DEEP – An e-magazine for ordinary people [Archive]


DEEP is a ‘monthly e-magazine’. It is a place for people like us – people with disabilities, people who are disadvantaged because of geographical, socio-economic or other reasons like age – to network and get to know more about people like ourselves .

If you have overcome a handicap or difficulty, or know someone who has, and would like to share your experience, please write to  The events in your life could help someone learn how to get on with their lives.  You can also send in your feedback, anecdotes, experiences and reports as comments on the blog posts.

The contents of this issue are listed below.  Click on the links to read the stories.




1] Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or simply Hyperactivity

2] Review of Taare Zameen Par, a sensitive film from India about a dyslexic child

3] B+ [Be Positive] – A regular column featuring reports from round the world of ordinary people who have accepted their disabilities with extraordinary strength.


DEEP: MAY 2008

DEEP is a ‘monthly e-magazine’. It is a place for people like us – people with disabilities, people who are disadvantaged because of geographical, socio-economic or other reasons like age – to network and get to know more about people like ourselves .

In this corner of cyberspace, we can share anecdotes, experiences and solutions and learn from each other – how to cope, how to conquer and how to live happily.

Why DEEP? Because our fears, hopes and dreams are buried deep in our subconscious and also because ‘deep’ (pronounced ‘dheep’) means ‘light’ in one of the world’s oldest languages, Sanskrit.

The contents of this issue are listed below.  Click on the links to read the stories.  Also, send in your comments, anecdotes, experiences and reports.  You may post them as comments on the relevant posts or send me an e-mail at  [that is sangha zero mitra at yahoo dot co dot uk].


Mental Disability, Crime and the Law

The Story of Richard Lapointe

Crimes in the News Recently

Meditation – Its Effectiveness as a Cure for Mental Disorders

If you have overcome a handicap or difficulty, or know someone who has, and would like to share your experience, please let us know.  The events in your life could help someone learn how to get on with their lives.



THROUGH WINDOWS IN THE SKY – From the Editor’s Desktop

They are known as mak nyah in Malaysia, hijra in India, muxe in Mexico, fa’afafine in Samoa and as the LGBT community all over the world.Yes, there are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in all parts of the globe, in all walks of life, and they have been with us since the beginning of Time. Yet, the majority heterosexual community understands little about them and finds it difficult to accept them.

This month, DEEP takes a look at the LGBT community, with a view to accepting that their sexual inclination is not an aberration but a preference, and sometimes, their sexuality is ordained and not acquired.

Besides biological eunuchswho are born with mixed sex organs, and those who grow up realizing that the gender they are born in does not match their natural inclinations, there are also the ostajnica, or sworn virgins of the Balkans, who are females who adopt a male dress and style out of choice, or by force of circumstance, and take on a male social role as there is a shortage of adult males in the region.The ostajnica remain celibate and unmarried all their lives.

SANGHAMITRA Volume 1 – Issue 3.




Arjuna is one of the major characters in the ancient Indian epic, Mahabharata. A celestial“ dancer, Urvashi, falls in love with him, but he rejects her overtures.“May you become a eunuch so that you’ll understand what it is to feel like a woman”, she curses.She relents after a while and modifies her curse to “May you become a eunuch for a year.”She also lets him choose the time when the curse was to become operational.Later in the epic story, Arjuna becomes a eunuch for a year and teaches dance and music to a young princess who goes on to marry his son.

In another instance in the same epic, a princess called Amba is re-born, after her death, as a male, Shikandi.But the unfulfilled love of Amba results in Shikandi being born “with a woman’s heart trapped in a man’s body.”

Also in this epic is the poignant tale of Aravanan, a son of Arjuna.Aravanan volunteers tosacrifice his life before a Goddess for the success in a war of the army led by his father.But the code of sacrifice had stipulated that only married men could be offered as sacrifice to the Goddess.Aravanan was unmarried, and no one could be persuaded to marry a person knowing she would become a widow in a day or less.Ultimately, Krishna, a God who had incarnated on earth as Arjuna’s friend and well-wisher, assumes the form of a woman, called Mohini, and marries Aravanan.Aravanan is then sacrificed to the Goddess.

