Influenced by Narrative Ideas and gratitude, this piece is written by Shaneel Mukerji, Special Educator at Mental Health Foundation, Kolkata.
Recently I went on a holiday alone. There was some protest from my nearly 6 – year old daughter, because I was off on a solo holiday and she was on summer break too! My 20 – month old son was in the dark about what all of this really meant.
While on this holiday someone asked me how it was going, and to share what was special about it. And I knew immediately. It was privilege.
We mostly count our blessings and are grateful for these. But also thinking about privileges helps one stay grounded to certain facts. I believe it helps us move away from ideas that are mainly abstract, focus away from ourselves, and therefore be more connected to people and the world around us.
I have a supportive hands – on spouse, children who are secure enough emotionally for me to be away from them, and people who will pitch in and help when the need arises. I have homes with ‘friends like family’ both young and old to visit, and the luxury to take off from work on occasion. And most importantly, I feel empowered enough to do this without guilt. So many things…
People’s belief systems will attribute finding myself in this life to luck, karma, or a host of other reasons. But once in this life, there are histories, people, and circumstances, which have kept me in it.
I am mindful of the women I have known, or known about. That many had the freedom to make certain choices. And those that did not have this freedom, or did not make those choices, shared how things may have been different if they had.
I am mindful of the men. Those empowered enough to make different choices, stick to their choices, or allow others’ choices to be their own.
I am mindful of all the circumstances; happy and sad, easy and difficult, life changing and mundane, that influenced the choices these individuals and those before them made.
I am mindful of all the nurturing relationships I have benefited from. I am mindful of all the harmful relationships that I have learnt from. I am mindful of privilege that does not always mean a life devoid of trials.
I am mindful of the physical spaces I live in. Where the access to places we care about, the happiness and safety of my family, and the security of our work, are a given for today.
I am mindful of the privilege of education and literacy. Of having had access to ideas and conversations, and the luxury of time to share in these.
Being mindful of all of these privileges, which we are given with little or no effort on our part, will hopefully influence the choices we now make. What we prioritize in our lives, what we hope to pass on to others, and who we stand in solidarity with. That recognizing our privileges means recognizing differences in circumstances, in histories and between people. And through all the choices we make we shall maybe add little variations to the stories told, and thereby influence the larger stories of life and it’s people.
About the Author –
Shaneel began working in Special Education in Scotland, UK, in 2001 and focuses mainly on individuals on the Autism Spectrum. Her work includes parent and teacher support, working in partnership with the child and their significant others. This involves liaison between home, school and professionals involved with the child. One of her main areas of interest is providing school/organisation-based solutions for children with ASC.
Shaneel currently works with the Mental Health Foundation, Kolkata Team. She is a key member of the training initiatives of MHF, training teachers, carers and professionals on Autism and related Developmental Disorders.
She has been involved in research projects on ASC and community mental health under the umbrella of her organisation, Creating Connections. She was the Principal Investigator on India’s first large-scale research project on the Prevalence Estimate of ASC funded by Autism Speaks.
Her second job is that of a Latin Dance instructor, which she does with her husband who is a full-time dancer. She uses this platform to raise awareness about ASC within the community, and working on inclusion for those who require a social outlet in a sheltered informed environment. She also enjoys writing and editing, and does this as often as possible in her work space as well.
You can get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact number – +91 9830941233