Friday, November 11, 2011

Bikram


Bikram was an Indian autistic man that I worked with for several years.


He looked like a Bollywood version of Sam the Eagle.

Every day, Bikram dressed in business casual, even in 90 degree heat.

He rarely smiled.

Occasionally he would shave an eyebrow one day, than both eyebrows the next, than a leg, and finally his whole body.



His voice was quite low and almost always monotone, unless circumstances or his own echolalia demanded a change in pitch. 

For example, when you told Bikram to speak Spanish to our Puerto Rican students, he would end his sentences by blurting out the word "Romento!" in a high falsetto.

"She doesn't understand, Bikram, ask her in Spanish."

"Would you like some juice......ROMENTO!?!?!
  
Bikram's impulse control was quite poor.

Around Christmas time, he would terrorize the fabric store we worked in by smashing the shiny Christmas globes.



There would be no warning.

Bikram would be happily sweeping the floors, mumbling his rotating comfort phrases to himself.

"Danit is an interplanetary flying space saucer." 'Saucer' was always said like 'sore-cer'.

"King Peter the Persnickety was positively peachy."

"I will kick you right in the butt." He pronounced 'butt' like 'baht'. 

You would let your guard down for a moment, and then it would happen.

An otherworldly scream, old ladies running in terror, and everywhere, everywhere, shards of thin Christmas glass exploding on the floor.



When Bikram saw you running for him, he would only escalate his smashing. 

The first time he did it, I tried to pick him up and run him out of the store.

He was about an inch shorter than me, and roughly my same weight.

It was like two young hippos battling over a mate; so fat, so loud, so very dangerous.

As I finally managed to heft him onto my hip and propel him towards the door, he strained backwards over my shoulder to take out a few more, and then airplaned his arm so he could clear another shelf as we went past. 


The kind women of the fabric store suggested Bikram not return.


I found some of Bikram's drawings the other day.
 This one was pronounced "Wussy Cat."

He would say, "I'm going to Wussy Cat, that's what I'm going to do."

And sometimes he would get stuck on that last part, and just keep saying "going to do" over and over again.




Here you see the autistic mind wrestle with an abstract concept.


This picture he made for me on the occasion of the birth of my first child.

He originally drew a naked baby with large genitalia.

"Get rid of that wiener," a staff person scolded him.

Bikram then drew an Elmo diaper on the baby, and gave Elmo the genitalia instead. 


Up in the right corner there, he wrote "It's a boy!" in bubble letters.



And here are a couple of Danit, his preferred picture to draw.

 Danit often had a slight melancholy expression, like in the picture above.

I actually spent a summer taking care of Bikram in his home.

Because he liked to run and he liked to eat, there were locks on everything.

His dad's study was barricaded by a mountain of piled furniture.

 Bikram's room was utterly bare, his only companion a tattered ALF doll.

"Do you know who that is?" I asked him, pointing to the doll.

"It's ALF" he said, in his typical monotone.

"Do you like that show?"

He furrowed his brow. "I like that show."

"Do you really?"

"No." 

 He reached up and rubbed my head.

"Bald head," he said.

His hand stayed up there a bit longer than I was comfortable with.


I have learned that the casual physical contact of developmentally disabled men is not always as innocent as it seems.

The very first time I worked a night shift in the group home, a young man named Billy came and sat with me in the office. 

I was filling out logbooks and barely noticed when he put his hand lightly on my elbow.

After awhile, I became aware of a certain commotion taking place in his pajama pants.

I leapt up from my chair and ran screaming from the room.


Thinking of Billy, thinking of all the men I have worked with, I brushed Bikram's hand off my head.

"No thanks." I said,"My head, not yours."

He groaned and went back to staring out the bedroom window.


Bikram had the most amazing dance he could do. 

It was a perfectly vertical leap, at the apex of which he would awkwardly clack his heels together. 

His expression would not change while he did it. Not even a slight smile, or a bit of slackening from exertion.


Sometimes, on those long summer days, I would call for Bikram to dance for me. 

Both of us would sit there, not smiling, not laughing, while he propelled himself around the room to the beat of utter silence.



23 comments:

  1. A combination of Silence of the Rams and One Tunneled Under the Cuckoo's Nest.

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  2. I cant help noticing that dignity looks like a large curled turd.

    Ironic.

