Friday 30 April 2021



Going to a new city made me realize and reflect on spaces. This was the first time that I was going to

be all on my own. I had to start from scratch : get used to not only my emotions, but the physicality of my

location. Ramps are meant to be accessible, not rugged and uneven. This was a city where the roads

were too wide, the traffic lights were too bright and the cars zoomed in and out. As a physically disabled

woman, 5 ft in height and anxiety in her heart, I had to learn how to take up space and make the city my


Making the city my own had an entirely different connotation for me as a disabled woman, than say,

my able-bodied counterpart.

At the movies, exploring a city to an able-bodied woman meant going on long walks, meeting a cute

person, falling in love, going to Sarojini Nagar and shopping. But for me, everything had always been

terrifyingly inaccessible. The crowded, inaccessible lanes of Sarojini Nagar, the long, winding, roads

filled with pebbles at Jugmug Thela, the concert which had no chairs at Saket mall, and oh, romantic


Romantic love, for me, was distant. I had convinced myself that it's unattainable, and hence

unnecessary. I always ended up choosing the first person who asked me out, who executed the bare

minimum and who frankly, never really met my standards. But, my mind would think, ‘’Oh yes, this

person accepts me DESPITE my disability, despite my flaws, despite my voice, despite my everything.

They’re the only person in the world who’ll accept me as I am, so I better hold on to them EVEN if

they’re abusive, manipulative and do not live up to their words.’’

My thought process was reiterating an ableist society - that applauds an able-bodied man for ‘’agreeing’’

to marry a disabled woman. Pay close attention to the words used in these two paragraphs -

‘’DESPITE’’ and ‘’AGREE’’, makes dating disabled folks seem like a favour, doesn’t it? You see, in my

experience, even when able-bodied folks do the bare minimum for disabled folks (ie. Carrying food from

a buffet, helping me cross the road, helping me climb the stairs), they always remember to point it out

to me that what a great, big favour they have carried out for me.

Well, I’m anything but a favour. I’m Fierce, I’m Radical, I’m Fabulous. To find power in my reality, however, took me many years.

                            I’m Fierce, I’m Radical, I’m Fabulous. (Dont fall for this easy breezy look)


I would venture out into the city with caution - counting my steps, fearful, and weary. At 20 years of age,

I took my first auto ride on my own. I distinctly remember the vibrations on the bottom of the auto, as it

went through my shoes. It made me feel alive and independent, in an able-bodied world. Suddenly, I

had discovered an entire new feeling on my auto ride : a feeling that gave me power, a feeling that made

me feel radical, a feeling that made me joyous. Public transport, I discovered that day was actually fun!

Until, I reached my destination and the auto driver turned to me and said - ‘’Chalees rupaye’’. I panicked

, being from Calcutta I hadn’t bothered to learn my numbers in hindi. ‘’Chalees rupaye kya hota hai,

bhaiya?’’ I said, as I panicked. He chuckled - it seemed like I had made my first friend in a new city!

                              Learning something new about my new city everyday (and making notes)


My hostel room however, was my haven. It’s where I put on lipstick and slept in my favourite lingerie

(Um, yes alone!). As I look at myself in the mirror, and at my naked disabled body, I realized something -

I’m beautiful! Actually I realized one more thing : that able-bodied men have disempowered me my

entire life. I’m my own mother now and that I must look after myself in a new city - because no one else

will, not even a partner.

But to be a disabled woman in the world, one had to have courage, work harder than her able-bodied

counterparts, and be fearless.

                        Thats an accurate representation of me in my hostel room in Delhi Summers

Let's deconstruct these 3 terms : courageous, workaholic and fearless, shall we?

What does having courage and being fearless, mean to me, as a disabled woman?

Courage means being unafraid to dissent, to question the existing social structure, to be enraged. Even if it means dissenting in my mind, and not in real life, always remember : it is still valid. 

What does having courage and being fearless, mean to me, as a disabled woman?

Courage means being unafraid to dissent, to question the existing social structure, to be enraged. Even if it means dissenting in my mind, and not in real life, always remember : it is still valid. 

