Why KBC Showing Disability & Depression As ‘Inspiring’ Is A Disservice To Those Who Suffer!

Posted: September 9, 2019

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Popular show Kaun Banega Crorepati recently featured a few people with disabilities (PWDs) as contestants. Which is good, except for the way the whole thing was handled.

Kaun Banega Crorepati, is the Indian television game show based on the British programme Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? It has been airing on Sony TV for many years now, and the current season is still on.

A few of the episodes recently featured people with disabilities (PWDs). This was seen as a welcome move by many in India, as the people with physical and mental challenges and their caregivers had a chance to speak at such a huge national platform, partnered by none other than the game host, hugely famous Indian film actor Amitabh Bachchan.

It is indeed commendable that finally the struggles of people with disability are being brought into focus along with the struggles of those who care for them. However the episodes did overrule so many disability etiquette rules and lacked empathetic use of language and gestures.

Inspiration porn?

Disability activists across India have been trying to break social barriers of taboo and stigma against disability. So, when on such a massive platform, disability is featured almost bordering on ‘Inspiration Porn’, there is bound to be outrage and disappointment.

What is inspiration porn?

It is a term used by disability rights activists globally for instances where abled people use pictures/ videos/ representations of disabled people to exclaim how inspirational they are simply for existing, or use these to guilt abled people into trying harder and/ or label disability as something divine not human, just like the Indian official word for disability- ‘Divyang’ (one who has a divine organ/part) and is by inference divine. Inspiration porn builds immense social pressure on PWDs to start believing that they have to be an “inspiration” or an achiever to matter socially or to get equal respect.

Rejection of wheelchair, a mobility tool

Nupur who has battled multiple disabilities was featured in this episode seemed to be proud of the fact that she had never used crutches or wheelchair in her entire life, and was applauded as a great feat by the host.

While this is commendable as personal will power, a wheelchair has been deemed as a great mobility asset for PWDs across the world. It is not a marker of any deficiency or lack in the person, but a tool of mobility that empowers movement with dignity.

Nupur was carried around the set of the show, which indicates that it lacks accessibilityfor the PWDs, and also that it is okay to compromise on personal space and dignity but don’t use a facilitation like the wheelchair because that will get you labelled.

Clichés like “Jhansi ki Rani” do more damage to both gender sensitivity and disability etiquette than helping it. Globally, wheelchair users take pride in being self-sufficient and demand that all public spaces be equally accessible to them.

Special educator & mother of a ‘special’ child

The episode aired on 3rd September featured a special educator from Jaipur who is also a parent of child with disability.

There was unnecessary glorification of motherhood as is usually the norm in India. But more than that, there was blatant use of insensitive phrasesthat the contestant might have said in an emotionally charged environment while shooting the episode, but should have been edited, like- “When I first saw him, I thought what is this?…… This is not what I had wanted….” (Translated from Hindi). While she spoke about inclusion and not segregation, I wish she could speak more about the fact that raising a child isn’t a favour we do to them, whatever their challenges, and an important part of the inclusion is to shed the ‘special’ label.

Depression can’t just be ‘outgrown’

Episode 13 featured a young boy who is a depression survivor. He speaks about suicidal thoughts and depression being fatal in some cases, but all this went without any trigger warning. Also there was the indirect perpetuating of misinformation about already hugely stigmatised mental health in India, when views like “…it is enough for a depression survivor to have someone talk to.” (Translated from Hindi) are aired.

His whole story was presented from a POV that ignores that depression is a mental health condition that needs constant management and support; not what was portrayed, as something one can easily outgrow.

Objectifying women, trivialising suicide ideas

Featured as KBC Karamveer, well-known wheelchair user and activist Navin Gulia spoke in this episode about his work in education and gender sensitisation in his village, but said something contrary to the purpose.

He said “Betiyon ko sashakt banao taaki unki value badhe” (Make daughters strong so that their value increases.) The statement directly objectifies girls and the whole problematic notion of proving your usefulness/worthiness for the society as women is brought into focus.

Making fun of suicidal ideation, he said that if he receives a call from a youngster saying sir I am suicidal because my girlfriend left me, I tell him “Go die!”

We already live in an apathetic society, hugely insensitive in how to use disability and mental health etiquette, a statement like this from a celebrity on a huge public forum adds to that insensitivity.

What experts say

Stella Young’s TED TALK highlights this aptly when she says that in popular perception disability is seen as a huge flaw or deficiency instead of just diversity or difference, and hence anybody living with disability is automatically labelled exceptional, which is a huge burden to carry.

This whole discourse prevents the normalisation of disability and mental healthalong with invisible illnesses like epilepsy, Lupus of Fibromyalgia.

It also perpetuates the idea that disability is something to be overcome as an adversityand not just as a different way of life. It definitely is a social adversity and hence needs fixing the environment, not fixing the person.

We need a lot of sensitisation to reinforce that different and diverse people are equal people; they are not just inspirational stories or case studies.

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Pooja Priyamvada is a columnist, professional translator and an online content and Social Media consultant.

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Comments

2 Comments


  1. Barnana Chakraborti -

    Dear Ms Pooja, First of all your article is very confusing and contradictory. It needs a lot of editing if you are trying to show some empathy toward people with special needs. How can you separate the family from the person because the journey of a special needs person is not his/her alone but the entire family’s specially the mother? I am not aware of your personal experience and am sorry if there is anything untoward or bitter that may have happened. However, to generalise your sole experience with that of everyone else’s is unfair. Since you do not know these families personally it would be better for you not to pass your personal judgement against them and dilute the culture of the special needs fraternity. I wish you rework on your articulation a bit more sensitively. Should you need any help in your own journey please feel free to reach out. You will find these entire set of people who have commented to step in first including the mother you butchered in your post. All the best.

    • Dear Ma’am because the families play a crucial role they have to learn to deal with disability better than the rest of the world. nothing against the mother, an my self a single mother and disabled, but everything against the use of insensitive language towards the disabled and how a TV program is sensationalasing their struggles for TRP. I will definitely reach out if I need help, so few like you, forthcoming to offer ‘help’.

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