Hi, my name is Ritesh Hindocha️. With love, people call me Lalu.
Like most other children, I too had a normal childhood. Born in a sweet and loving Gujarati family, I was the 4th child (I was born after the birth of my 3 sisters). Naturally, being the only male child, I was the 'Apple Of My Parents' Eye' and enjoyed all the attention that was bestowed upon me.
As I grew older, I was enrolled in a 'regular' school but when I was in the third standard, something dramatic happened. I failed miserably and couldn't cope up with my studies. You all know what happens in such a situation! Yes, you guessed it right! My parents were called and were advised that I should be admitted to a 'Special' school.
It's so funny right! It is called a special school which means special (anything that is special is supposed to be nice) things are supposed to be done here but no parent wants to send their child to a school like this. The same was the case with my parents. It was like a big calamity had occurred in our lives- I was detected with Down Syndrome. And the biggest disappointment was that ‘Log Kya Kahenge’, (What Will People Say?) and it had happened to the only 'male child' of the family.
For me too, it was difficult to comprehend. “What is happening to me and around me?”, I thought sometimes. Suddenly, people's behavior started changing, they started ignoring me, hating me, and treating me in a weird way. They started seeing me differently and behaved with me differently, too. I know I was different but they made me feel as if I was not a part of them. This hurt me bitterly.
It made me realize that people with down syndrome are treated like that.
I was mentally disturbed. I used to think that why am I the only one suffering from this virus of hatred and teasing called ‘Log Kya Kahenge’ (What Will People Say?)
I call this a virus cause it threatened me when I was young (Now I am 37).
When I was 12 years old I tried playing with some ‘normal children’ but the parents of the children were like, "log kya kahenge jab woh humare baccho ko iske saath khelte dekhenge!" (What will people think if they see my children playing with him?”).
That was the day I confronted and asked my family about why I was suffering from this virus. They supported me through the mental trauma I was suffering. They helped me gain confidence and taught me how to stay happy in life.
I was not offered any marriage proposals because the families of the girls thought "agar iske sath beti ki shaadi karadi toh log kya kahenge!" (If I marry my daughter with him, what will people say?”).
Then my family moved me over the thought process of ‘Log Kya Kahenge’ and made me understand that I don't need a life partner to be happy. I can be happy in many ways! Then I started swimming because I love it! In many cases of Down Syndrome, the children are afraid of water but I loved it.
With my family's motivation, I also opened a shop called- ‘Ritz General Store’! I am the boss there and I get so much respect!
According to me this virus called ‘Log Kya Kahenge’ should go away from the world because the people suffering from it are also humans. You can treat us, people with mental health concerns like normal humans!
The people who say that they don't know about the problems suffered by people due to ‘Log Kya Kahenge’, need to see things in their deeper sense to understand these problems as they affect one deeply.
In the end, I just want to thank my family for supporting me, making me independent and teaching me how to be happy in life, and making me prioritize myself over ‘Log Kya Kahenge’, which kills so many people from the inside!
Written by - Ritesh Hindocha