Monday, December 4, 2023

The Broken Wheelchairs in Lalbagh, Brindavan Gardens and Ooty Botanical Garden

Sitting and waiting near the entrance has become common for Farheena 
due to the broken wheelchairs in many places. 

Recently, Farheena, my daughter, went through a phase of feeling very low. I decided to take her to new places to make her feel better. I have always strived to enrich my daughter's experiences and focused on her happiness more than her learning or development.  I was excited to take her to the iconic Brindavan Gardens in Mysore and the picturesque Botanical Garden in Ooty. Before going to any place, I check reviews and gather information regarding the distance to be covered, how even the road is for walking (both Farheena and I cannot manage very uneven roads), and whether we have wheelchairs available. I am inquisitive for information after we got stuck in Lalbagh. Farheena somehow walked into the place when she heard that the wheelchair was broken, but returning after reaching a certain distance became tough. 

When I got to know that these places offered wheelchairs for visitors with mobility challenges, I embarked on our journey with high hopes of creating lasting memories with Farheena and my family. Little did I know that our enthusiasm would soon be dampened by the disappointing reality of broken wheelchairs, not just once or twice but thrice.

In an era where inclusivity is championed, it is disheartening to encounter barriers that impede the experiences of individuals with disabilities. Lalbagh, Brindavan Gardens, and Ooty Botanical Garden proudly advertise their commitment to accessibility, claiming to provide wheelchairs for those in need. However, the stark reality on the ground contradicts these promises, leaving visitors like us feeling let down and frustrated.

Upon reaching the parks, we were eager to avail the promised wheelchairs, only to be informed that the available ones were in a state of disrepair. In Ooty, we did not find anyone interested in answering or guiding us to check those chairs. This posed a significant inconvenience and raised questions about the commitment of these popular tourist destinations to ensuring a truly inclusive experience for all visitors.

It's disheartening to witness the disappointment on my daughter's face as she struggled to navigate the uneven terrain without the assistance of a wheelchair. The broken wheelchairs hindered her mobility and cast a shadow over what was supposed to be a joyous and carefree day. I felt hurt to see her sit on a bench and watch everyone explore the places. In Mysore, we at least got to move around in an electric car, but in Ooty, they said it is available at 9.30 A.M., but it was not working even around 10.30, so we left. 

Parks like Lalbagh, Brindavan Gardens, and Ooty Botanical Garden are recreational spaces and significant public assets. Millions are invested in their development and maintenance, and it is only fair to expect that a fraction of these funds be allocated to maintaining functional wheelchairs. The government should ensure that every place with more than 1000 footfalls daily should have at least 10 working wheelchairs. In a country that has more than 2.5 crore people with disabilities, this is a must if we want to ensure inclusivity. Everyone deserves to spend time in these beautiful places, especially those with mobility challenges. It is tough for them to go on treks or into natural setups where moving around is challenging. 

 Ensuring the availability of working wheelchairs is not just a matter of fulfilling legal requirements but an ethical responsibility to make public spaces genuinely accessible to everyone. At least if we have the knowledge of broken wheelchairs ahead of time, we can make some different arrangements.

The Call for Change:

It is crucial for authorities overseeing these public spaces to recognize the urgency of addressing accessibility issues. By investing in well-maintained wheelchairs and other facilities, they can create an environment where all visitors, regardless of their physical abilities, can fully enjoy the beauty these parks have to offer.

The broken wheelchairs at Lalbagh, Brindavan Gardens in Mysore, and Ooty Botanical Garden are a stark reminder of the work that must be done to ensure true inclusivity in our public spaces. I sincerely hope our experience prompts those in charge to reevaluate their commitment to accessibility and take immediate steps to rectify the situation. After all, everyone deserves the chance to explore and appreciate the wonders of these parks without unnecessary hindrances.

The picture doesn't really show how tired she was.

Sitting and waiting patiently with a smile

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Treasure of Memories and Present

 6/6/1996, 1/1/2006 and 9/9/2009

These dates may not hold any significance to many, but for me, they are reminders of great pain and loss a person will suffer because earlier they had enjoyed the love and company of their loved ones. These are days when I lost my sister, mom and dad. For some weird reason, the dates have the same day and month for all three of them. I am not sure if life, nature and their souls are sending some code through those dates for us - those still living and loving them. 

Madiha, my daughter-in-law also has something similar as her birth date - because she was born on 6th of June as well. 6/6. Somehow this makes my connection a bit special. Slowly she has reduced the pain of losing a loving sister which is always more severe for me than losing my parents. Knowing someone was born on the same day and fate got her to marry Rayyan looks a bit more dramatic than just coincidence to me. For my sister, Rayyan was definitely the most favorite person. 

My sister was older than me by a little more than 3 years. She was a physically very strong person and always took care of me. She would never allow anyone to bully me, though she would do it at times. Even after my marriage, she would be there anytime she sensed I was having trouble. Though I very well knew I could defend myself, I never stopped her. I loved the way she protected me, a habit which naturally comes to the elder sibling. I do the same with my younger siblings, especially my brother though he is very well capable of handling himself.

I lost her support though, when I actually needed her the most. I was struggling with my chemotherapy, Farheena’s diagnosis and uncertain future when I lost her. Something changed in me all of sudden. I became very tough, emotionally very strong and very practical. Slowly I took up her role in my life as well, protecting me as strongly as she had always done. Gradually, everyone started looking up to me as a person who is strong and doesn’t need any support at all. I get a lot of love from my children, but both of them look up to me as someone who can do anything - almost like a supermom. 

