It was a pleasant Monday morning; slight chill had engulfed the air before the onset of winters. I was in a rush to board the metro after finishing off my shift duty on Sunday night. Metro stations on Monday mornings are overcrowded, bustling with people eager to catch the next available train. There are more forlorn faces on view after the weekend than the cheerful ones. For me situation is quite the opposite as my week starts on Sunday night and Monday mornings are relatively stress free. The best part of going home this time is to see others go thru the grind whereas you can take it easy.
After staying awake the whole night my only target was to hit the bed as soon as possible. Cutting across scores of people on a Monday morning, I was about to clamber on to the escalator when somebody tapped on my shoulder, I was too busy to look behind my back and waste my time as it meant taking seconds off from my precious sleep, I only heard the voice which was one of the usual voices one often hears from people at the metro station. Bhaisahab!!
“Which way is the platform from which train to Peeragarhi departs”.
“Go to platform No. 2″
Without paying any heed to who was behind me, I replied with slight annoyance clearly visible in my voice.
As I was about to step on to the escalator I just had a glimpse of the man and realized that he was visually impaired and was walking with a white cane which is primarily used by people who are blind or visually impaired. Overcome with guilt over my callous attitude I stepped back from the escalator to let others pass by. Our mind works in different ways Isn’t it? My annoyance turned into compassion and was ready to extend help to the person who tapped on my shoulder. He was still finding his way thru the maze and had barely moved a step or two from where I left him whereas others had gone past him oblivious of his struggles.
I went up to him, held his hand and we started climbing up the stairs which took us to platform. I decided to strike a conversation with him as I was repenting my indifferent deportment towards him earlier and the only way I could assuage myself was to help him in whatever way I possibly could. This man was working with a private auto ancillary company as an accountant in Mangolpuri industrial area and he boarded this metro every day to go to work and today was just another day for him. His voice suggested he was used to this hustle and bustle of a metro station. Overcome by inquisitiveness I further inquired how he manages to travel the entire distance without any hassles. There was a lilt in his voice, a verve, a childlike enthusiasm probably he wanted to share his story with somebody. It was an eye opener for me as till then I thought especially abled people only looked for sympathizes but here was this man who did not want any sympathy, he was leading a great live without seeing this world. He was well aware of which compartment to get in and which stairs to take, which station to get out at. Metro probably is the only public mode of transport in our country which has some semblance of infrastructure which is disqbled friendly.
We have over 2.7 crores physically and mentally challenged people in our country and some of them are really poor and need financial support to sustain their day to day lives. But here in India we do not have a culture of respecting our specially able people. There is no reserved parking for them even in in our top malls, hotels and places of importance in our country. Most of our airports and railways stations lack basic facilities to facilitate easy movement of such people. Consider the plight of able bodied who have a harrowing time boarding trains, one can well imagine the horrendous experiences that physically challenged people have to go thru in a train journey shuttling from one platform to another. I have a friend who is specially abled and many a times during our outings in CP, we have to seek help of others to carry him to the table. So much for disabled friendly huh!!
Our public places and toilets are poorly lit and inaccessible to people on wheel chairs, finding an accessible toilet in our country is like finding a needle in a haystack.
I talked to one of my friends on wheel chair. She drinks very less water as drinking more water means frequent visits to toilets which are at most times inaccessible to most of the disabled friendly people. This makes the situation even worse as not drinking enough water can have some serious ramifications like increased chances of developing a stone and other gastronomical diseases. Some people are forced to wear diapers to avoid the hassle of going to wash rooms but still changing off these diapers is a herculean task which needs to be taken care off.
( Not actual Picture, taken from google)
When you sit for more than eight hours each day, your blood flows less efficiently, and that situation can deprive your cells of nutrients and oxygen. Compounding the problem, the muscles can’t burn fat as quickly. Thus, fatty acids will accumulate throughout the body, and they can interfere with the functioning of the heart. Inactive muscles don’t react to insulin effectively either, which leads the body to secrete excessive quantities of that hormone. As a result, the likelihood of diabetes increases. A surfeit of sitting can also cause the abdominal muscles to atrophy. A person’s abs are fully engaged when he or she stands, but they’re lax when he or she sits. Therefore, excess sitting often causes poor posture, a condition that can lead to back pain, shoulder soreness, and neck tension.
Problem is even more acute for women with disabilities. This country is unsafe for able bodied women and misery is compounded manifold for women with disability and on can well imagine the predicament of a woman who goes out on the street to make a living. They risk of being raped, groped or kidnapped by some lunatics on the streets. A visually impaired lady won’t even identify the perpetrators of such heinous crimes against her. For some time, I taught in a school for visually impaired children located in Raghuvir Nagar near Rajouri garden and I was astounded by the enthusiasm of the kids there. Life was not fair to those children and school was run by a complete blind person and lot of people brought in food and snacks during those days but there were very few people who were willing to spend their time in developing those kids.
In our culture feeding poor is one way to salvation and that is why people do not hesitate to donate food but little empathy and some amount of time can go a long way in improving the overall standards for disabled.
Honorable Prime Minister exhorted people of our country to be more sympathetic and empathetic to concerns of our specially able friends but the way our attitude is it seems his appeals and exhortations has fallen on deaf ears . May be many of us are not aware that in Paralympics our para athletes did exceedingly well and came back with a much bigger medal haul vis-a-vis our olympians.
Why our regulatory authorities do not take cognizance of the fact whether the buildings they are approving are disabled friendly while granting approvals?
How many organizations operating in this country have toilets which are disabled friendly? Even if they have, are they kept clean and reserved only for people with special needs
Our Fortune 500 companies oil companies shout from the roof top that they provide toilet facilities to customers. How many of those wash rooms are disabled friendly? Why can’t we have disabled friendly washrooms at our petrol pumps? As such it has been mandated in the Companies act 2013 that all companies have to spend 2% of their profits on CSR. Why can’t some percentage be reserved for taking initiatives to make our infrastructural facilities which are disabled friendly.
How do these malls and big buildings get permission to operate without even providing reserved parking spaces?
There are whole host of efforts which have gone into Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to ensure that people can relive themselves in a dignified manner but all those efforts have gone down the drain if we talk about our special abled friends who are deprived of this dignity most of the times. Is it too much to ask for??
We talk about smart cities but have we been able to provide a smart living to our specially abled?
For all these changes to take place it is imperative that our attitude as a nation and as a society changes towards disabled people . However, the way things stand today there seems to be very little hope for our special people.
Sorry friends we have failed you.
Photographs taken from Google and views expressed are personal.
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