Sunday, September 18, 2011

Heaven in Hell

Ubbu, my dog, was diagnosed with Tick Fever because of which her blood reports showed multi organ dysfunction. My stress levels were high. Being a disabled person with limited mobility always made me feel that I am not doing enough to comfort her and bring her back to health. People who have pets would understand my anxiety because they would know that Ubbu is my child.
Dr Prabhakar was treating her, a very experienced, kind and patient veterinarian who had visited Ubbu at home, but now that she was diagnosed with this dreadful disease he wanted Ubbu to visit him at Friendicoes. I had heard that Friendicoes was a dark, damp and cramped place under a flyover overflowing with suffering stray dogs. I expected the visit to be a nightmare and my initial reaction confirmed it, but it wasn’t long before I saw the heaven in this hell.
There was a repelling stench of animals that one couldn’t miss as one reached. I heard the painful yelping of a dog and as I turned I saw two stray dogs who had been rescued and were in a cage. One of them had bitten his tongue while the other seemed to have a lot pain in his back and couldn’t stand. It yelped aloud as the other dog stepped on him as the cage was being wheeled towards the clinic. I closed my ears as the yelps seemed to be piercing my heart, but I had to move ahead – for Ubbu.
As we reached closer there seemed to be a chaos.  There was much more and louder yelping, growling and fighting sounds coming from various dogs that were kept behind in the shelter. There was a dog with his head completely bandaged in a cage sitting in one corner. The two dogs that were wheeled in the cage were put on the two small stretchers outside the clinic
I parked my wheelchair is one corner to ensure I was out of the chaos and Ubbu sat under my chair as nervous as me waiting for our turn. Dr Prabhakar was in the clinic, in the shelter near the stretcher outside… he was everywhere so skillfully working with a trace of any stress. A number of assistants helped him. A man kept the area clean and everybody waited patiently. I was inspired by the teams dedication. If they could be there bring a positive change then so could I.
Suddenly I saw a huge majestic Great Dane came towards me. I froze with scare. I held Ubbu tight. I knew she had no chances in front of him. He came closer looked at us for a moment disinterestedly walked ahead and sat on the side very confidently. That is when I realised he was an abandoned dog who got shelter at Friendicoes who also looked for people to adopt abandoned animals. This could not be hell I thought. There were many more lovely dogs who had been abandoned left tied to a pole especially as they became older, unwell or disabled. I wondered if people abandoned their children or other family members too and really the fact is that they do. 
Just as I was feeling angry at people who were so cruel I saw a stay dog running very fast on his front legs with his hind legs trailing listless. At first I was completely taken aback to see him zip past not knowing how to react, but as I realised that he was a paraplegic who probably hurt his spine in an accident just like me I couldn’t help but feel very happy for him because he got a chance to live.
The obnoxious smells had nearly gone by now and the chaos seemed like harmony. Ubbu’s health my discomfort all seemed so insignificant in-between all that pain and suffering. I realised that this was not hell rather it was a heaven in the hellish world we live in so full of cruelty and capability to inflict pain. Dr Prakhakar and his team were like angels attending and soothing to those suffering the most.
 Thank you Friendicoes for all that you do. I really wish you more support and expansion to an area that is sunny and open. Where these animals can get a better chance.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Watching a movie as a wheelchair user in India

I went to watch a movie today at PVR Saket. The auditorium had an accessible route till the entrance. We had seats in the centre of the second last row. I being a tetraplegic never ever sat anywhere else except my wheelchair and usually whenever I go to watch a movie I just park my chair in the aisle and continue sitting on it but here at PVR Saket they had a different rule. They wanted me to transfer onto the audi seat and they were happy to assist me in shifting. Since I had no options, I abided and took their assistance to shift onto the regular seat while my chair was taken away and returned at the end of the show when I wanted to leave.

I didn’t mind being inconvenienced as the ticket at PVR Saket was only Rs 50/- while at the DT Cinema at the Promenade that I frequented it was Rs 250/-.  But that was me only on this one instance. If one was to evaluate the accessibility for disabled people at cinema theatres one will be appalled.

Without making the post to technical I must point out that there are a number of people on wheelchairs cannot sit on anywhere else except in their wheelchair because of their impairment. For such people going to PVR Saket will be a waste, as they will not be ‘allowed’ (infringing on their constitutional rights).

Not one cinema theatre in India recognises the special needs of disabled viewers who may have physical, sensory or cognitive impairments. Even if one managed to enter the hall there are no designated space to park a wheelchair and one has to either shift to regular seat or sit on one’s wheelchair either next to the front row or precariously blocking the aisle space. I myself have watched several movies parked alone in one corner away from my friends and family.  Of course special needs of sensory impaired persons is not even known by the cinema management. This is again discriminatory, as disabled viewers are treated not at power with other views.

The sad part is that there are no laws in our country that can protect the rights of disabled people against this discrimination especially from private service providers. The attitude today is that as a disabled person I should be thankful to the service provider to tolerate us and for us to expect access/convenience/equal dignity and service as non-disabled viewer is being over ambitious.

My wheelchair is not my identity

I became disabled person when I was 22 years old in a car accident. There was a very marked change in people’s behaviour towards me, and o...