We can work towards the “good Indian life” for people who are vulnerable by focusing on helping people have social roles which are valued. Social roles which are typical and valued open up all kinds of doors for people – and seem to be the typical ways that most of us gain acceptance, belonging, personal growth, friendship,opportunities, and a good reputation. Roles also help us define who we are, and the way we envision ourselves. Now that’s something we want to pay attention to.
Activities are different than roles. They may be interesting, fun, and even memorable (going to a football game), but they are not the same as a role (being a football fan). Roles bring all kinds of good things along with them, and they are things vulnerable people really must have.
The parent of a young man with a disability brought this to light so wonderfully at a recent dialogue session. She observed that, until recently, her son, Pradeep, spent his days in the candle-making room at a workshop, and when asked what he did for work, he would always reply “I make candles”. Now, he works six days a week at the The Red Fox Hotel, and when you ask him what he does for work, he says, “I am an employee at Red Fox Hotel”. Pradeep feels the immense difference between an activity and a role, and it shows in his life, and the way he describes his work as role, not activity. A small lesson from this young man and his proud mother, but one that matters.