'I Insist On Living A Normal Life But Delhi Comes In The Way'
NEW DELHI: Hi, my name is Tanya Kaushik. I live in Delhi. I am physically handicapped and I use an electronic wheelchair.
I may appear different, I do walk differently but like every other normal Delhite in her early 20s I want to do things like hanging out with my friends at fun places, or join a new course at some good institute.
But how do I reach these places from my house? No car in our country is wheelchair friendly. Making a car wheelchair friendly means buying a Rs 12-16 lakh worth car (‘cause regular cheaper cars don’t have enough space for a wheelchair), getting it modified by spending another Rs 50,000-1 lakh. I am from a middle-class family, so buying an electronic wheelchair itself was a huge hit to my parent’s bank accounts.
I use the metro to commute, like a normal Delhite. But metro stations aren't exactly next door to my house.
The losest metro station is Patel Chowk. That's more than 1km and the next is Central Secretariat which takes longer and is has a lot of traffic.
So how do I reach these metro stations? I travel by road on my electronic wheelchair. And why not footpaths? Because India can't even design a wheelchair accessible footpath. Trees and pillars and potholes appear randomly on these footpaths. Frankly, footpaths aren’t even properly designed for people who can walk. Anyone anytime can trip because of these potholes. Plus footpaths almost never have a ramp for me to get on them.
So I use the roads, the same roads bikes, scooters, cars and buses use. And if you are curious, I do sometimes get stuck in traffic. I am vulnerable to a road accident. And since I’m on a wheelchair, I’m shorter than every other car, so sometimes I can’t even see what’s ahead from the car in front of me.
The story I’m going to share here happened to me last Friday. My friends called me to meet them at the Nehru Place food court, which is one of the few places my wheelchair and me can go. A friend of mine was waiting for me at the Central Secretariat metro station, that is just after the Patel chowk station. So after driving/wheeling/walking (whatever you may want to call it) for 1 km on my electronic wheelchair I reached Patel Chowk.
I went up to the lift where two gentlemen were already waiting for the lift that leads to the concourse of the metro station. After a few seconds they told me that the lift is not working. And they seemed concerned for me. I could see by their appearance that they were headed for work or possibly a meeting. But they stopped so that they could help me in some way that they could.
I told them that I'll be fine by myself but since they were going down to the concourse of the station I asked them to let any staff member know about my situation and asked them to send a staff member.
They assured me that they will and I did what I could do, I waited.
After a long waiting I figured no one is going to show up. So I called the DMRC helpline number. I explained my situation to the person who answered and asked for help. And the person on the other side replied "aap neeche jaa ke baat karlo"
I again explained the situation, putting emphasis on the fact I can't walk, I use a wheelchair. And asked him to talk to the metro station and send someone from the staff to help me out.
His Nobel Prize worthy reply, "madam ye humara kaam nahi hai"
Those two guys who were on their way to work stopped to help me, but the people whose job is to help refused to do so.
With no option in sight I drove/wheeled back to my house and then drove back to central secretariat, where my friend had been waiting for the past 30 minutes.
And this is not the end of the story Later that night I was returning from the place I went to in the morning This is after 7 hours of the morning incident I deboarded the metro at Patel Chowk and as I was about to exit the metro gates I asked the customer care executive about the lift's condition And he told me that it still hadn't been fixed. So during these 7 hours (at least) no handicapped person was able to reach the metro station. This is how much Delhi metro cares about the handicapped.
Life isn't exactly easy for me, especially with the Indian infrastructure and absence of planning. Yet I try to live my life like a normal 22 year old Delhi girl who just wants to enjoy it. But believe me 99% of the places I want to visit or learn at aren't wheelchair accessible.
And this is just one of the many obstacles I have faced.
I faced worse problem in college. I used to--then as well--travel by metro to commute from my house to the college. The closest metro station to the college was Civil Lines. There are two exits to that metro station. One is right next to the college gate and the second is about 500 meters away. But there was no lift at the first exit. So even if it was raining, bitterly cold, burning hot, or congested with traffic I had to travel half a kilometer on the road trying to avoid the oncoming traffic for three years. And for those three years I constantly kept on complaining to the metro authorities, but they never cared. To this date, when it’s been two years since I’ve left my college, the Delhi metro still hasn’t fixed this problem for future students.
People give me all sorts of advise on how I can avoid going out. They tell me to get enrolled in a distance learning university, or try to get a job that lets its employees work from home. Or if I’m going out to meet my friends, people would always stop me and ask me to call my friends to my home instead.
But why? Why should I spend my life confined to the four walls of my room? Why have I to change my way of living?