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A week at Dar ul Sukun

We call normal what we see around us more often. We call normal what is more common in the world around us. And abnormal is what is rare. But going to a world where what is common does not qualify as what you define normal, you really start to question your definition of what normal really is. In the one week I spent at Dar ul Sukun for my internship I was compelled to do the same. To ask myself why we qualify confused minds, evil thoughts, stoned hearts and needles rants as sanity while joyful laughter and innocent smiles as the opposite. Why do we treat people that know nothing but joy and innocence as aliens from another planet? In a world already diseased with tears and anguish, why do we have to keep people with contagious smiles and cheerful chuckles in isolation?

In this article I will introduce you to some of the people I met there and leave it for you to decide of it is they who are insane or us.

Starting off, meet Rosie. A sensitive, innocent little girl with great love for jewelry and music. I met her on my first day there when she got a new hairband. She wouldn’t stop being happy about it. She would go to everyone at the place and show it to them, take it off and tell them to put it over her head again. She would smile at anyone who smiles at her. She would start tapping her feet and dancing every time she heard music. She would pretend the dumpster is her drum, dance with joy and play it like it she is the happiest person alive which at the moment would probably be true.

This is Maya. Another innocent little angel. I found her lying on a mattress in the physiotherapy room along with a bunch of other kids. I noticed she kept smiling at me. I wondered what was going on in her mind. It is not like I had ever met her before. I was a stranger. Why was she being so friendly? You smile at a ‘normal’ person like that and you expect them to say ‘excuse me, do I know you?’ But she cared about none of that. She just went on, smiling like we had known each other for ages. I smile back and she starts giggling. Sheer innocence reflecting from her happy face. She doesn’t have many reasons to be happy, to smile at the people looking at her with pity but she does so anyway. How many of us can exhibit that innocence? That strength?

Meet Kiran. My source of information and useful insight into everyone and everything at Dar ul Sukun. She’d tell me everyone’s names. Their friends. Their enemies. Their stories. Their fights. Their likes and dislikes. Their favorite things to eat. What they like to talk about. Who they like to talk to. Et cetera. And once again. The innocent smile. Smiling back at total strangers just for the heck of it. That’s how she makes friends.

This is Aneela. Kiran’s best friend. She is visually impaired but you haven’t heard her sing yet. She has the most beautiful voice ever. She’d make the song sound better than the original one. Also, she is blessed with a wonderful memory. A rhyme, a poem, a song you name it. All you need to do is repeat is twice and she has it all learnt. She told me they sent her away for singing classes and practice but she couldn’t stand being away from her best friend Kiran so they brought her back. Kiran too would not stop feeling down when Aneela wasn’t around. True friendship indeed.

This is Cookie. Otherwise known as the star of Dar ul Sukun. She was brought here when she was only a day old. And now when you look at her teaching kids, delivering speeches and hosting functions you realize how much this place has put into her. She matriculated after getting proper education from Saint Patrick’s High School and now she teaches children at Dar ul Sukun. In the picture above she is delivering a speech on saving the environment.

There were numerous people I met there. Countless stories behind each one of them. One girl I found out was tied with ropes and brutally tortured by her parents before she was left here. Now she barely talks to anyone. But still smiles at you once in a while.

There is a lot a learnt over the last one week. Number one was being grateful for what I have and feeling blessed every day. On my first day there I met this lady who I was told was related to whoever was in charge of the place. I will never forget how she kept repeating ‘I am happy. I am happy.’ I mean, the old woman helplessly lying in bed all day with nothing to do all day is ‘happy’ with her life. And we? Blessed with God’s numerous bounties with so much to be grateful for every day. How many of us can say that for ourselves? ‘I am happy’ three simple words that take so much strength to say. And people who possess that strength. We call them insane. We say they are abnormal. We shamelessly reject them as a part of our society. We drive them off to orphanages and swear to never look back.

If sanity is being ungrateful and stone hearted then maybe that is what we least require. The world today is a…. suspension of blood and tears. Of forgotten promises, dejected souls and muffled sobs. But the world I saw last week, it was different. It was far from gloom and despair. It was far from war and blood. It was peaceful. It was small. It was beautiful. It was happy.

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