Let us imagine you are a wheelchair user going shopping with your ‘non-disabled’ friend. You approach a salesman and start asking him questions about an item you want to buy. He pointedly ignores you and directs all his responses to your friend instead! R. Vanrammawii (28) from Aizawl has often experienced such crass behaviour although she is quick to add that it generally happens outside her state of Mizoram. “In Mizo society we do not humiliate or discriminate against others; rather, we help those in need,” she says. “I feel privileged that way.”
Vanrammawii, the firstborn child of R. Lalhuliana (56) and C. Lalrinfeli (49), contracted polio at nine months. Her family, which she calls “my greatest supporter and strength in my life”, ensured that despite her severe locomotor disability she was fully engaged in all their social activities. In childhood her three ‘cousin brothers’ looked out for her safety when she played with other kids. Until Class 6 she attended Gilead Special School which also provided her with physical therapy. In Class 7 she moved to the mainstream Govt. Muma Middle School where she got first rank in every term. At the Govt. Aizawl East High School she was so good in her studies that she was allowed to skip Class 9.
Class 11 is when she started having problems with mobility and accessibility. So far, her schools had been situated in her locality, Armed Veng, but Govt. Republic Higher Secondary School was in Ramthar Veng and it had no school bus. Since she obviously couldn’t afford to pay hundreds of rupees in taxi fare each day, the principal and staff kindly allowed her to attend class just two days in a week. Pachhunga University College, where she did her B.A. (Sociology), was even further away and the college bus had no service in her area, so she was once again permitted to restrict her attendance to twice a week.
Vanrammawii says she cherishes her experience at Pachhunga. She headed the College Literature Club in the fifth and sixth semester, graduated with a first class and got a special award too. The college was also disabled-friendly and had wheelchair access, unlike Govt. Mizoram Law College from where she got her LLB degree in 2021. She has enrolled as an advocate under the Guwahati High Court but is yet to begin practising.
While studying for LLB she worked under the Aizawl District Legal Service Authority as a Para-Legal Volunteer. As a social activist she worked for the uplift and rights of persons with disabilities (PwDs). “I have made many speeches at public gatherings, in institutions and on TV, on promoting and protecting the rights of PwDs,” she says. “I also worked under the District Commissioner of Aizawl as a District Icon for accessible elections.”
Vanrammawii has two younger sisters: Vanlalngaihawmi who is studying nursing and Malsawmtluangi who has done her B.A. and is attending coaching classes for the civil services examination. Her brother Lalpekhlua is the youngest, studying in Class 12 in the Science stream. Her father is a fireman in Aizawl’s Fire & Emergency Service while her mother “takes care of the household – and me!”
Reading the Bible and writing articles occupy her spare time. When asked what change she would like to see in society she quotes Luke 6:31 from the Bible which says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” She says, “If everyone followed this precept, no one would lack or feel deprived of anything. I really wish people would change their attitude to us and treat us as normal human beings.”