Need for compassion


A newspaper report on a wheelchair-bound woman who had been denied entry to a nightclub caught my eye recently. The nightclub staff reportedly told the woman that handicapped persons weren’t entertained. The furious woman wasted no time in lodging a complaint with the human rights commission.

For the disabled in India, life can be harsh. I recall another incident which involved an acquaintance of mine. This acquaintance — a middle-aged lady — was about to board a bus with her mentally-challenged son. The conductor was reluctant to let them in, but there was not much he could do about it. There were a couple of people occupying the seats earmarked for elderly and disabled people. The lady mildly suggested that her son be allowed to sit. What followed was appalling. The lady was showered with abuses by the passengers and conductor and she had to get off at the next stop.

Such people could learn a thing or two from the British. When I arrived in the UK five years ago, I noted that all pavements have flat corners to enable wheelchair users to travel freely. Disabled people have a great deal of mobility and independence as a result. In India, wheelchair users would have a tough time on the road. First of all, half the space on pavements is taken up by hawkers and street vendors. Then, there are the cracks, bumps and gaps in the typical pavement.

Disabled people live in a friendlier environment in the UK. In India, people stare a lot at complete strangers in public places. In the UK, nobody looks at you or bothers about what you are wearing. Disabled people are not subjected to close scrutiny as in India. There are support groups for just about every kind of disability and people often find friends and life partners through them. Just the other day, I heard of a lady suffering from haemophilia who had found her partner through a support group. Such incidents would be hard to come by in India.

It’s time for us to become more open-minded towards disability. We don’t seem to have got the basics right. The attitude of many of us is that disabled people are a nuisance and their rights something that we only pay lip-service to.

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