My trip back from the US to India was in a wheel chair. Now the down side of this is that you get wheeled at break neck speed from one place to another, bumping along like a sack of coal, with no hope of browsing in duty free shops at leisure! The upside is that you can legally jump queues without being politically incorrect and you are finished with formalities that otherwise take hours, in less than a blink of an eye! So all things weighed in a balance, the verdict is 50-50!
The route back home was from San Francisco to Seoul to Singapore to Bombay to Baroda! The end result was that I had a flat butt not unlike a south Indian paper dosa after the 22 plus hours of sitting non stop. With my right ankle all strapped up and my left knee bleeding like a weeping heart, I sat without moving from my seat on each sector, without even being able to make the short trip over to use a toilet! I should thank the dirty toilets of the faculty of fine arts in Baroda for my training in toilet abstinence! On reaching Baroda I did think fleetingly of doing the genuflecting and kissing the ground act, but thought better of it, as I bumped along in the wheelchair to my car, that would finally take me home!
It forced me to think of all the many differently-abled people and how unfriendly our infrastructures are for them. We give scant attention to people with different needs, and in all the planning and progress that we chart in India, we allow for so much corruption to syphon away funding that could otherwise be used to create systems that benefit the ably challenged. But we get away with the token few ramps and believe that we have done enough, preaching about our tolerance and compassion as a cultural virtue. For example public communication systems do not ever take into account those who are sight or hearing impaired,but who cares about such trivial details when we are on the road to make quick bucks?
We built our home with an elevator, so that as we grow old, we can still remain mobile in all parts of our house. Many friends thought this an utter extravagance and perhaps would not have blinked an eye if we had spent the same amount on a fancy car! Aging in never considered something to factor into the way we plan our lives, and so we suddenly find ourselves in situations which leave us with no choices or options for a fulfilled existence.
Today as I limp about the house I feel we are an under-sensitized nation to the real needs of those who require special attention. Though I am aware that there are policies in urban planning that on paper provide for such infrastructures I wonder when they will see the light of day in aiding those who are to benefit by them, rather than being mere poetic lines in musty files where roaches lay their eggs on.