream of devotees making their way to the shrine on the auspicious Shravan Mondays. One memory which remains etched in our mind is associated with the Brahmakamal flower.
When Siddhanth was around 9 years of age, he had a good friend in Hemant who was just a couple of years younger and lived on the same floor. He was a regular visitor to our home and the two kids would bond over board games. One rainy night, Hemant’s mother Shilpa went around inviting everyone in the building to come over for a few minutes as the first Brahmakamal flower had bloomed in her plant. As we all assembled she lit a small diya, did a small puja and distributed pedhas. Prior to this I had neither seen nor heard about the beautiful flower with its divine fragrance. It usually blooms only in the night. I had gone over with Siddhanth and my sister who was visiting us then. My mother couldn’t accompany us as she was in the early stages of recovery from a paralytic stroke and her movements were severely restricted. She felt very happy for us and listened to us with keen interest as we tried to describe the beauty and fragrance of the sacred flower as well as we could.
The following week Shilpa was delighted to get a bloom of three Brahmakamal flowers and that too on an auspicious Shravan Monday. She was able to offer a couple of flowers to the Shivaling in the nearby temple and guess what? She came over to give the third flower to my mother. My mother’s joy knew no bounds.The kind gesture was a big morale booster for her. We kept the flower in a small mandir in my mother’s room and the entire room was filled with its sweet fragrance.

The other rain festivals too brought several opportunities for Siddhanth to interact with our neighbours and his friends from the Sports Club. As our flat on the second floor was facing the street, Siddhanth’s friends would come over to witness the ‘Dahi Handi’ celebrations from our living room window. Raksha Bandhan saw Sirsha unfailingly tying the Rakhi to Siddhanth giving him a wonderful feel of the festival. Likewise the Ganesh festival meant visiting Pandals with his friends and cousins and the visits to the homes of many friends, where Ganesh idols were kept and worshipped with reverence for a few days before immersion.The processions during immersion were also interesting to watch along with friends from our living room window – the music, dance and huge Ganesh idols – the whole atmosphere getting charged with a feeling of bhakti and a twinge of regret to bid farewell to the Elephant God after his annual visit to the city – Siddhanth enjoyed them all, the noise notwithstanding.

Over the years, we realized that even though the heavy spells of rains in Mumbai bring outdoor sports and swimming sessions in the sports club for specially abled children to a grinding halt – all of which form a major chunk and significant part of the lives of our neurodivergent children and adults – the vibrant community celebrations of our monsoon festivals step in to compensate. They always offer a lot of scope for our individuals on the spectrum and our families to mingle with our friends and relatives and rejuvenate ourselves.

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.

4 replies on “SOCIAL SKILLS (Acceptance and Inclusion- 4 )”

Enjoyed reading Jaya! Heartwarming anecdotes of acceptance and inclusion! Thanks for writing this series.

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