Introduction

Sleeping Beauty – #MyTaleToo

Sleeping Beauty – #MyTaleToo

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“STOP IT YOU’RE GOING TO GET FAT, YOU NINCOMPOOP”, I yelled at Sanjana. But it was of
no use. She couldn’t hear me.
And nincompoop? Really? Whoever uses that word anymore?
I did. A long time ago.
While the jury’s still out on nincompoop, what I definitely should not have done a long time ago,
was to fat-shame my daughter. They tell me it’s not a thing nowadays.
My daughter was stealing cookies from a jar kept in my room. I say stealing because my daughter
thought I couldn’t see her. Or hear her. In fact, at the time my entire family thought that. Initially I
couldn’t understand what was going on. They asked me questions, and I would answer. But they
reacted as if I was staring back into space.
“It’s me Ramola, do you recognise me?”, asked my husband of twenty-eight years.
“Yes Kishu, this is odd. What’s wrong?”
“Ramola, it’s me Kishu.”
“Yes, I know who you are.”
“Kishu! Your husband”
“Okay this is getting really weird.”
It did dawn upon me much later that I was indeed staring into space. My responses that I thought
I was being so articulate in, were actually all in my head! I thought I was saying something, but my
lips wouldn’t move. I could hear my own answers but there was actually no voice. Are you
confused? I was, too.
Let me bring you up to speed. Hi, I am the Sleeping Beauty and this is the first time I’m getting to
tell you my side of the story. Once upon a time my parents were the king and queen of a kingdom
in a far away land. For many years, they longed for a child. When I was finally born, seven good
fairies were invited to a banquet to be my godmothers. It was a grand banquet. Turn by turn, the
fairies began bestowing upon me various gifts that included beauty, wit, grace, dance and song.
As the sixth fairy blessed me with goodness, there was a knock on the doors of the banquet hall.
“Who are you and what do you want?”, commanded the sentry at the door.
It was the old fairy from the northernmost tower of the castle. She had with great difficulty
climbed down the stairs of the tower to come to the banquet hall. My parents had forgotten to
invite her because they thought she wasn’t alive anymore. This enraged the evil fairy and she put
a curse upon me that a staircase would one day be the cause of my death. The seventh fairy, who
hadn’t yet blessed me, attempted to reverse the curse but she could only do so partially. Instead
of dying, I was to fall into a deep sleep. The only way she could reverse the curse was to make
stairs at the core of my revival.

The curse was a peculiar one and didn’t make much sense and neither did the attempt to reverse
it. My father the king, was in a conundrum. He couldn’t banish staircases from the kingdom
because even if something happened to me, stairs would be the basis of my coming back to life.
Over the years, I grew up to be a princess, and then became queen myself. I met the man of my
dreams and we got married. We had two beautiful children together, a girl and a boy. Fifty-four
years went by without incident. We had all but forgotten about the curse when one day, I got a
message from the fairy in the northernmost tower.
“What does it say?”, I asked the messenger.
“The fairy of the northernmost tower is on her deathbed. After all these years, she repents her
actions and wishes to reverse her curse. She wants to see you tomorrow”
I was delighted. The following day, as I made my way to meet the fairy, I slipped and fell on the
stairs of the tower, hit my head on the floor and the curse came true as I fell into a deep sleep.
But it wasn’t actually a deep sleep. I was comatose. But no one understood that. When I did
come out of the coma, it was to an absurd situation where my husband was repeating his own
name to me over and over. It was extremely frustrating and I kept thinking that I shouldn’t have
climbed those stairs. My family did not know that I could see and hear everything, that I could feel
their touch when they held my hand in theirs. But I was unable to utter a word or even lift a finger
in response. There was no way of me being able to communicate to them that I was NOT sleeping
inside.
But how do I explain that to my daughter who is stealing cookies at the moment?
Then one day, came a fairy from a far away kingdom and proclaimed that I was not really sleeping
inside, and that I had the ability to respond but I needed a little help. You see, this fairy realised
that the evil fairy’s curse had not been strong enough. She could tell this because she had spent
countless hours practicing spells and curses and was well-versed in the magical art of
physiotherapy. She proclaimed that she would be able to help me but not without the support of
my family.
And so began the rigorous regime of this new magical art of physiotherapy. Day in and day out my
family and I worked together on my recovery. First step was communication. I was slowly able to
communicate with them by blinking my eyes. One blink for yes, two blinks for no. Painstakingly
my family helped me regain strength back, bit by bit. I first regained use of my fingers, then my
forearm, then my entire arm. These little recoveries encouraged me. With speech therapy, I was
gradually able to vocalise. My first words?
“I know you steal cookies from the jar in my room, Sanjana.”
Needless to say, before walking, I first learned how to sit, then stand, and then walk holding
someone for support. It took me six excruciating years to relearn how to sit, talk, stand, eat, walk,
laugh and cry. It was hard but I wanted to do it for my family. My life was on hold for all these
years and so was my family’s. If anything, I wanted to be well for them.
One day, for a strength building exercise the physio-fairy took me to a flight of stairs so we could
practise climbing stairs. As I took my first few steps up the flight of stairs, with support of course,
it struck me that this is the point at which I had fallen, and after years of hard work, this is the
point to which I had returned. As the seventh fairy had rightly predicted, stairs out of this darkness
had been at the core of my recovery.

Written by Sanjana Aswani

*This story was written as part of Rising Flame’s One Billion Rising Campaign where we rise for the rights of women and girls with disabilities.

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