Interestingly, this legend is re-enacted to this day in a south Indian town that has a temple of Aravanan. Those at the helm of the celebrations and all participants in the festival are people of alternate sexuality and sexual orientation.Thousands of them attend the festival every year and all of them assume the name of Mohini for a day and marry the presiding deity of the place, Aravanan.It is all gaiety and fun as a wedding should be.The next day, all of them spend in mourning as Aravanan is sacrificed and all of them have become widows.

The festival extends over 18 days in April-May, and culminates on the full moon day. Known as the Koothandavar Festival, it takes place in a remote town in Tamil Nadu called Koovagam in the Villupuram district.



The transsexual person feels that their physical gender is not who they truly are.They choose to physically become a member of the opposite sex through hormone therapy and gender-reassignment surgeries despite the expense and risk involved. A transgender person, on the other hand, identifies with the opposite gender in his emotional and thought process, but does not choose to change the physical attributes they are born with.

Sadly, transsexual persons often suffer exclusion from most straight and gay communities, not to speak of spaces that have been created solely for women.This lack of acceptance from the community at large leaves them with little option but to turn to prostitution for their living.

In 2007, Chudar (Flame), an NGO operating from Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India, organised a film festival called Velicham (Spotlight) to create awareness about the cruelty we perpetrate on fellow human beings simply because they admit to a sexual orientation that does not match their physical attributes.

Besides organizing more such initiatives as has Chudar, it may also help to think of other innovative ways of sensitising the general population to issues that affect trans-gender/ trans-sexual persons.

There appear to be many figures in mythology who would come under the LGBT community.Wikipedia provides a short list of such figures at

Without hurting the religious sentiments of people, and without sensationalising the issue,it can be shown thatacceptance of different sexualities and sexual preferences has existed in the days when gods and men were not as distant as they now are.

There have been many television programmes, doucmentary films and popular films that have tran-gender persons as the main character or in an important role .In India, a popular talk show on Vijay TV is hosted by a trans-gender, Rose.

”For the first time, the public is seeing a transgender being articulate, sociable, intelligent and beautiful.My show has paved the way for transgenders to be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve,“ says charming Rose, host of ’Ippadikku Rose‘ in a recent feature by Lakshmy Venkiteswaran in the New Indian Express, Bangalore, India.

More sympathetic articles, films, talk shows and film festivals would certainly go a long way towards breaking the barriers between the general public and the trans-gender population and causing a change in the attitudes of both.



THROUGH WINDOWS IN THE SKY – From the Editor’s Desk

In the next fifty years, average global life expectancy is projected to be about 75 years of age – 10 years more than today. The percent of people 65 years or older is expected to more than double in this period, increasing from 7 percent now to 16 percent.

Improved nutrition and health care, greater awareness and availability of resources, lifestyle changes and advances in medicine have all ensured that we live longer.That the quality of life in our later years is something worth living for is for us to ensure.Modern medicine and the lifestyle industry are doing their bit.So are scientists and researchers.With technology and knowledge working hard to keep the aged in good health and spirits, it should not be too difficult to live longer, happily, independently.

In the July issue of DEEP, we take a peep into some of the latest research pertaining to the aged.However, we need to remember that the worst old-age disease is Loneliness. AIBO can never become a substitute for a real dog.Technological devices that help us keep in touch with our elders can never be substitutes for our flesh-and-blood presence.Let’s never forget that AGE and DEATH visit each and everyone who is born on earth.

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome.Post your comments here on the blog, or e-mail me at





A physically active lifestyle is a great protector against cognitive decline. A recent study reported the positive effect of sunlight and the outdoors on patients who were already suffering from dementia.A healthy cardiovascular system may even, to some extent, compensate for tiny defects in the brain, reported a study based on an examination ofa group of nuns who had agreed to have their brains donated after their death. The study found that a third of the nuns’, whose brains showed clear signs of plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer’s, also had healthy blood vessels.None of these nuns suffered from more than a normal loss of memory till their death.It is possible that, had they lived long enough, these nuns too might have suffered degeneration of their mental faculties.However, the fact that their mental health remained unaffected till the end suggested to the physicians that good vascular health may make it easier for a brain to work around the plaques and tangles rather than succumb easily to the budding Alzheimer’s.

