Ohrenkuss


For Kimm Manzanares.

During one of these endless sleepless nights I’ve been having since my mom died, a las tres de la madrugada – I caught an interview with a fascinating woman. Her name is Dr Katja de Bragança. She’s of Indian and German descent, grew up in Goa as a young girl, then moved to Germany and later studied her doctorate in biology. She fascinated me for many reasons…her work, of course. I’ll get to that. But first it was this quiet confidence that she excudes. And the absolute warmth and clarity in her big brown eyes. That effervescence one experiences when you know you are in the presence of a very intelligent person, articulating their world.

Her doctorate was a thesis on living with 47 chromosomes. As a biologist she is absolutely fascinated with the fact that human beings can and do function, function well – with Down’s Syndrome. She feels honoured to be a part of a world that has stopped killing and marginalising people with Down’s.  She is also fascinated and driven by the work that dismantles the part of our brains that says: ‘But they are disabled.’ She refuses to believe that about her colleagues. And she says they don’t believe that about themselves at all.

She started a subscription-based magazine, written exclusively by people with Down’s. It’s called Ohrenkuss…da rein, da raus. The Germans have absolutely beautiful expressions. And Down’s Syndrome people, I have learned, have an absolutely fresh way of stringing language together in a way your prefrontal cortex inhibits you to when you have 46 chromosomes. The title was coined, Dr de Bragança said, when she was out with her magazine colleagues one Summer afternoon in Bonn, where they are based. The sun was shining outside and the chap next to her was having ice cream and coffee. Absolutely in bliss with his world. He leaned over and planted an ice-cold kiss on her ear…an Ohrenkuss. Then their colleague opposite commented: ‘In the one ear, out the other (da rein, da raus) Indeed a juxtaposed response.

It’s a fantastically glossy and exciting publication. I do hope they start translating to English and Spanish, to open up this amazing work to the rest of the world.

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