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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont
Fact: Suicide rates are THREE times higher for people with Autism than the general public.
Fact: 40% of Autistic adults experience depression.
Fact: Fewer than half of autistic adults are employed, many of whom only do part-time jobs or are doing work for which they are overqualified.
I am ashamed to admit that for the longest time I did not know much about these things – not until they became sort of personal. That happened when I became close to a family that has an individual on the spectrum.
When I first met this young man, I was fortunate enough to have been given some guidance on how to engage by an expert. It was still somewhat difficult for me to try and connect with him because, like with many who are Autistic, there was some social awkwardness in our initial interaction. Over time I realized that patience, genuine empathy, and a willingness to adapt were key to a meaningful relationship.
I realized that his purity of thought was unsullied by the trappings of what we often mistake for etiquette and expected social behavior – a refreshing outlook and gave me a reason for introspection.
Those who have suffered because society is not ready to accept them as they are, know that we must change minds and win hearts, one at a time. This young man could have become a statistic like the ones mentioned above. Fortunately, he didn’t. What’s more, he and his family want to share his story – a story of pain and patience, a story of struggle and reconciliation, a story of love, and ultimately of success. This is special for me because I have witnessed some of this journey myself.
To underscore the narratives of families with individuals on the Autism spectrum during this Autism Awareness Month, I helped curate a short film, Bobby.
Bobby is a fictional story based on key real-life events and experiences. The young man in the film, Bobby, is played by actor, Amogh Karwar. His mother’s role is essayed by Bay Area stage and screen actor, Sareeka Malhotra, and the father is played by yours truly. Produced by Prana Pictures, this short film has assembled a diverse cast and was bravely filmed facing the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic by observing strict safety protocols. Leading the efforts of an immensely dedicated team of cast and crew was Amir Jaffer, a prolific filmmaker in the Bay Area. The film is expected to be released later this year.
My personal journey with Bobby and the process of bringing this short film to life has helped me be more appreciative of the abundance of talent that so many on the spectrum have to offer. If we all took the time to understand Autism a little better, we are certain to create the conditions conducive for so many more success stories.
For the STEM-obsessed Indian American community, especially in the Bay Area, I’d like to remind folks that Albert Einstein is believed to have been Autistic…
Puneet is an actor based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has performed in several theatre productions as well as in a number of films and series. He is currently excited about bringing forth a film about autism. You can find his work on Amazon Prime, Disney+ Hotstar, and YouTube. You may connect with him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – @thespianpuneet.