Another study, based on a two-decades’ long survey of a large sample of elderly population in Bronx, New York, concluded that involving oneself regularly in activities requiring mental alertness decreased the possibility of the onset of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

“As far as our brains are concerned, learning something new or even retrieving something from memory is a plasticity response,” says Molly Wagster of the National Institute on Aging. To quote from a 2006 article in the Times by Christine Gorman, it may get harder as you age, but if you can teach an old brain new tricks, you just might be able to keep it functioning well into the 90s.




There is a growing recognition that investing in technologies for the aged is a commercially profitable proposition, as the world’s population is living longer and more and more of the aged are either opting to live independently or have to, for various reasons.While there are various tools and toys intended to make life easier for the aged, only a few of these actually improve the quality of life.Here are two such devices, both of which were featured in the columns of the New York Times in the recent months.

Portable Video Device – As we age, our visual faculty is one of the first to show signs of degeneration.Lightweight, portable video devices are like electronically-enhanced magnifying glasses.But, unlike ordinary optical devices, these gadgets can not only help read small print on tickets, tablets and such like, they can also help enlarge distant objects.Besides, the in-built high resolution video camera within the device and the electronics increase the contrast in the display of the device, making it easier to read.For more information, follow the link below:

Home monitoring device – Including a motion sensor and a remote monitoring system, this device allows us to monitor the movements of an elder relative even if he/ she should live far away from us.Sensors attached to the walls of the house recognise when a person awakes, when a person takes medicines from a medicine dispenser, and so on.An electronic report is generated and the family will find it in their e-mail every morning.If they notice any deviation from routine that they find suspicious, they can take corrective measures by immediately getting in touch with their relatives. A major plus going for this system is that it merges with the background and does everything without noise and fuss.Since there are no cameras, there is no invasion of privacy either, which is a major issue with many of the old people who would like to have the comfort of knowing someone is looking after them, though from afar, but would not like to be ‘spied’ upon all the time.

For the New York Times article on this, follow the link below:




June 26 was International Day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking.

The United Nations World Drug Report 2004 says that 0.4% of all deaths, worldwide, was caused by drug abuse.If the measure of disability-adjusted life years is used, then drug abuse would have caused the loss of 11.2 million years of healthy life.

There are about 20 million drug abusers all over the world and 1.7 million drug users over the age of 50 in America alone.By 2020 the number of old age Americans misusing drugs is expected to cross 4 million.Though figures for the rest of the world are not readily available, there is no doubt that the old age population requiring treatment for drug abuse is climbing, all over the world.

Jane Gross, writing in NYT on March 6, 2008 says, quoting federal records, between 2001 and 2005 there was a 2% increase in the numbers of over-50 Americans admitted to drug treatment programmes. This is only a fraction of the 1.7 million older substance abusers recorded in 2001 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.This number is expected to more than double by 2020.

Among patients over 65 alcohol abuse is the major problem as many allow social drinking to get out of hand, especially to come to terms with their sense of isolation after retirement or loss of a spouse. In the ‘younger’ older population, alcohol abuse is equally a problem as abuse of hard drugs such as opium, cocaine and marijuana. Prescription drug abuse, particularly anti-anxiety drugs and pain-killers, is increasing among all sections of the old age population.

Treatment providers are finding that this 50+ generation is not monolithic. There is a clash of cultures, depending on the socio-economic background, their upbringing and inclinations not to speak of educational background and behavioural tendencies.

While there are many programmes addressing young people who have become addicted and programmes aimed at preventing kids from becoming drug abusers, the question ofold age drug abuse is not oft discussed.The question is, how much can and should the state provide to allow segregated treatment based on gender, age and sexual preferences, besides the kind of disorder required to be treated – street drug abuse, addiction to prescription drugs or alcoholism.

