'Be empathetic, not sympathetic'

Proud moment

'Be empathetic, not sympathetic'

It was a proud moment for Chaya Sudesh, a volunteer at Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness and Sudesh Honnavalli, a consultant in the marine field, when their specially-abled son Anand Honnavalli won several medals in badminton at the ‘Special Olympics Asia Pacific Regional Games 2013’ at Newcastle, Australia in early December.

Afflicted with Down Syndrome, 25-year-old Anand is a top sportsman and holds a regular job too, thereby proving that with determination and hard work, one can move mountains. The proud family chatted with ‘Metrolife’ on their trials and tribulations.

Anand, who won gold in singles, silver in doubles and bronze in mixed doubles, learnt in April that he had been selected for the prestigious games. “He has been playing badminton for the last six to seven years. Soon as he got selected, we hired a coach and he would go for his training every Sunday,” says Chaya, accrediting a large part of Anand’s success to coach Deepak and the schools Anand attended – Bethany’s Special School and FAME India.

 However, the couple wishes there were better coaching facilities. “While coaches can train ten normal people at a time, they can only train two or three specially-abled people. Since their income comes down, not many take it up,” says Sudesh. Another issue is hygiene. “The rooms and toilets in Kanteerava Stadium are terrible,” says Chaya.

Anand also plays cricket and squash and has played basketball for the State. He has won medals in shortput, floor hockey and 200 metres in places like Shimla, Jabalpur, Rajasthan and Chennai. 

On being asked about his favourite place, he smiles, “I love them all! This was my second time in Australia. I had fun and took photos.” The parents add, “Fortunately, he has no health issues apart from a sensitive skin. Earlier, he was even into swimming but he would often get an ear infection.”

Anand wakes up at 5.45-6 am everyday and makes it a point to indulge in some walk, gym or squash regularly. He works in the housekeeping department of The Gateway Hotel. Ask him how he travels from his home, in Arkere, to work everyday and his reply is short and sweet — “G4,” he says referring to the bus. 

“I just had to show him the route once. In fact, he became smarter and started taking a bus for one stop instead of walking up,” laughs Sudesh while Chaya points out, “Children with Down Syndrome are extremely good with repetitive jobs. They get very upset when there is a change in routine.”

The BMTC has even given Anand an yearly pass, something that all specially-abled people can avail. “There are plenty of opportunities but many parents don’t use them,” laments Chaya. And family support is a must in these cases, they feel. “I used to be with the merchant navy earlier and travel a lot. But everyone in the family treated him as an individual, which is what is required,” explains Sudesh. 

As positive as the family is, not all has been hunky dory for this ever-smiling boy who has been a victim of bullying many a time. Ask them how a common man can help in these cases and all they say is, “Be empathetic, not sympathetic.”

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