Saturday, 28 March 2015

A Bond Crossing Boundaries

Pepper waking up Farheena
Farheena doesn’t write much on her blog because she cannot write anything beyond basic conversation she has on facebook. She expresses herself through her art and her painting. She is a special needs child with speech and learning challenges. The problem with our society is that they cannot communicate with special needs people. Pointing out at our society may sound offensive to some people, but this is the bitter truth I have discovered with my own life experience.
Farheena has a great bonding with one of my online breast cancer survivor friend – Paula Gerding who knew how to talk to her. They used to chat through webcam and have fun together. Paula would greet Farheena with a ‘Hi’ when she came on and ‘Bye’ when she was logging off. Being unable to call her by name Paula, Farheena addressed her as ‘hi, bye aunty’ and we all loved that name.
Through months both my children grew very fond of Paula and her antics, so much that they wanted to meet her someday. It became a big agenda for us to visit Paula and meet many other friends we had met online in US. I was a part of cancer support group called ladybirds and we women had strong bonding among us.  Somehow, what started as a cancer support went way beyond that when Paula connected with Farheena.
Finally we decided to visit Paula and spend some time with her in USA. None of us had ever travelled outside India and we hadn’t been around much in India either. When we connected with Paula, we were living in a tiny home in coastal village known as Byndoor. We had to get our passports done, visa arranged and off course manage the ticket expenses. The bond between Paula and Farheena somehow encouraged me enough to go about the daunting task without giving up.
Finally the day came when we had to leave for USA. We were so excited when we got into the train and travelled to Mumbai. From there we landed in Dubai airport to change planes and then NYC. From there we were to go to Tampa where Paula would receive us.
Farheena couldn’t tolerate the long flight and started throwing up immediately. She was completely exhausted when we reached Tampa and had nothing for nearly 14 hours at stretch. But once she met her ‘Hi Bye’ aunty, everything looked fine. We were worried about Farheena fear of dogs, because Paula had 3 dogs and 3 cats. Amazingly, it was Farheena who bonded with the dogs more than her mom or her brother. Also she started socializing with everyone in USA. We were shocked to see the change in her. Later I realized that the Americans had a better way of communicating with her when she was shopping or in a gathering. Farheena even went out to have sleepover with her friend Katie. It was amazing to see her enjoy her life like never before in USA with her friends.

Everything good has to come to end, and so did our trip to USA. With a heavy heart, I brought back Farheena to India, a decision I sometimes regret. Once again Farheena has tough time socializing here because people cannot look beyond her disability and treat her like any other person. I am glad that Farheena and Paula shared their life #together for 4 months because a recurrence took away Paula from us the next year. Her memory lives on and she is missed by everyone known to her. 
Pictures that bring smile on Farheena's face

Farheena with Lois and Paula, friends we lost to cancer

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