    I never worked with any kids that were severely autistic, which I guess Bikram was, but those that I did I found quite fascinating at times. I guess because they were at the lower end of the spectrum I had times when I was allowed 'in' - to some very strange thoughts indeed.
    And a few incidents of not exactly appropriate behaviour too - but then when you have no concept of socialising how can you understand when you overstep the mark. Sometimes I think they need that sexual expression because it's the only time they really do feel.

    Just as long as they are only feeling themselves.

    I bet you'll keep those pictures forever, I have a few things that kids have given me and I will never part with them.

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  3. How did the tunnel through the bookcase go?

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  4. I wonder how long you contemplated the inclusion of Bikram's drawings in this post, not for privacy reasons, but for the inevitable comparisons they would solicit to your own illustrations.

    (you will receive a little shock if you reply inappropriately to this comment)

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  5. I loved that, Gweenbrick. I always love your illustrations, but the writing here was the star. Nice job.

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  6. Priceless. I worked for 16 years as a behavior therapist for children with autism... I've never worked with adults, so reading this not only made me laugh my ass off, it also made me realize that the little peanuts I've spent so many years with will be grown-up Bikram's one day. Stumbled over here from Oh Noa... love it. LOVE it.

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  7. I used to work in a Christmas store. Year-round. Other employees and I would joke about doing exactly what Bikram did... so now I'm glad to hear SOMEONE out there got to smash himself some ornaments.

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  8. I'm with Alan. There is no doubt in my mind now where your artistic influences come from.

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  9. Blimey ! I've popped back here a couple of times tonight to get your URL (to share with other people) and every time your follower count has increased.
    ONE HUNDRED !!!!

    Well deserved :)

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  10. esboston-took me a second to figure out where you got Silence of the Rams-you silly

    dirtycowgirl- Yay! I know, I'm very excited to have hit the 100 mark-you were an integral part of that, you know!

    Shelly- It was scary, but I got my check in the end

    Alan- he was a much better artist than I could be, when he actually focused on what he was drawing

    Kelly- thanks! I am glad when the illustrations gave out, you didn't get bored with the rambles

    Killer Cupcake-I am so happy you came by!

    Haley- cool. I would totally have that same fantasy, and I think I would go crazy working in an all-Christmas, all-the-time, environment

    Marianne- I pretty much sat at his feet to learn.

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  11. I thought I was "hip to the jive" but apparently not ! B.P.B.

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  12. I'm not eXactly sure where I got Silence of the Rams after I wrote it because I didn't mean serial killer-ish-ness, but now I think it was the combination of the autism and the plowing through the store wildly smashing things. Thanks for clearing that up for me. The tunneling had to do with last line of the note you were reading in the picture, with both original movies dealing with things heavy mental.

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  13. Ha! Ace!

    Bikram's only doing what we'd all like to do, I reckon.

    Apart from touching your head.

    Oh, who am I kidding? Can I touch your head?

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  14. This was a really good portrait of Bikram. This post made me laugh (like all of your posts), but it was also quite touching. Well done!

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  15. I never laugh. I don't. People comment on it. I like funny people, and things, and others have told me that I am funny, but when others laugh, I grin. I just don't get that excited.

    And this made me laugh. Really. And it was touching, at the end, and I sobered up a bit, but I laughed. Thanks.

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  16. Oh my God, I haven't thought about Alf in forever! My sister named her dog after him (Sir Gordon Chumway). Thanks for the smiles.

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  17. I just reread this with my 7 year old twins, and they are dancing around singing, "Romento!" More thanks.

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  18. The Jules- Um...I am going to make you a picture of my head, which you can touch as much as you want. Just don't tell me when you do.

    krouth-thanks! I am confused about what part was touching, but i am glad you liked it

    wagthedad- You thought it was touching too? That's funny, because I guess I didn't intend for it to be.
    I am happy I was able to make you laugh, though.

    krmaddox-Really 5-7 year olds are just about my intended audience, since that is pretty much my intellectual level

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  19. I am loving all the codes for the house, garage, etc on the note. Laughing out loud (too bad there's not a clever little acronym we could abbreviate for that phrase; "ha ha" doesn't seem to cut it, let me know if you think of something, people tell me I need to be more succinct, but I think they should mind their own business).

    best,
    MOV

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  20. How about LauOutLou ? That's a 40% reduction in size.

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  21. Bikram sounds like a hoot and a half and the perfect companion to take to silent disco nights

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  22. I was ready to laugh in my usual way when reading your posts (and of course I did laugh some) but this post was more touching than anything else. Thanks for sharing.

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