#BigInterview! Sudha Chandran on airport ordeal

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All eyes were on the apology tweets drafted by CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) officials on Friday afternoon, after actor and dancer Sudhaa Chandran dropped a video on her Instagram handle tagging Hon’ble Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi. She shared her airport ordeal because she had enough of the grilling that is always conducted because of her prosthetic limb. ETimes reached out to the talented actress, to know exactly what irked her so much so that she requested the PM about instituting a better process for specially challenged and prosthetic users. She suggested pre-authorised cards / ids be given to challenged and prosthetic users. Even Kangana Ranaut took to her Instagram account to show solidarity with Chandran.
Sudhaa Chandran, who has been known for her extraordinary contributions to the world of dance, cinema and television, engages in a free-flowing conversation, expressing her concerns about this issue and also thanked CISF officials and other ministers for their immediate action. Excerpts from the conversation:

In the social media video, where you brought to light the ordeal that you endured at the hands of a CISF lady official at the airport, you seem very concerned and stern in your request towards the Hon’ble Prime Minister, about getting a better process for differently abled and prosthetic users. Have you been subjected to many security inconveniences in the past?
I am not saying I have faced too many security issues before. I only want to say that there are a lot of CISF personnel, who are very considerate about the whole issue and they understand it. However, at times we come across people who are very adamant about certain things, which I am not able to understand. It has been very categorically said, and also the CISF officers mentioned yesterday in their tweets, that the prosthetic has to be removed only under exceptional circumstances. So my point is, if this has been conveyed to all the CISF officers, why do few of the officers behave like this? Insisting on the fact that an (Explosives Trace Detectors) ETD scan has to be done, which I know is a protocol to be followed. I mean, I never said that I am a dancer or I have done this for the country, No! I treat myself as a normal citizen. I had only asked as a request as a normal citizen of this country, to do something about this issue. And I feel if the protocols are conveyed to all the CISF officials while some follow, why are others not doing so? Why are people like us subject to this harassment? The officials say, removing my prosthetic limb is a protocol and we have to follow it and I too never said no to follow the norm, as it’s a question of our National Security. As a citizen, safety comes first and I am happy that they are following the rules and regulations. I certainly don’t want anybody in India to not follow the protocols, which would be very wrong.

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The CISF issued a statement that said, “As per protocol, prosthetics are to be removed for security checks only under exceptional circumstances.” What were these exceptional circumstances? What did the lady officer tell you?

That day, CISF officers particularly called me and admitted that there is no such rule and there is nothing like insistence of opening of a prosthetics as it is only done under exceptional circumstances and we don’t fall under that category. But it becomes very humiliating and embarrassing when few of them say – ‘Aap humko nahi samjhaye ETD karna hai ya nahi, humko pata hai, jara uper uthaeye, humko dekhne dijiye’- (You don’t teach us what is ETD and what it has to be done, we know it, you just lift it up and show us) What nonsense is this? If you have a procedure, follow it, things will be easier. Why are we complicating matters and humiliating people without reason? You know it becomes very embarrassing at times for a woman. What do they want me to do, pull down my pyjamas and show my artificial limb to them? Or do they want me to not wear a costume, where I can’t show my limb, or do they want me to just wear skirts and open up instantly when they ask me to do it?

But I feel, let them do the procedure since it’s a process and they are doing their duty. But let’s come out with a better solution so there is no embarrassment. After my video went viral, I have got so many people writing to me that they have been subject to the same problem. So this is not just my problem, this has been faced by many others. This is a community as such, which I am trying to talk about. Like everybody in the corporate world has an I-card and that becomes easy for them to categorize, likewise give us a special challenged person’s card. It will be easier for us. Of course, the card should be allotted after verifying all the documents and not randomly. I have asked this as a solution, but I don’t know how much it will be implemented. But I got a call from CISF officers saying that they are looking into this matter with utmost urgency. I am so happy that they are acting on it in less than 24 hours of me posting the video. Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia, the Minister of Civil Aviation, sent me a message with an apology and said that he will personally look into the matter so none of us will have an issue, going forward. I am extremely happy that our ministers are connecting with the common man. Also, I want to thank Mr Scindia, Mr Gopal Shetty- who is an MP and all the CISF officials for taking immediate action about my concern.

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The world today takes inclusivity and diversity very seriously. You’ve been using a prosthetic limb since the 80s. What sort of changes have you seen in people and society in general about prosthetic users and differently asked people?