Jane Gross’s article received comments that ranged from those who felt that spending good money on old people who had none but themselves to blame for their condition was a waste, to comments pleading for greater compassion in treating adults with drug abuse problems.

I wonder what your take on this is. Please do post your comments.



THROUGH WINDOWS IN THE SKY – From the Editor’s Desk

Some days ago I met Krupa’s grandmother.  Krupa, eighteen now, has both physical and mental developmental disabilities.  Her grandmother told me that their family had recently made a decision to stop Krupa from the special school she was going to.  Among the reasons were: She was making very poor progress at school and as she was the only child with physical impairment in the school, she was left all alone in class when the others went out to play or participate in outdoor activities.  “Krupa is very beautiful now and we feel school may not be safe for her any more,” said her grandmother.

Besides the emotional question of protecting people with disabilities from those likely to take advantage of their condition,  Krupa’s story raises important issues pertaining to education of the disabled, which is the theme of this month’s DEEP.

  • Just as achievement levels and abilities differ from individual to individual among students who go to regular schools, so does the extent of handicap and the capacity to overcome it vary from one to another among students who go to special schools or schools for the disabled.  Activities need to be designed for students with various levels of impairment.  If this had been done in Krupa’s school, she could have also participated in an outdoor activity or game rather than staying back in the classroom, waiting for the others to return.
  • Just as modern pedagogy for regular students stresses the need to recognize extra-curricular achievements and soft skills on par with academic excellence, so must disabled students be evaluated on multiple levels, providing opportunities for a spectrum of talents to be considered on par with pre-determined curricular demands.  Krupa, for instance, has a flair for Rabindra Sangeet – semi-classical melodies, to sing which she willingly undergoes several hours of strenuous training at home.
  • Endurance and Determination are particularly important qualities for the disabled.  Compassion and Courage are extremely valuable, and rare among all sections of society. Krupa, for instance, shows extraordinary tenacity when it comes to weight-watching.  She has been told to reduce her weight,  and to achieve the target, she willingly forgoes many a tempting dish at the dinner table!  Such traits ought not to be taken for granted by schools that evaluate their wards on other, tangible parameters.    Rather, a list of such qualities may be identified as part of the evaluation process for each student.  This holds good for all schools.  Trainers and teachers can be taught to observe and record  instances that reveal  sterling qualities in children and this can be included in the evaluation report.

There is, of course, a whole gamut of questions pertaining to education for the disabled, some of which this issue of DEEP tries to talk about.

Only your views and experiences can enrich the magazine and make it useful to a larger section of the society that is seeking awareness about how to come to terms with their life and how to overcome hurdles.  So please do write  to me at [sangha zero mitra at] or leave a comment right here on WordPress.




Unemployment is, and has been, a raging problem for decades, particularly in the developing world. The statistics regarding the educated unemployed appear to make a mockery of the very system of education, as the goal of education for most people is gainful employment commensurate with their qualification.  But there is little specific information gathered or disbursed about the correlation between education and employment specific to the disabled.

However, studies have shown that disabled young people are less likely to be employed and more likely to be earning far less compared to their non-disabled counterparts.  “The impact of young disabled people’s frustrated ambition was apparent in the widening gap between disabled and non-disabled young people as they moved into their twenties, in terms of confidence, subjective well-being and belief in their ability to shape their own future,” says a study by Tania Burchardt of the London School of Economics [ Full report available at: ]

Governments, NGOs, institutions and corporates need to come forward to sponsor or hold seminars, webinars, workshops, get-togethers, call it what you will, to get groups of people together to share their experiences so that problems can be identified and solutions can be found as well as shared.

The groups should include educators and special educators, individuals with disabilities, their parents and trainers, their co-students and co-workers, as well as employers, institution builders, policy makers and others interested in and working for the disabled.

The Information Exchange Possible At Such Get-togethers

How to search for a job, prepare for an interview, ask about the accommodation the workplace would be willing to make for the disabled to manage independently.

How to discuss the disability with the potential employer.

First-hand experience of people with disabilities – vis a vis job search and at the workplace.

What are the typical experiences of employers of people with disabilities.

