by Shreya Ila Anasuya
Skin Stories launched in August 2017, as a digital publication focusing on first-person narratives by people with disabilities. Its origins were in an unnamed blog, part of the Sexuality and Disability programme at Point of View.
After over a year of publishing our essays — during which we won two awards, were featured in workshops, conferences, festivals, and talks, widely republished on mainstream and alternative media, and used as resources by non-profits and university classrooms — we launched our second season in June 2019.
Our second season featured our signature personal essays, but also expanded the scope of Skin Stories to reportage and commentary about disability. …
by Riddhi Dastidar
‘He called today because he couldn’t remember what year it was.’ Sonam Luthra* is talking about Kabir Chadha*, an inpatient at VIMHANS — Delhi’s leading private mental healthcare institution. Chaddha lives with schizophrenia. His family uses institutionalisation to ‘outsource his existence,’ says Luthra, who was both his partner and sole caregiver for years, before burning out.
Having moved out of the city for work, she visits monthly while figuring a ‘better set-up’ for him near her. ‘He’s family,’ she says. Chadha is too ill to speak with me himself, so my conversations take place over a month with Luthra. …
by Archismita Choudhury
The room I grew up in has changed a lot in the five years since I left my home in Guwahati. The ceiling fan doesn’t work any more, the bed has luggage strewn all over it. The curtains are different — with mundane-looking yellow and blue stripes on them, instead of slightly creepy cartoons. Only my bookshelf has remained the same, each useless thing — expired lip gloss, perfume I received on my sixteenth birthday, empty bottles of foundation — preserved like a relic.
I reach for a particular book. I haven’t opened it in a while. It’s a compilation of short stories by Enid Blyton, and as problematic as I’ve known her to be in my adult years, she was a solace to me while I was growing up. I open the omnibus to check if I remember my history correctly. I do. Half of it was torn into two by my father to hurt me, when he realised that I had gotten too used to his blows to cry. …
by Akshita Nagpal
In a classroom among the many in a three-storey Noida building, 27-year-old Shweta Goyal teaches nearly 40 pupils, aged between their late-teens and early twenties. There’s no spoken word as Goyal teaches what she herself learnt only last year — Indian Sign Language (ISL). Her learning of ISL was also at the same institution, the Noida Deaf Society (NDS). ISL is a language of hand movements and gestures, and is the primary language for persons with hearing and speaking disabilities.
A person with deafness herself, Goyal moved to this Delhi suburb in 2018 to learn signing. Her friends, specifically in online communities, catalysed this decision. Goyal eventually picked a teaching job here, rather than using her fashion designing diploma done in her home city of Haryana’s Panipat. …
by Madhavi Shivaprasad
‘Mujhe na stand-up karne ke liye bulate hain dus minute ke liye, paanch minute baithne mein lag jaate hain.’ (People call me to perform stand-up comedy for ten minutes, but it takes me five to just sit on stage.)
This is how comedian Sweta Mantrii begins most of her stand-up comedy routines.
Based in Pune, Mantrii is also a freelance writer, filmmaker and disability rights activist. She was born with spina bifida and uses crutches. Mantrii is one of the few comedians in India talking about disability through the medium of stand-up comedy.
Stand-up comedy in India today is booming, with people thronging to comedy clubs and cafés to watch their favourite comedians perform. The material tends to revolve around the performers’ lives as city dwellers — experiences of dating, life in college, or working corporate jobs. …
by Tanika Godbole
The image is a comic strip with seven panels.
In the first panel, a person is shown being punched from both sides by two thought bubbles. One is these is red and the other is blue.
Text — Social anxiety attacks me with two opposing thoughts…
In the second panel, a person is shown on stage, being booed by the audience.
Text — Thought 1: Everyone is constantly watching and judging everything I do.
In the third panel, six characters are silhouetted against the background. While five of them are solidly coloured in black, one of them is barely there — drawn in dashes.
Text — Thought 2: No one will ever notice me. …
by Debojit Dutta
‘There is a crack, a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.’
Leonard Cohen, ‘Anthem’
The safe spaces of my childhood were not in the rooms of my house, or any house for that matter. During regression therapy, when my former therapist asked me to find a particular room that made me feel safe, I could not. Lying on the therapist’s couch, in my mind I would walk down dark staircases, and always get stuck midway. Stairs would vanish with me standing, with one leg dangling midair. I did not know what I did not know. …
by Niluka Gunawardena
‘Bet they don’t sell those at H&M,’ is probably what she thought while peering into my bag. I was humming tunelessly — oblivious to the peering, as I was to the staring — until my little sister pointed it out. So we stared back. Peering, staring, glaring — what a delightful past time for a mass of people involuntarily clumped together on a bus.
That day, I was quite clumsily and carelessly carrying around what was perhaps my most expensive accessory. My parents were so proud. It was something girls from our ‘community’ wore to indicate their ‘coming of beauty.’ …
by Akriti Paracer
‘Can a dyslexia programme help a 40–50 year-old child?’ said Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a chuckle to a gathering of students at IIT Roorkee. This was a tasteless statement in which he was alluding to his political rival, Rahul Gandhi.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that Prime Minister Modi made such a statement — it wasn’t his first time. As the Gujarat chief minister, while trying to make a seemingly progressive statement, he made an unbelievably casteist and ableist remark, drawing parallels between Dalits and children with intellectual disability.
These statements are not coming from a place of lack of understanding but form part of a political status quo — across party lines, politicians in India regularly take jibes at their opponents by deliberately deploying crass ableism. …