6-yr-old special child told to stay away from playing area in Mumbai mall

Jul 30, 2014, 08:23 IST | Neha LM Tripathi

Neville Dhabhar and his wife do not have an easy job raising a child with partial albinism; but, on Saturday, the manager of Fun City in Goregaon's Oberoi Mall showed them just how harsh the world can be

As if the stares she probably attracts and the whispers that follow her are not disturbing enough, a special little girl, Tiana, had one of her few solaces shamelessly and cold-heartedly wrenched from her by a gaming zone manager.

Neville Dhabhar with his six-year-old daughter, Tiana. Picture is blurred on request
Neville Dhabhar with his six-year-old daughter, Tiana. Picture is blurred on request

Last Saturday, Neville Dhabhar and his wife took their daughter, Tiana, to Fun City, a gaming zone, in Goregaon’s Oberoi mall. They usually do this at least once a week, since the time their six-year-old spends gaming is like therapy for her, Dhabhar told us.

But as soon as they reached the third floor and were about to enter the playing area, an attendant of the store came to the couple and said the manager would like to talk to them.

When they met with the manager, he told the couple a most inhuman thing: that he couldn’t allow their daughter, who has partial albinism (see box) in the playing zone. The reason he gave was so benighted that we will let Dhabhar’s post on Facebook say it.

In the social media post, that was shared multiple times, the disheartened father stated, “On his arrival the manager told us that Tiana couldn’t enter the playing area, as the last time some parent had complained about her. On asking him the reason for the complaint, we were told that ‘children are getting scared looking at her because she is a special child’.

I just couldn’t believe what he was saying. After a heated argument, other parents joined in our favor and made sure Tiana could play. And to top it up the guy said, “Fine, we shall allow her to play,” as if he was doing us a favor.

“Does the person even realise what he would have been (subject to) if this was in the UAE, US or Europe? These countries respect such kids and do as much as they can for them. It’s an absolute shame that we are living in this kind of culture where even young kids are not respected.”

Dhabhar spoke extensively to this paper. “My daughter suffers from partial albinism, which is like borderline autism. We go once a week or, at times, twice to the play area, because playing there is like therapy for her. But, that day, when my daughter was prohibited entry, she was upset. She sat on the floor, and my wife got very upset.

I think the person who stopped us because one parent complained that his child was scared seeing my daughter should be educated. He should be told that these kids are also a gift of God.

You can’t ignore them because they are not like normal kids. I am fighting this treatment so that such cases aren’t repeated. If it can happen to me it can happen to anyone, and I don’t want it to happen again.

There is lack of education about such issues and I think the only way to curb such incidents is education. If a parent has an issue then he should be told that no one can be stopped because they have an issue.”

What is Albinism?
Albinism is a rare group of genetic disorders that cause the skin, hair or eyes to have little or no colour. It is caused by a defect in one of several genes that produce or distribute a natural pigment called melanin.

The other side
When mid-day contacted the Fun City management, they said that there had been a misunderstanding. Pankaj Bhatt, business head for the franchise, said, “Fun City play zone is a group activity of 30 to 40 kids.

Based on how any activity is faring and how kids are playing with each other, the staff coordinates the play sessions. We have always allowed kids with special needs on the premises and conducted several sessions in the past.”

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