After his birth, for the first 6 months my son Vihaan was like any other child. But after that he started behaving differently. He became cranky, he lost eye contact with others and stopped responding even to his name. Initially, we thought it was deafness or something. But that test came negative. Which meant he could hear. He would swallow his food and throw up. On his 1st birthday, he couldn’t even eat his birthday cake. He would not sleep, just cry all the time. He would not utter a single word and just keep silent.
I had not had the privilege to enjoy motherhood as such but I was in a state of denial. My parents would tell me to show him to some specialist but I would not go. Today, I feel I should have listened to them earlier. Finally, when my parents put their hands up, I showed him to Dr. Vibha Krishnamurthy. He was 22 months old that time. Dr Krishnamurthy diagnosed that he had Autism spectrum disorder [ASD].
I had heard the word ‘Autism’ for the 1st time in life. I started crying right there and through the journey back home, I just kept crying. I was shattered to bits. By then my marriage was also on the rocks. I felt extremely helpless and a thought of committing suicide also came to my mind.
Since I had no support as such from my counterpart, I had to deal with the situation all by myself. When I searched on google about Autism it made me even more depressed. It was all too much for me to handle. After all, I was only 24 then. I really had no emotional strength to deal with all that. For first 3-4 months I was just crying. And to get over the depression, started binge eating. I would buy half a kilo sweets and eat. Eating was an easy escape route for me from all the stress that was surrounding my life. In no time, I put on 25 kilos. I was losing grip over my life.
But soon I got hold of myself. I had to decide whether to be a victim myself or help Vihaan in the situation. And I decided for the latter. I took driving lessons and bought a car so I could take him for his therapies. And then it began… our endless journeys from home to Chembur to Peddar Road to Elphinstone Road… 3/4 times a week. On those days… eating, changing clothes etc all would be done in the car.
It was about time I needed to look after myself too… because I knew that only if I remain in good shape I would be able help my son. I had touched 80 kgs by then. I started gymming. One day, the gym was shut so I went out for a run. I must have ran for a kilometre and got totally exhausted but I realised one thing that running made me relaxed. So, I started running regularly, slowly increasing my kilometres. It made me deal with the home situation much better. When I would run it would give me a lot of time to introspect and also plan my days. And in 2007, I ran my 1st Marathon in Mumbai and then never stopped.
Today, Vihaan is doing well. A lot of his sensory problem are gone. He is excellent in art, very good with gadgets and computers. He is a well behaved, disciplined and easy going boy now. I really enjoy being his mom. And I raise him as a routine child only. But I know he has challenges ahead. He will always be labelled as ‘autistic’. He can’t be diplomatic and can’t lie. Autistic people are 100% honest. Ironically, though we always preach our children to be honest, in reality honesty doesn’t work. In real world one needs to be very manipulative which he can never be. So sustaining a job or a relationship is always going to be a challenge for him.
I too have changed a lot as a person. I think Vihaan is my biggest teacher. I have learnt to value people. I have learnt to count my blessings. The success and fame I have received as a runner, I owe it to Vihaan. Even in those elevated, moments of success Vihaan doesn’t let it go to my head.. he brings me back to the ground.
In 2016, I ran my 10th Mumbai Marathon. A month after that I did 42 Kms in Delhi which was my 100th race. I did 1st position there. All thanks to my coach, Vihaan.