Meet Smitha, the mother who fights constantly to bring about change

Smitha with her son Ishan. Photo: Special arrangement

Smitha Gireesh spoke passionately, for more than two hours, about differently abled children as well as the lives of their mothers. Mid-conversation, she would suddenly turn alert and leave the room to check on her son. She is the eyes, ears and tongue of her 10-year-old Ishan who faces communication disorders. Even though Ishan was in the other room with his grandmother, Smitha would be attentive if she heard a sound or if the door's closed.

There are chances Ishan left the room and behaved unpredictably. Smitha seemed orbiting her beloved sun. She has been leading this life for the past 10 years, without any break. However, this is not just Smitha's life. Many mothers, who take care of children suffering from various discomforts, live within the four walls of their houses. Some seldom go out or celebrate with their friends and family.

After getting to know many such mothers, Smitha who is also a writer and lawyer decided to speak and work for them too. She constantly appeals to the government, through her writings and speeches, for better treatment and education for children with such conditions, and also for better opportunities for their mothers to go out and work.

Ishan’s birth
Smitha had been going through mental struggles following the loss of her first baby after stillbirth. But Ishan was a perfect bundle of joy and she noticed nothing unusual till he turned two and a half years. She noticed that he had minor communication difficulties and was also showing signs of hyperactivity. Her husband Gireesh works in the Gulf. Smitha had to give up her dream job in the judicial services to care for Ishan.

Even though she passed the initial exam, Smitha couldn’t pursue it any further. She even opened an office at Kunnamkulam to practice as a lawyer. However, Smitha could not manage the office as she was often busy with Ishan’s education and treatment. She struggled when everyone blamed her for the boy's condition, at least in the initial years.

Smitha boldly faced these challenges by turning to writing which had always been with her since childhood. She wrote three books on her mobile phone with Ishan by her side. Her extremely busy life didn’t deter her from writing and publishing Bohemian Republic, Kottayam Diary and Swapnamezhuthukari. (Her fourth book will be out soon.) This was indeed an incredible achievement for someone who began writing only after 40.

In 2019, Ishan was enrolled in Sir Rajasree Rama Varma School in Kunnamkulam. Smitha spent her days at the school for an entire academic year, tending to Ishan’s needs. It was at the school that she wrote ‘Kottayam Diaries’, her widely-read book. She had moved to Kottayam for a year when Ishan was admitted to the Jewel Therapy Centre in Kottayam. The book has anecdotes from her life in Kottayam. She writes about the people she met there and their experiences too. Moreover, Ishan too is a major character in it.

Mothers’ struggles
Social life does not exist for the mothers of children with special needs. They do not have the ‘freedom’ to move around or enjoy life outside their homes. They hardly go to the theatres to watch a movie or for a trip with the family. Enjoying a meal outside or catching a good night’s sleep is alien to them. Moreover, they have to give up their careers to tend to their children.

Smitha says that such women can pursue a career only if they have an amazing support system in the family. Smitha would have been an able judicial officer if only there was a trusted therapy centre or a special school where Ishan would be safe and happy. She walks hand in hand with Ishan to normal life by creating an extremely vibrant world of their own through her writings and activities on social media.

Achieving that life is not easy as it involves struggles and challenges. Smitha’s mother Valsala Sasikumar is a great source of support and strength. Her husband Gireesh too is extremely supportive. Smitha says that not all mothers are fortunate enough to possess such, a supportive environment, mental strength or other physical abilities.

My world, my own
Smitha engages on social media whenever she manages to find some free time amid all the chores and taking care of Ishan. She believes that one should pursue one’s happiness and shouldn’t compromise on it. Only then can you make your life and your kids’ lives better and fulfilling. 

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