We have to redefine our definitions of activism and politics. No voice is unequal or not valuable. My

speech difficulty that is sidelined and ignored just because ableists fail to comprehend what I’m saying,

is political. When my speech and agency is ignored, and others speak over me–a tool of systemic

oppression–is also political. I speak a language of resistance and rebellion. 

I grew up with a speech difficulty, something that I’ve been ashamed of, for a long time. Sometimes, I

wouldn’t talk for an entire day, because I was so afraid of people hearing my “disabled” voice. I was

disgusted by how it sounded. So much so, that when the teacher would begin the role call I’d dread it

because then that meant having to yell back “Yes, I am present” to my name. When I say I was afraid

to Take Up Space, I also mean the space that the voice I have muffled for years would take up. But now

when I look back at every instance, I think to myself, “Should we really have a loud voice to take up

space?” Maybe my voice is not loud enough for everyone to sloganeer with at political rallies and

protest sites and give elaborate public speeches. But it is still enough, isn’t it?

Why don’t we make the definition of political spaces more accessible and disabled-friendly instead?

Just because I’m an activist who writes about disability makes me no less than an activist who speaks

about disability in front of a large audience. I feel that we really need to change our perspective and how

we view certain concepts, even within the disabled community itself, where women with speech

difficulties are discriminated against.

Now, what do I mean when I say that, as a disabled woman, I need to work harder than my able-bodied


When I say work harder, I don't mean in an able-bodied sense. You see, I can work hard from anywhere

- from my bed, from my table, after having a good night's sleep, after waking up at 12pm - one doesn't

have to have a certain able-bodied standard to work hard : one doesn't have to wake up at 5am, they

can work hard even after 12pm, one doesn't have to sit up straight at the table, they can even work

hard from their bed. For many of us who are chronically ill, the bed is our safe haven. Sometimes we

can't get out of bed due to our aching bones. But don't worry, that doesn't deter us from working hard

akin to your able-bodied employee. As disabled folk, we can start an entire social movement from our

beds, make routines, get sh*t done. You get the point. 

   My all time favourite look!  Resistance is so sexy!

How the meaning of survival has changed for me -

In my childhood, as I looked down at my crooked, bent fingers begging for my love, begging to be

accepted, I quickly hid it under my coats because my environment told me that it is unattractive and

hideous to be disabled. I grew up with fairytales where only witches had crooked teeth, crooked fingers,

crooked legs. Meanwhile, Cinderella was able-bodied, tall and white.

When I approached the end of my teenage years, the only thing that was on my mind was that I wanted

to go to the supermarket alone for the first time in 10 years. It’s all that I could think of. All I wanted to

do was travel in public transport and go for a walk alone. I had never gone for a walk alone or gone to

my local bazaar alone. Being independent in my own way, I felt was essential for my survival and


Survival for me now, means an entirely different thing. Survival to me means acceptance : To be able to

dance in my room however I want - not the able-bodied way, but my disabled way. To be able to move

my curved fingers in the form of a dance step without a care in the world - At this point I don’t care if I’m

attractive to anyone - I should be attractive to myself. At 14, survival to me meant catching up to able-

bodied standards of living, dancing, affection and dating. But, at 23, survival to me means creating an

affirmative space for fellow disabled women where we carve out our own disabled histories. It means

not waiting for anyone’s approval but making an impulsive decision anyway. Learning, un-learning and

re-learning from impulsive decisions and looking out for yourself. As disabled women we need to speak

up, speak out and take up space in our neighbourhood, on roads, in grocery stores, at the dining table,

in conversations, in panel discussions. We need to so the seeds of intersectionality with our disabled

fingers and watch them bloom for future disabled women. 

