This is my wheelchair, it’s black in color.
My friend Gladson is posing and testing the new sets of wheels in the name of medical equipment. A wheelchair is a regular chair with two huge wheels attached to it. Two smaller wheels are also there to direct the wheelchair in any one direction. It also has manual brakes attached to it.
I am supposed to be in love with it. The doctor suggested calmly accepting this new mode of transportation multiple times in the last three months. Offered vendors too to buy a new one from the hospital. I wish I was trying to avoid her as much as I can so that I could walk over my wobbly legs. I also consider it taboo.
The annoyed Kumar Gaurav from Tata Steel foundation said, “When people will understand that its “wheelchair user and not wheelchair-bound, which points out to the word “use” apparently in any context of our day to day life.” As we say about this lockdown, possibly this is the new normal I am locked into as part of ongoing treatment.
Hussain, Mumbai’s stand-up comedian, puts it, this is an arranged marriage between us two. I at least don’t like it but have to live with it. Like Stockholm syndrome, the captor will take me anywhere and probably provide me with a new identity. My building residents who have seen me running around between floors are now much more excited to see me on these newly acquired wheels. My professor added, “If it makes you more mobile and conserves your energy, then this arranged marriage is good.”
Curious too, that in a building without a lift, how will I get down to the ground floor. I don’t have answers at present. However, this is a smooth, light, foldable, and almost new movable chair. It carry a lucky charm too, for the old person it was bought, for movement and travel, she left for a better place soon, so the equipment stayed new only. Now close friends from college got me this as a jugaad last weekend for free of cost, lifting this on their shoulders to my first floor. The couple also works inaccessibility, so they just want me to come back to normal life in a wheelchair and accept the new reality.
The friend showed me how to fold the equipment, how to use brakes to stop moving, to use a seat belt at least at slopes, and how to fold & slide it to take it to the ground floor without lifting them. When I was healthy, I was running around to arrange these for others, never realized I would be married to one so soon. Now just need someone to push it and take me to all accessible places in my remaining lifetime around our country.
Gladson J S, a disability activist and teacher from St. Joseph’s College added, “If a wheelchair can increase the accessibility of a person and give the person the ability to become more resourceful, then a wheelchair cannot be shunned. We as a society must develop an attitude of acceptance in every aspect of life and respect life for what it is than conditioning it.”
When I got my 1st dose of the Covishield vaccine at the Hospital in Bangalore, you need to pay 780 rupees as it’s private and show an Adhar card to get registered directly. As I have this newly acquired disability that makes it difficult for me to walk, the Uber driver referred to me as a handicapped customer while finding the place. I felt mixed emotions to be called handicap and to the loud noise of ‘wheelchair beku’ (need a wheelchair, pointing at me). Seeing your hijabi old mother struggling with payment and Adhar registration is painful. I earned so much education and empowerment and it still all went to drain with accessibility challenges.
The receptionist came running to book me in the line as I looked helpless waiting on a wheelchair placed on the road. The hospital is still accessible, as you see walkers and wheelchairs rolling around. The receptionist came outside her stall and came to the road to take my Adhar Number and to take digital payment. India is less accessible, but people here help you out.
I felt great for jumping all the lines, as my wheelchair directly entered inside the vaccination centre or cubicle. Apparently, at the time I was the only wheelchair, so they finished with me before anyone else, as the security guard pushing me had to return to his place. At the waiting area, I requested mom to register me at the RT department for my radiologist Doctor, almost a block away, a 500-meter distance. So she left for another registration and I was left alone.
I started rolling my chair on my own as did not want Ammi to walk back only for this. The guard came from nowhere and informed me that I can’t push for so long on my hands over kaccha – pucca (raw) road. He arranged for an ambulance for my transfer within hospital buildings. I saw the inside of an ambulance for the first time. It took me to the RT ward. I sat on the floor of the ambulance to get out of the vehicle to another wheelchair.
I don’t know how I would have pushed a wheelchair otherwise for so long, all the way if it had not got 4 wheelers. Wish our country becomes more accessible friendly soon. Vishnu Soman, Volunteer Influencer and Founder of Smileys India NGO added, “Never stare at the wheelchair or a person on a wheelchair if you are curious, go ahead shake hands and make a friend”.
“It’s not appropriate to touch the wheelchair without permission as many of the wheelchair users see it as a part of themselves. Always ask before you touch them or attempting to drive a wheelchair for a person with a disability. We need to understand as a community that Wheelchairs are 100% necessary for anyone who has an orthopaedic disability to mobilize independently. It’s the matter of their basic dignity.”
Feature image is for representational purposes only