What does living at home mean? The answer to that question may be very different for different people. Many people with disabilities across India, particularly those who come from backgrounds of material poverty, have been stripped of home, and are seeking connections with family and roots. Choices and freely given relationships are so important and valuable in all of our lives, and yet are frequently denied to those who have disabilities and even more so to those who have been living in institutions.
Rosy is one such person. Living in the institution since she was a child, she had little access to freely given relationships. Her family, and the small beauties of family life, was a distant memory to her. Yet a day came when she walked out of the gates of the institution to move into a home of her own. Here in her home, she could decide for herself what she wanted and what she did not. She had options and choices. And one day, after some efforts from the people who supported her, her family was found. She was able to meet with her stepmother, and her siblings, and talked over video-call to her sister. There was a joyous reunion, and yet, did that mean she would give up her newly forged home to pursue her life with these people? It was a question which only Rosy herself could answer. After all, she is her own woman, her own person. She is neither owned by her family, nor the organization that serves her in this new home.
She was given a choice whether she wanted to stay with them. And she said no. While she wanted the freely given relationships that came with her having found her family, she also opted to stay at her own home and have her own place. She continues to keep in touch with them but chose to live in a separate home.
Dimple, a lady who had been separated from her family for over 5 years and living in the institution where Rosy was staying earlier also got reunited with her family. She was asked if she wanted to meet her family and rejoin her husband and children. She opted to go back to her family and stay with them. Reunification, but different choices and different possibilities. So many times, people who are devalued also get deprived of the right to choose for themselves. From choices like food and clothing, to ones that affect their future. They get moved from place to place as if they were objects and not people.
It is often assumed that once a person knows where their family is, they must live with them. Consent, respect, and dignity of choice is very important if we want people to take their own place in society that has a place for everyone and gives them all the rights that are accorded to everyone who has valued roles. The dignity of the right to choose is one that moved people from roles of dependence to roles of full citizenship.