Sixteen days. Sixteen stories about Her from my Diary.

Day 9: Haana

Haana, is a far relative. It is the first time I write about a relative of mine in these stories. She is related to my aunts in-law’s. The first time I met Haana was when she was nine years old. She had short, bob cut blonde hair, very fair skin, round eyes, she was a little on the chubby side, but cute chubby. She gave very tight hugs and giggled a lot.

Art work by Rawa Jalizada, you can find the very talented Rawa here

When I met Haana, I brought paint and pencils and we did a painting together, we drew, we scribbled and we coloured page after page. At the age of nine she drew much better than I could, her drawings, I recall were very detailed. For a nine-year-old the art work Haana produced was not just beyond her age, but came from inner natural talent. It was obvious.

I told her father – who was sitting in the living room with a few family members – that Haana was talented in art, he smiled. Not just any smile, but a smile of sympathy, a smile that said ‘but so what’ a smile that hid tears and inner struggles.

I know too well when a father smiles to hide his burning heart. I know that look. He came to see Haana’s art, and patted her head a pat on the head hard enough to mess the neatly cut bob. She pushed his hand away and tidied her hair again. Haana then looked up to her father with those beautiful, sparkly circle eyes. She smiled back. Her smile was different to his. Haana’s smile was of contentment, she was proud of her art work. Nothing else. She seemed to really enjoy herself. Art, I realised was a new experience for her.

You see, dearest reader, Haana was autistic.

She lived in a rural area four hours away from the nearest city.

I could not be in a long conversation with her father. Maybe he wasn’t welcoming of a conversation, maybe at the time I was not comfortable to approach him directly.

After they left that day, I asked my aunt a few questions. I learned Haana’s father was concerned about her future: who Haana will marry, and how she will cope in life. He did not send her to school fearing bullies, or for her to make a mistake to humiliate herself.

He did not send her to school fearing bullies

The same night, I folded one of the drawings Haana did of a beautiful rose with a butterfly sitting on it. The butterfly had a blend of different colours. I wrote her name, my aunt’s house location and the date. I folded it and placed it into my big box of memories. I wrote about her in my diary.

Years later, after becoming a mother, I understand her father’s worries. I understand his concern and his fears. I understand that not only Haana was a girl, but also an autistic girl in a society that does not have any awareness about special needs. I understand he was not educated or privileged enough to raise Haana in a healthy manner with her special condition.

In the two hours I was with Haana, I learned about her love and talent in art, I wondered how many other talents she had. I wondered how many ‘normal’ children could paint and draw the way Haana could, yet she was labelled abnormal. I wondered what the future held for her. I wondered how her life would have been if she went to a school that accepted and understood her, parents who knew how to raise her ‘normally’ and if only society did not feel sorry for her, but instead accepted her.

she was labelled abnormal

I write this on International Day of Disabled People (I am against the word disabled) and during 16 days of activitism to combat violence against women. How hard it is to be a woman, and be special needs in a society that only judges and does not try to learn and accept….

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