What are the problems and what are the solutions that have been tried, tested and that can possibly be tried and tested.

An important finding of Tania Burchardt’s study was that the aspirations of young people was directly proportional to the educational qualifications of their parents.  Consequently, it is important to take special initiatives to increase the awareness of parents who are illiterate or those who lack higher educational qualifications to the fact that their own lack of qualifications need not affect their goals for their children.  Separate counselling sessions or lectures and presentations can be arranged for such parents and guardians so that they are not doubly disadvantaged.

All such conferences or get-togethers need to be held on a sustained basis, with clear benchmarks and goals and follow-up at subsequent sessions as well as in-between sessions.  Information and Communication Technologies [ICTs] including mobile phones – which have a wide reach and easy access even among the less privileged – e-governance initiatives and other publicly available facilities must be harnessed to provide real solutions and ensure active and continued engagement between the stakeholders and all those involved with the initiatives.

The get-togethers and the communication that links them together has the potential to become a forum for real-life exchanges between the disabled and the mainstream society so that they can understand and learn from each other, on the lines of Job Fairs that have been bringing potential employers and employees together, for their mutual benefit.



In spite of the hurdles envisaged, there can be no doubt that encouraging mainstream schools to include a small percentage of disabled students on their rolls will do good all around.  While the disabled children learn to move freely and fearlessly with their peers, the non-disabled children learn to get over the awkwardness they may feel in the presence of someone who is ‘different’ besides learning to be more compassionate, accommodative and helpful.  Of course, a lot hinges on the ambience a school is able to foster, the classroom practices a teacher is able to put in place and the attitude of the disabled children themselves. However, whether this kind of inclusive education will benefit, or indeed is even possible for, the severely disabled – particularly those with acute learning disorders or mental retardation – is a moot point.

It is also time, perhaps, to think in terms of moving towards integrative education for the disabled.  Instead of segregating them on the basis of their disabilities, is it possible for the disabled to help and learn from one another under the same roof?  It is likely to increase their sense of self-worth and boost their ability to think on their feet if they can help another person and actually be their friend and guide.

If such a school can provide a bouquet of courses designed to meet various needs and cater to a spectrum of tastes and interests, in an open education format, the vibrant exchange of knowledge and ideas among the students is likely to boost the self-confidence of the children.

These schools can use the services of artists, writers and educationists to develop special books for custom designed curricula and make it available in various media such as Braille, audio-visual books that use sign language, interactive CD-ROMs and so on to cater to the needs of all its differently abled students.  Each can understand the book in their own way and yet discuss common questions in the classroom.  They can learn to interpret and understand communication in their own special ‘languages’.

Competitions and games such as dumb charades, tailing the donkey, hopscotch race, blind man’s buff [bluff in American] that are popular among non-disabled students can be played with greater understanding and appreciation, if tailored to the children’s needs with thoughtfulness and sensitivity.

In addition, such ‘open’ schools can also include on their rolls non-disabled children who may wish to study in a less rigid system than that which is available in the regular stream.



THROUGH WINDOWS IN THE SKY – From the Editor’s Desktop


Technology can come to the aid of the disabled, including the aged, who undergo similar difficulties as the disabled in many respects.  Computers and other information and communication technologies [ICTs] can make life a lot easier for many of us.

Some of the adaptive technology available for disabled people are improved computer displays, screen readers, Braille displays, voice input systems and browser developments.  In an article in IEEE Spectrum, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Bruce Alexander, president, Alexander Associates (North Attleborough, MA), a web-based marketing company, says:  “Adaptation for users with disabilities should be planned when a Web page, computer device or software program is in the design stage.”

Obviously, not everybody can do this and not many even consider the idea as the disabled are not the primary target of most mainstream web pages and computer devices.  However, computers linked to the Internet have made a world of difference to how the disabled, their families and carers have been able to cope with their special difficulties and dilemmas.