Speaking up is easier said than done because for me personally, as a woman with a speech disability,

speaking up doesn’t only serve an auditory function. It becomes a tool of political resistance - whenever

I speak up, I speak up with immense courage. I speak up carrying a history of oppression, of ableism,

of misogyny, of harassment. I speak up carrying centuries of disabled anger, angst, dissent and

resistance. What is the use of being at the table if I’m not heard and acknowledged? So, whenever I

speak up, it takes effort. It takes acceptance - for me to accept my disabled voice and to get over my

fear that others might not understand me. When I was 14, able-bodiedness was something I looked up

to - like something I had to achieve, something that would finally make me happy and satisfied, just like

a before and after picture of someone who had lost weight. 


Women with disabilities suffer from misinformation regarding their sexuality, far too often because most

doctors would consider us to be devoid of any desires or in other words, asexual. Disabled Sex-ed is

non-existent. Imagine a world where discussing accessibility or logistical requirements during sexual

intercourse isn't awkward, or weird. Imagine a world where I wouldn’t have to tell men I just met on

tinder that, ‘’I walk with a crutch’’ and that I hoped that that wouldn’t be an ‘’inconvenience’’ for them.

Imagine a world where we taught disabled girl’s to love themselves and normalized asking all those

questions that were at the back of our minds but we couldn’t ask because our parents had never

educated us about sexualities or identities. Imagine a world where we didn’t tell disabled girls that they

were too ‘’weak’’ to have sex. Imagine a world where some able-bodied men learn what ‘’no!’’ means 


As soon as I entered college, I remember my peers would run to ask my friend, "oh but she's disabled

and has a boyfriend? How?". There was this unsaid and invisible clause that a college student who's a

disabled woman should behave in a certain way : she shouldn't live life according to her own choices :

this would entail her not being able to go out with friends at night but instead, staying in and studying

because of course, disabled women cannot party. Since childhood, my disability had prevented me

from behaving in a certain way, that meant standing up for what I believed in. I had to be nice and

polite because I depended on my classmate for their help even if they were mean to me. I couldn't be

hostile to those who were rude to me because who would help me go to the canteen or who would help

me with notes when I was absent due to the untimely flare up of my chronic illness?

                                               Getting around on my own (and shopping of course!)


Why do I have to fit into the various othered boxes constructed by my able-bodied classmates? Why do I have to be "the ideal disabled woman" and not someone who lives life on her own terms? You know what, I don't want to be an inspiration. In fact, I'm far from that. I'm flawed. I'm flawed and sad and depressed and angry. I have no motivation nowadays. Why is there a certain standard that disabled women must live up to, a certain standard that paints us as relevant only when we become TedX motivational speakers, or we "inspire" others with our struggle and make them feel better about their ablebodieness?

Until next time, 

Your fav disabled girl in a new city.

A little bit about the writer-

Growing up in a bookstore, books taught Anusha ways of dissent and how to take the road less travelled by. She is a psychology graduate from Lady Shriram College, a writer and the Editor-in-Chief of Revival Disability Magazine, a magazine on Disability, sexuality and intersectional Ableism. She writes a column about Taking Up Space as a disabled woman on Feminism In India.

She describes herself as "queer, chaotic and disabled" and strongly believes that intersectionality gives marginalized women the emotional skin to survive in the world.

Monday 19 April 2021



 This post was first published on Belongg

Fair warning: This piece is going to be about Disability and sex, dating, relationships, sexting and disappointments. Rebellious, huh? No.

                                           Thats me ! Anusha Mishra- the author of this blogpost


I grew up watching a show called ‘’Girl In The City’’ (starring Mithila Palkar) and would dream of the day when I moved out of my house to a new city where I would meet someone and, of course, fall in love. A simple Calcutta girl had a simple heteronormative dream. The show follows the journey of Meera who arrives in Mumbai from the town of Dehradun to pursue her dreams and ambitions. As a 14-year-old, when I watched the show, the thought of accessibility never crossed my mind, not even once. Meera was confident in her steps, Meera could climb stairs, Meera could carry her luggage without any help, Meera could navigate the environment without her non-existent mobility aids slowing her down. As an impressionable teenager, I thought I’d be just like Meera. By denying myself my disabled identity, I now feel like I was unfair to myself. 