People have evolved over time. The time has gone when people used to look at us with sympathy. Now people have actually started appreciating our efforts. Like yesterday, after my video went viral, people have sent messages to me saying that they are so proud of me. So there is nothing embarrassing about having a prosthetic limb, there is nothing wrong. People who are differently abled or specially challenged are welcome in the society. The discrimination has completely gone down. Today, you are known for what you are giving to your profession or to society. The perspective has definitely changed.

You’ve had a long and illustrious career in dance, films and TV and are one of the most recognized faces the world over. Do you still get stopped and inconvenienced at security checks despite being a celebrity?

I move as an ordinary citizen and I don’t know what celebrity status is. I adhere to normalcy. My point is that we should all be treated as equals, just like other citizens. Why should we be treated as a celebrity and why should we get this extra benefit? We should not get that indeed. Treat us like ordinary citizens. On a personal note, I never want a special status or differential treatment, anywhere at any point of time in my life.

Has it ever happened that someone has not recognized you?

Why should people recognise me? (Laughs) I am known for my talent and people come and greet me and tell me how they feel proud of me and that works wonders for me. I hate this celebrity status. My father had taught me, right from my childhood, even if I go to the temple and people recognise me and ask me to take a special darshan, I should refrain from it. Why should I go? Do they think that we don’t have time for our God? ‘Line mein khade rehke hum apne bhagwan ko nahi mil sakte?’ (Can’t we stand in a queue and seek blessings from our God? do people think we don’t have that much time). Should I not be standing at a bus stop in a queue? Should I not be standing in the queue at the airport? Why should I jump the queue? I live my life as an ordinary person, as a normal citizen and I want to continue with this status. I don’t like any preferential treatment, not anywhere, not from anybody.

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You started your career with Telugu films. Today, Telugu cinema has grown into being one of the biggest film industries in the world. How do you look at this progress?

Like I’ve said before, there is no distinction between South and North. It is a one big industry, a flourishing industry, an industry that has given stability to the economy. With so many bad things happening outside, people tend to forget all the adversity and problems of the world, while watching shows and films. So I think our industry is spreading happiness to people.

You were part of some of the best and most memorable TV shows during the 90s and 2000s. What are your thoughts about TV today? Has it progressed, how and why do you think it has changed?

It has not changed at all. It is still very beautiful. The only thing that one cannot do now is take the audience for a ride. You need to give them good content and concepts. For example, if you watch ‘Anupama’, it is a story of an ordinary woman and it reflects the dreams of so many housewives. For television, people want to relate to that particular character or the content because many of the women look up the character. So it has to be relatable, the show needs to strike the right chord.

Generally, people with disabilities prefer to be identified through their achievements and not their special status. How should a colleague or coworker offer help or attention to a person with a disability? What’s the right way of doing it?

Let me tell you, anyone with a specially challenged identity will strive hard to achieve something in life, because I personally feel, when you lose something in life, your sixth sense becomes stronger. I have met a lot of people, who had certain problems in life but somewhere in their own fields, they have actually experimented or become very successful. As it is said that when God shuts one door, he opens several doors. People often get disillusioned and they don’t see the opportunity coming in and they miss out on the chance and they keep blaming God for that.

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Today so many young kids aspire to be world class dancers and that process is fuelling so many reality TV shows. Do you feel happy that through decades of efforts like yours and your peers, you have opened new horizons for Indian dancers?

I am so happy that today dancing is considered a serious profession. Earlier, when I used to say that I dance, people used to ask me what I do for a living, other than dancing. But these days people appreciate the fact that I am a dancer. I feel so happy when I meet young dancers. Look at our reality shows, I love the contestants’ parents for the reason that they have allowed their kids to follow their dreams and passion. I like it when parents these days say, ‘Don’t be a doctor, that’s fine, be a dancer’. Hats off to those parents. My mother was not allowed to be a dancer so she made me realise her dream. Today, kids decide on their careers and parents stand by them, which is a big thing. Look at Priyanka Chopra, look at her journey. From Bareilly to Mumbai, making it big here and then going to Hollywood and creating a sensation and being the woman who cannot be ignored. That is just because her parents stood by her through her journey. They supported and believed in her. Time has come now to tell your child that don’t just walk, it’s time to fly.

Credit Source – https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/hindi/bollywood/news/biginterview-sudha-chandran-on-airport-ordeal-what-do-they-want-me-to-do-pull-down-my-pyjamas-and-show-my-artificial-limb/articleshow/87230384.cms

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