Sunday, April 09, 2006

Walking on Indian Roads

Last night I got the feeling I would like to respond to what Sudha said in the last post on this blog, about the time we spent together in Goa and all that she felt while walking down the village roads there, with me. It is true, walking around in India is a big headache for me and generally for people with any kind of disability. But I have to say that the conditions in India make one feel more handicapped than one really is. I was telling Sudha for instance, that in the west I am far more mobile and independent than I am able to be here. The roads are smoother, the pavements are almost level with the road and not five feet above the ground requiring major acrobatics to climb up. The buses are manned by drivers who keep a watch on passengers boarding or gettinf off the bus. Buses do not take off while one of your feet is still dangling in mid air and while you’re liable to fall off. Trains are very accessible (except maybe for the Paris rush hour which can be BAD!).

The two years I spent abroad as a young adult, going where I pleased, entirely on my own, were therefore among the most fulfilling in my life … and yet I chose to return to this chaotic country with its incomprehensible ways. Maybe because all said and done, this is where I “belong”. This is where I feel most at home. Because something in the atmosphere strikes a chord in me. Quite simply, broken pavements notwithstanding, I have started acknowledging the fact that I like living here!

Still, it would be so nice if India could make a bit more of an effort to cater to people who are physically disadvantaged, not to mention mentally disadvantaged or lacking in other respects. This darker side to our attitudes and to our mentality is also a reality. I have so often seen deaf people get laughed at because those with normal hearing find the way they talk, hilarious. The physically handicapped are ignored when streets and housing or public spaces are planned. The mentally retarded … well the less said about society’s reaction to this group of people the better. The blind…they are pitied as much as they are cheated when shop keepers/taxi drivers and others feel they can get away with it. This is what I learnt from my blind friend Venky, who in spite of everything has managed to travel all over the world on his own - from Xanadu to Zurich or London.

Oh well. I continue to grumble but not as viciously as I used to. Things take time. It will take time for us to catch up with the west in matters where we need to catch up. I’m learning to be patient!


suresh said...

We keep reading that Indians are open to diversity and accept it with open arms. However, I seriously doubt this.

Its a common sight to watch African tourists/students in Mumbai laughed at and teased.

Also, any lack of the so- called "masculinity" in a guy in the market or a street is enough to attract bullies who would call names and ridicule him.

Handicap comes in different colors.. and even complexion and sexuality can be a great handicap in this country.

umarang said...

Very true. I think people are handicapped in different ways and only some of the more obvious forms are recognised as "handicaps". We somehow need to work towards true acceptance of each other.