The people around me didn’t help either. Relatives would say, ‘’You’re not disabled, you’re just lazy!’’ with boys I dated chiming in with, ‘’You’re too pretty to be disabled! My girlfriend can never be disabled!’’. Clearly, I would now barf at these comments. To recognize abuse in the form of ableism and find power in my identity took me 22 years. 

I like to identify with myself rather than identifying with an able-bodied adult on screen, a conclusion which I’ve arrived at after a whole life led otherwise. 

The house I grew up in had a certain storybook quality to it. It was feminine, it calmed me down. Calcutta was home. The narrow lanes of Calcutta were warm and non-threatening. However, it is also where I experienced severe childhood depression, borne out of disability grief and self-loathing. I had the habit of naming rooms in my house after my moods. The room where I grew up was called the “depression room”. The bathroom was called my “happy room” because it had memories of warm showers and soapy bubbles on a sunlit afternoon. 

I would often ask myself : Why was the moon bigger in Delhi? Why was love bigger in Delhi? Why was the sky bigger in Delhi? As someone from a small city like Calcutta, being just about 5 feet and having an intense fear of open spaces, I would look at the narrow (inaccessible) lanes of Champa Gali and the lights of JugMug Thela and wonder, ‘’Isn’t Dilli the loveliest place to fall in love?’’. Well, I was naive back then, with my eyes full of stars.

My mum, Mayura and I, feeling giddy over books, our common love interest.

Please excuse my conditioning!

Growing up disabled, I have often perceived love and relationships as something terrifyingly inaccessible—from the man to whom I’d send daily feminist posts on Instagram (in the hope of ‘’training’’ him to become an intersectional feminist), to the person I was seeing for about a month, until I realized that they open up more on Twitter than they would ever open up to me. 

Whatever it was, can I blame my conditioning, which mostly consisted of Carrie Bradshaw and her toxic love life? My first relationship was with a cis-het man who was overly obsessive and controlling. He started imagining the names of our future offspring by the 2nd date and made me meet his mother by the 3rd. 

Our first date is worth noting. I was feeling particularly rebellious (undeniably, a result of my sheltered upbringing) and so I decided to get drunk for the first time with a stranger from Tinder. Soon, it was dark, and I was intoxicated with alcohol which in turn, made me think I was intoxicated with love (as it often happens). What ensued was cuddling, and a conversation between two hormonal horny teenagers. Cute, right? 

He dropped me home, I began to see stars in his eyes and the rest is history. It was a cute, traumatic relationship. He gave back all the gifts I had given him during the course of our coupling, except well, my bra. I often wonder what he did with it. Did he burn it? Did he throw it? Did he give it to another romantic escapade? Does he still have it in the back of his closet? Well, who knows. 

One conclusion can be drawn from above: Fake orgasms became my forte.

Clarrissa Pinkola Estes writes in her much celebrated book called "Women Who Run With The Wolves"  that women who've been caged their entire life, either because of childhood abuse or disability, grow up hungry. As soon as they taste freedom, they don't know how to balance it with reality. They'll often paint too much, love too much, work too much. I believe that I'm one of those women.

All my life, due to my disability, I've always felt like I've been missing out. And so, as soon as I entered college, I always engaged in extreme behavioursI either studied too much till I got sick, drank too much (alcohol), and oh, the toxic men were many. My entire life, I've always felt like I had to somehow "catch up" to my able-bodied classmates.

Felt cute, might delete later (or not)! 


Now that I was living alone in a new city, I had to book my own therapist appointments, learn how to be kinder to myself, learn how to make the right decisions, teach myself to work harder because we live in an able-bodied world where disabled folk constantly need to prove themselves. I no longer had mom to help me tie my hair, or attach the hooks of my earrings (I couldn’t attach them myself due to my disabled left hand). Petition for accessible earrings, by the way. I had to learn to ask for help from my hostel mates. 