The United Kingdom appears to have the highest density of support groups, and several niche ones at that, like  and

In this issue of DEEP, we bring you a random selection of links from across the World Wide Web.  Some of these links are to active sites, in which the world community  can participate; some others are to links that continue to be available, though the communities they cater to seem to have dwindled; some others are to sites that are no longer being updated.  The idea is to see how the web has been creatively used by so many to help out, come together, discuss and draw us out from isolation.  The idea is also to provoke some of DEEP’s readers to revive the defunct mechanisms and begin new ones because by supporting each other we can only grow in strength.

As always, do write in to me at or leave a comment right here.






The DPS was begun in the 1960s, when an engineer named Harry Wells decided to try and adapt a Konica C35 camera for use by the disabled. It has, since, been continuously engaged in helping the disabled take up and enjoy photography.  You can read all about them and, perhaps, join them at:




For a quarter of a century, Contact a Family has been putting families with disabled children in touch with each other. [], helps people who are affected by the same or similar disabilities get in touch with each other through its website.  It lists hundreds of medical conditions that you can browse to find ones similar to your own and click on it to find out if there are any registered persons with similar disabilities.  The registration and exchange of mail through the site are free-of-charge services.




DisabledGo is an internet service that provides information for people with hearing, vision or mobility impairments about access to shops and services., has a constantly updated database on pubs, restaurants, leisure venues and other  outlets that the disabled may want to go to, but are wary of approaching due to their concerns about accessibility issues.

It is an extraordinarily in-depth disabled access information guide, prepared by trained professionals after on-the spot visits. The information is designed to empower disabled people to make informed decisions as to the suitability of a particular venue for their special access requirements so that “journeys are not wasted and evenings are not ruined.”




The Self-Help Sourcebook Online [] is a searchable database that includes information on over 1,100+ national, international and demonstrational model self-help support groups, ideas for starting groups, and opportunities to link with others to develop needed new national or international groups.




There is a Sanskrit saying that goes “It is difficult for the diseased to bear the pain; it is even more difficult to be dependent on another; but most difficult of all is to care for the diseased and dependent.”  It is a blessing that our parents and grandparents live much longer, and more independently, than their parents and grandparents probably did.  But it is no easy task for the younger generation to balance careers and homes and care for the elderly as well as they can and should.

In The New Old Age, [], a New York Times blog, Jane Gross “explores this unprecedented intergenerational challenge and shares the stories of readers, the advice of professionals, and the wisdom gleaned from her own experience caring for her late mother in her waning years.”

The blog also provides links to resources on the web that provide information about caregiving, housing and services, other bloggers and magazines talking about the same or similar issues.



[A note to readers: Publication of DEEP has been suspended as of October 2008, the issue featured here.] 
DEEP is a ‘monthly e-magazine’. It is a place for people like us – people with disabilities, people who are disadvantaged because of geographical, socio-economic or other reasons like age – to network and get to know more about people like ourselves .
If you have overcome a handicap or difficulty, or know someone who has, and would like to share your experience, please write to  The events in your life could help someone learn how to get on with their lives.  You can also send in your feedback, anecdotes, experiences and reports as comments on the blog posts.
The contents of the latest issue are listed below.

THROUGH WINDOWS IN THE SKYFrom the Editor’s Desktop

The Paralymic Games, 2008, have been the grandest ever.  More than five thousand media representatives from round the globe covered the Games. There were more than a thousand hours of programme broadcast and about two million spectators watched the games at the Olympic village.  Nearly 4000 athletes from 147 countries participated – more athletes than ever before and more than 470 gold medals were awarded in 20 sports.  Still, I have some reservations.  Why should we play the same games as the non-disabled?  After all, ours is a special games, not integrated with the actual Olympic games? Though it takes place at the same venue, aren’t we treated differently?  Can’t we design special disciplines that will suit our capabilities rather than designing devices to help us play the same games the non-disabled play?

On the other hand, if we have to have the same events as the non-disabled, why don’t we be part of the actual Olympic Games instead of having a separate Paralympic  Games?  After all, women compete separately from men; can’t the disabled compete separately from the non-disabled under the banner of the Olympic Games itself rather than have a segregated Paralympic Games?  Isn’t that what real inclusion is all about?

Please let me know your thoughts regarding this.  Post a comment right here or write to me at


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