Wisdom from the Young and the Disabled: In Conversation with Nehil Gala

A portrait of Nehil Gala

As we bring to you our beautiful conversation about the effects of lockdown with Nehil Gala, we hold on to the words of Eli Care, “Cure dismisses resilience, survival, the spider web of fractures, cracks and seams. It’s promise holds power precisely because none of us want to be broken. But I’m curious: what might happen if we were to accept, claim and embrace our brokenness?”

Nehil is 19-years of age and studies in 12th standard. He was a student fellow at Apni Shala and a member of Fun Club Volunteer Group at Ummeed Child Development Center. He is also one of the co-authors of the book, ‘Jugaad: a little book of know-hows about mental health by young people’.

Yashna: How has the lockdown been for you? What have been the good experiences and challenging ones?

Nehil: I am happy that we are safe. I have been spending time with my family. Earlier I used to feel scared, and also sometimes bored just being at home. But when I keep reading about covid, I realise that may be it’s better to be safe at home. I started thinking positively, that I can take care of myself and my family from covid. It’s important to sanitize ourselves and keep ourselves clean. I am still scared  to go in elevators and touching things. I used to touch things here and there when we go out but I had to change myself and be more aware to not do that.

Yashna: How have you figured out this positive thinking and what does it look like?

Nehil: I sometimes keep reading the news and it’s scary but it’s also good to read the news that says it’s possible to be safe from covid. Like the Oxford vaccine It’s been helpful to take proper measures like sanitizing, bathing in warm water, drinking *‘kaadha’ that mummy makes, keeping myself healthy, trying to distract myself from doing certain things. Have to do it. I am thankful that at least I have food to eat, home to live not like the migrant labourers and so many people who are stuck somewhere and are not able to go home, be with their family.

Seeing the police around the house also scares me, although I know they only want to implement the lockdown. And they are not able to meet their families and are doing their duties. I do sometimes feel like going out and roaming but I look at the positive side of it, to be able to be with my family.

I play, I talk to my family, eat, sleep, play games on my mobile, watch TV. Only the TV is not working anymore so I am on the mobile phone a lot playing games.

I exercise in the morning and that helps with my immunity power. Sometimes I feel lazy to do it also and think, why to do it, feels very tired but then I think about how it will keep me healthy and that will push me. Feeling positive in the body matters.

Yashna: What have been some of the things that bring scary feeling and what helps even a bit with it?

Nehil: It’s been raining a lot and sometimes there’s a power cut and that’s when I get bored. But It’s hard sometimes because the time doesn’t seem to travel fast. Then I feel like going out, doing something but then I might get covid.

I never thought I would be sitting at home like this for so long. Earlier I used to not like going out because it didn’t feel safe, I used to be teased in school and felt like coming back home all the time. Now I do feel like going out sometimes. But watching the news everyday is scary and then it feels like it’s better to be at home.

I look out of the window sometimes and my heart feels very free. It’s very green outside and the weather feels nice. It doesn’t feel like a world of covid then even though it is. I feel like getting out and roaming in the green field but I hold the coffee cup and feel okay. It’s very good wind here and sometimes you can hear birds chirping.

Sometimes I have many thoughts and in the greater scheme of things, it doesn’t feel like a lot to just sit at home for one year. I want to be a responsible person and take care of myself and people around me.

My sister has been struggling with college admissions so it is a little scary. But I don’t know what more can be done. Everyone should have free internet and a device at their places and that will solve a lot of problems for college-going people. Students can get admissions done, attend online classes and not spend money on recharging and even get refreshed by playing mobile games or watching videos.

Yashna: What are some of the things that made it possible for you to do it? People, things you do, things you did say to yourself, or something else? 

Nehil: It’s been about 6 – 7 months since the lockdown and sometimes I can’t even imaging getting out of the house. It feels like, I won’t be able to do it again. It feels scary and I tell myself that I should not go again. But it’s good to stay with everyone at home. That’s the best I feel. We play games like UNO and Ludo. It’s so much fun to laugh and have fun with my parents and sisters. I play with my family, reading something online. I have also learnt to cook a bit in the lockdown and that makes me happy. I know how to make gol rotis and that gave me happiness. Earlier I wouldn’t talk to my family too much, my mummy, papa or my sister, Simran. Now I talk to them a lot. They’re also a big support for me and help me with scary feelings.

I also feel like I have worked hard now for so many years and this feels like an holiday time for me so I like it. So I look at it like a holiday time.

Yashna: What difference has it made to you to be able to do the things you have been doing during the lockdown? 

Nehil: I used to feel very negative in the beginning of the lockdown, around march month. It felt very weird, like what’s happening, why is something like this going on, will this ever get over, how long do I have to be home. But I picked myself up slowly slowly and started taking care of my health, so my health has improved a lot. I am very fit now. I did not exercise a lot before the lockdown but now doing it regularly makes me feel good. But this lockdown has also reminded me of the fact that my home was always a safe place for me and this where I have felt most happy, ever since my childhood.

I feel this covid scary feeling will never go from my life even after the lockdown. Like getting out of the house and sharing a cab ride with few other people, traveling in trains. The negative feeling will keep coming to us. But I feel it will only be there for a couple of months and then it will fade away.

Yashna: What tips, tricks you have for other young adults like you who may be managing the lockdown? 

Nehil: To stay safe and stay healthy. The way others can keep positive thinking is by going with the flow. And that we change almost everyday and this is also some change. I find it difficult to deal with things changing and looking at the positive side of things helps me.

*kaadha (काढ़ा in Hindi) in Ayurveda school of medicine is known to be a decoction made from different herbs known to prevent and/or cure diseases and ailments.

Nehil, with his friends from Apni Shala.

Yashna Vishwanathan is a Mental Health Worker at Ummeed Child Development Center and she works with children and young adults experiencing or at risk of disabilities and their families.

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