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The way of life

Sundeep Rao, Dec 5 2017, 20:50 IST
Sandeep Rao

Sandeep Rao

Development, growth, advancement, modern; these are just some of the words being thrown around in India in 2017. We all seem to believe that our beautiful country has transcended various woes and drawbacks to emerge as a South Asian power. The question I ask is - what is development?

Take for example our own Bengaluru. Having grown up in this so-called 'cybercity', I can say that development is entirely virtual and is more evident on blogs than on the streets. It appears that Bengaluru has gone straight from a sleepy little cantonment with two-lane streets to the cloud computing era, skipping years of city planning and infrastructural development in
between.

In between all the noise, there is a significant group of individuals who do not get heard or seen. I'm referring to the community of people with disabilities. Being a partially blind individual myself, I have some insight into what people with disabilities experience living in so-called developed Bengaluru. It will be easy for a disabled person to survive in a war zone after experiencing this city's infrastructure.

It's practically impossible for a disabled person to get around the city without being emotionally groped and physically altered. The absolute incompetence and lack of common sense, awareness and consideration displayed by our city planners is a reassertion of our belief in the fact that we descended from apes.

It is ironical that the concerned people decide to flaunt their ability in the design of an elevated railway system when they still can't build straight and uniform footpaths.

Most of our buildings do not have ramps for people in wheelchairs. The only time you will see one is when there is a need for a loading ramp.

Most roads in the city cannot be crossed by disabled and non-disabled people alike. Drivers use pedestrian crossings as an opportunity to get ahead in traffic.

Our footpaths, if and when present, are used as an extra lane for bikes and motorcycles. The look of annoyance on the motorist's face when pedestrians come in their way on a footpath is simply priceless!

Most street signs are not properly marked and not printed in Braille. Most schools are not equipped for children with disabilities. If schools cannot understand the need to make their premises and buildings accessible, then who will?

Indians love bragging about their intelligence and ability to thrive academically. We are the first to accept praise, but we are especially insistent on getting offended when someone points out the flaws in our outlook or in our society.

This is not an issue of physical infrastructure alone or the lack of it. It is an issue regarding the lack of Indian mental infrastructure.

A country is not considered developed solely on the basis of GDP, per capita income or exports; it's development also relies on the ability of its people to understand, consider, accept and help the society around them.

Yes, we do have somewhat of a silver lining to the dark cloud. Technology is the way of the future, especially for disabled people. It's easier for me to order something online from the far reaches of the globe than walk down my street to pick up a packet of chips at my local shop; such is the advance of technology.

However, we should use this technology to develop this city we live in. We all need access to the city we call home. I would love to take a walk down MG Road without worrying when I am going to fall. It's not very difficult to design a more understanding and comfortable Bengaluru. They have the money, they just need to spend it on the right things.

Lets all just take a step back and be more aware of the people around and the ones we share the city with. Let's stop living in the cloud and try and make the ground a better and more accessible place.

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