My Journey With Autism: A Playmaker’s Take

Whenever I am alone I often think of things that I have done. Sipping my morning cup of tea I often look back at my nine years of being an artist and pursuing theater in a not so theater frenzy country. I confront this question every day that will keep me on track to follow my passion in spite of feeling lost on most occasions. This story is about that one inspiration which I can say will help me follow my passion for the rest of my life.

A few months back while sitting at the office desk of a prestigious PR agency I asked myself “Is this something that I always wanted to do?” So, I finally took the decision of leaving work and came back to the theater when a college in Delhi University opened their doors to me with just two months time on hand to direct a play. Initially, I thought it was a mistake. I was asked to direct a street play and couldn’t think of a topic that would be different from what others do. After all, it was a street play, how can you betray the leftist gods and not a have a topic which raises questions about the present structuring of the society?

I contemplated for weeks, read through books and one-day social media connected me to my aunt. She told me that she runs a school for kids with autism. She started telling me stories of the kids and what are the therapies they use for the kids and a sentence stuck in my mind, “being autistic doesn’t mean you are mad and the fact that the disorder cannot be cured and only therapies can provide improved social life over a period of time as a majority of the autistic kids suffer from impairments in establishing communication.”  

The thought of living with a disorder that we all hardly understood compelled me to take the first step that was visiting the Centre for Autism in Delhi, which showed me how different can be beautiful and just because we fail to understand something, it doesn’t fall into the category of an outcast. I saw kids and people living with autism and to my amazement how the people helping these kids worked so diligently.

One of my students asked the counselor, “Don’t you get frustrated dealing with these kids?” She had only one answer, “If they were my own kids would I leave them?” This answer just established my belief that there is good in all of us despite our many flaws. This one day changed my perspective towards considering myself normal as I was very similar to them yet very different, but isn’t this the specialty that we all are different which makes us come together? Imagine if we all were similar then no one would have had any opinions at all.

After that day I started writing the first word of the play. There were days when I couldn’t understand how things have to be brought forward as I thought I understood very less but it somehow made my determination stronger that when people see the play they need not read a book to understand an autistic kid. On 21st October 2016, the play was put to test for the first time at IIT Kanpur in a preliminary round where it fared well and the team got selected for the finals. The finals turned out to be even better as the judges at the event, both doctorates, could resonate both with the psychology and the medical aspect of the play. The competition ended with my college winning first place but more than that I saw tears in the eyes of the girl who had internalized the behavior of an autistic kid.

I suppose sometimes to come back to doing something that you love you just need a little inspiration. Those tears and that one field visit were my inspiration. For people who feel autism is a disorder I would just say for me, it is an inspiration.  I am twenty-three years old and forty years from now when I might decide to retire, I would always think about how autism did me a favor by making me understand “it is not who you are but who you choose to be that matters.”

Image used for representative purposes only.

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