I wish for a world of empathy

I wish for a world of empathy


Disability
Photo by Yomex Owo on Unsplash

My recent and the first tour to the US opened my eyes to a whole new world which was so fantastically friendly for the differently-abled. I wonder why we in India cannot make it the same! It is not so much about the economy or the wealth a nation has. I am sure it has more to do with the culture itself  —  with the way we think and look towards the differently-abled.

Nearly everyone I crossed on the streets of America – in the shops, on the ship, in the desert — everywhere — had the same regard for the disabled and gave way for priority access to them at the cost of waiting a little more for their turn. It was one of the most humbling experiences in my life.

I am thankful to all those people for the courtesy they extended and made my wheelchair-bound mother feel equal in every way.

It was the tourist season at the time when we were there and therefore many times we were part of large groups at entry and exit points of tourist spots. People from all over the world were there and yet everyone was polite to the differently-abled and extended a helping hand whenever they felt that someone requires assistance.

I feel sad to see the state of things at home, in my country. We have somehow forgotten our basic culture of being courteous and to respect everyone.

The attitude towards this small group of society (of the differently-abled) is of neglect, ignorance, and indifference. Shameful to say the least! While towns are turning into cities, businesses are willing to spend millions on lavish decor and swanky lifts but not on creating ramps and easy access for the differently-abled in their offices, shops, or malls.

It is nearly impossible for a differently-abled or a wheelchair-bound to navigate in India – we do not have proper pavements, roads are uneven, there is absolutely no way they can cross a road and get onto a pavement safely (we do not have those wheelchair ramps on any traffic light), most malls and shops have stairs at the entrance as the initial access point, and certainly no one wants to wait or give way to the differently-abled. In fact, most people take advantage of the slow speed of such a lot and run ahead of them to save their spot. That’s sheer apathy in action.

I am not sure how we Indians will ever change and imbibe empathy. I am not even sure how to make my countrymen understand the importance of being nice and being considerate towards the differently-abled. A minuscule percentage of people/not-for-profit organizations work towards helping the differently-abled but no one ever demands an equal place for them, an equal infrastructure for them. The efforts are clearly unable to move the needle. All of them, including the state governments, seem to be busy attaining something except cleanliness, hygiene, health, quality of life, ease of access, and empathy.

The difference between us and America is that there it is a law to create ease of access for the differently-abled and that law applies to governments, shop owners, infrastructure agencies who build roads, hospitality industry, everyone. So every service is meant first for the differently-abled and then made available for the able folks. The key is – the law is enforced to the core. Honestly. The intent is to make everyone in society feel equal and safe and nearly everyone works towards it, together.

Will any government in India ever be able to enforce such a law and lead that change? Will my people ever realise what society they are creating by choosing apathy over empathy? I love my country and I wish that someday this world of mine becomes equally safe and accessible for the differently-abled.

If we believe, we can

If we believe, we can


During my recent tour of the United States of America, I had the chance to visit the famous Niagara Falls. It was a beautiful sight! However, what I found more interesting was the movie that was shown just before the visitors enter the Cave of the Winds  — a passage that takes you close to the “bridal veil” (waterfall).

In the movie, I was dumbstruck to see that the site of the Niagara Falls was once a private industrial land where several factories used to push their waste into a bunch of natural waterfalls in the area, choking the water bodies and killing the area’s entire flora and fauna in the process.

NiagraToday, the Niagara Falls that we see are a super cool example of what human beings can do, if they unite towards common good. Seeing the plight of natural beauty and resource, a few thought leaders came together and started a movement to remove the factories. Soon people came together to dwell on how the site could be revived, and then what we see today is an artist’s impression that was turned into reality after much on-site engineering and restructuring.

And now the same site is home to one of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls! It shows the power of the human will, belief, and determination. Loved it!