I had grown up thinking that my disability made me inferior, weak, and asking for help would simply tarnish my reputation as I thought that I was already a burden by being around people. One of the realizations I’ve reached, over the years, is that it is absolutely okay to ask for help, even if it’s something as simple wearing an intricate gown or attaching the hooks at the back of a dress. 

Living in a new city was lonely but it also taught me to survive, book my appointments, take care of myself and get photos clicked with abstract sculptures!!


As we enter our later 20's, more than physical rebounds, we look for emotional reboundsor as I like to call it, an emotional "quickie"jumping from one obsession to another. As young women, we're always taught to "settle down" quickly : As a result, I grew up craving security and searching for it in different men.

As I swiped on dating apps such as Hinge, where a man congratulates himself on ‘’putting down the toilet seat’’ and another bold man proclaims, ‘’Dating apps have brought about an era of feminism never before seen, we men have to put on a fancy show to impress women and pray to God that we get laid!’’  (I’m not making this up; I’m quoting it word for word), I realized that trying dating as a single person during a pandemic is, to say the least, brave and I’m certainly not brave (I inherently dislike that word due to being intensely patronized during my childhood days. People would call me "brave" for surviving an illness).  

I cringe when able-bodied men on dating apps ask me if I would like to "go out" for drinks. Me, who has an immune system that is compromised due to a chronic illness, would scoff at that. Going out during a pandemic is nothing but an act of violence. 

As our lives have gone online during a pandemic, so has love and sex. I’ve dated able-bodied men my entire life, and I’ve always been curious about sexting : How do I sext as a disabled woman? How do I inform my able-bodied significant other (who’s really into sexting, by the way) that the impossible sex positions he’s describing on text cannot be possible in real life because well, I'm...disabled? Does disabled-friendly feminist sexting exist, or is it just heteronormative able-bodied sexting? Am I a bad feminist? What is the intersectionality between sexting and disability? How do we meet somewhere in the middle? I’m not being too crude, am I?

In my only adult relationship, I felt like I was too dependent on the other person for validation and positive affirmations. After our whirlwind romance where parked car conversations would end up always being a trigger for me, I realized that I had always depended on the other person for acceptance and approval : Whether it was waiting for a text back, conditional happiness, or emotional dependency, I always sought a certain kind of security in the other person. 

As a physically disabled woman, I feel like I grew up with overprotective parents (understandably so) and as I ventured out into the world alone, in a new city, I looked for the same emotional security in a significant other. 

Until I found out that the only security I needed was within myself. Loving myself has been radical. Fucking myself has been radical. Exploring my body and its needs has been radical. Realizing my bisexuality has been radical. Respecting my own boundaries has been radical. Learning how to say “no" has been radical. Respecting my own emotional and mental peace after years of toxicity has been radical. Putting myself and my hardwork first has been radical. 

Realizing that I'm worthy of life, of love and of appreciation has been radical.

My disability has certainly not been a gentle breeze. Neither has heartbreak. I'd be lying to myself if I said that I accepted myself from the very beginning. My grief has been cruel to me.  It has made me give up time and again and has made me pick up myself again from the bathroom floor because I was grieving about the loss of my mobility. I've tripped and fallen several times, bruised my body, hated my unstable balance. I always remember the faces of kind people who pick me up after I've fallen down, both physically and emotionally.

I promise I don’t examine all my behaviours to such an extent. Or maybe I do?

For everything else, whenever I feel lonely and feel the abandonment issues creeping in, I hug myself and my boobs very tightly, until I feel warm enoughbecause I'm my own emotional rebound.

Until next time, 

Your fav disabled girl in a new city.

A little bit about the writer-

Growing up in a bookstore, books taught Anusha ways of dissent and how to take the road less travelled by. She is a psychology graduate from Lady Shriram College, a writer and the Editor-in-Chief of Revival Disability Magazine, a magazine on Disability, sexuality and intersectional Ableism. She writes a column about Taking Up Space as a disabled woman on Feminism In India.

She describes herself as "queer, chaotic and disabled" and strongly believes that intersectionality gives marginalized women the emotional skin to survive in the world.

Here is the link to the original article that was published on Belongg.