It is after many years, I am being defended against again now. Madiha somehow sees me as a normal person and she jumps in my defense at home - against everyone. I found it funny initially, but slowly it started creating the feeling of being with my sister for me. The feeling itself is not strong, but a whiff of it passes by  me whenever Madiha fights on my behalf or stops me from overdoing things. I feel life has compensated me for the losses a little through giving me a happy and strong bonding with my daughter-in-law. It is funny to see that I failed in bonding with the person I  married but could do so with the one my son married. 

The pain of losing a loved one never goes away, but it feels good to have some love to ease that pain.

Friday, April 28, 2023

My Life Is Worth Fighting Cancer

27 years ago on this day, I woke up with two breasts but went back to bed with only one. In terms of changes happening in my life, this was the biggest change to happen in a day.
Of course being a special parent is more challenging, but then it doesn’t happen in a day.
Back then I had regrets with the demands of cancer treatment, but today I am damn sure that it was totally worth it. All these years I have upgraded myself with new skills. Every year I have taken up a goal to achieve and done that. Last year it was the re-opening of My Giggle Garden which has run successfully for a year. I hope to see some profits from the coming Academic Year.
This year I will be trying my hand at Standups - Storytelling + Comedy. Links from a few recorded ones shared here.
It is very tragic to be a side character in your own story and that is what I was prior to cancer. I had to change that. Much of the credit goes to Rayyan for not just guiding me but standing by me as well to bring about the much needed change. When I decided to study, many people, even those who cared for me, told me I was not doing the right thing, but Rayyan stood by me. I know I love my two daughters a lot, but there will always be a special place for Rayyan in my heart. It is very different from love and affection. It is very rare that I get to guide Rayyan as a Mom.
My journey was tough but that is what made it interesting. I decided not to allow anyone to push me down, not cancer, not people nor the situation. I had given up my education, career, financial independence and a lot more earlier, but I wanted to take back my life. I did not wish to continue as a side character in the movie of my life. I wanted to be the heroine of at least my own life.
I did not wait even for my treatment to be over, and started with the first step towards earning a small amount during my chemotherapy itself. I sold soft toys, made clothes, gave tuitions and did many other odd jobs. Taking up a profession is not possible without education or skill. I took the next step and started learning computers and the internet on my own.
I first got a diploma in Counselling skills, did my graduation and finally my masters in Counselling and psychotherapy. I funded my education through freelance writing and blogging. It was not as easy as it looks like. It took me all of 15 years to achieve my goals but finally I did.
I was finally back in the driver's seat of my life. I cannot say the Deewar dialogue mere paas building hai, bank balance hai, gaadi hai bangla hai…but I could once again choose the clothes I wanted to wear, the food I wanted to eat, the place I wanted to go and live the way I wanted within my limits. Limits because I am not a superhero - just the heroine of my own life.
There is a famous saying which says, when life gives you lemons - make lemonade. I changed my funda into - When life gives you tumour, change it into humour. Laugh loudly and live happily which is exactly what I am doing right now.
They say cancer kills but the good news is we can kill cancer as well, if we fight back. You can give up and expire or fight back to live to inspire. You can become statistic or fantastic, the choice is mostly yours. I am the living proof of that sharing my story happily today. Boo to cancer and yay to me.


Monday, April 17, 2023

25 Silver Linings - Bonding With My Breast


It is not easy for a young woman, who is nearing her 30’s to remove a whole breast to save her life. I had to take this horrible decision at the age of 29 and it was not easy though I did not express it out loud. I would like to share my simple experience a few hours before my surgery so that people who have someone in their family fighting breast cancer will empathize with them. I also want those who have been or may have to go through it to feel that they are not alone in this fight. There are others who have fought it and come out of it triumphantly. I myself have lived 25 years of fruitful and happy life after being through the treatment.

As I went through the decisions of choosing a treatment plan and going ahead with the surgery for removal of the whole breast, the bathroom itself had become a safe haven for me. It was a place I could lock myself in and no one would ask me why I had locked the door. It is always convenient to slip into the bathroom for some lonely time without anyone questioning you, especially when I want to avoid questions. Our well wishers do not realize that sometimes the good wishes, questions, guidance become too much for the patient themselves to tolerate.
My surgery was scheduled at 7 a.m. in the morning, 28th April 1996. It was past midnight, but I could not get a wink of sleep. I lay restless on the hospital bed, wondering how life would be without a breast. The emotions were confusing, because I knew deep in my heart that breasts do not mean much. None of the species other than humans have ever given so much importance to breasts. I haven’t seen any cow, dog or cat showing any special attention to this anatomy as we humans do. They really get down to the point quickly without any attention to the breasts. I had come up with all the arguments to make myself feel at ease, but still I felt something in my stomach crunch to think a part of me is going to be removed completely in a few hours. I did not expect these emotions, because as a mother of two children who were too young, I had decided that they needed their mom more than me needing my breast. I had argued enough to steel myself for this procedure, yet, here I was feeling confused, sad and angry emotions.
The emotions were quite confusing and conflicting, I was not sure how to deal with it. I got up and entered the bathroom, as this was fast becoming my safe refuge for thinking things over in my mind. As I looked into the mirror on the bathroom wall, my boobs stared back at me through the hospital gown. They were looking larger than their usual self, as though they were threatening me. Then I realized that those poor things were just swollen with a collection of milk, since I had abruptly stopped breastfeeding my daughter. I just wanted to have a look at myself as I am, before being cut and stitched.
I pulled the gown on top of my head and stood there naked, watching my breasts. They looked good side by side. I tried to imagine the chest with only one breast. I couldn’t. I felt a kind of bond developing with the breast I was throwing away because she had given shelter to the cancer tumor. I felt guilty that I had not given a thought to saving her, or salvaging her at all. When the doctor had given me the option of lumpectomy or mastectomy, I had chosen total radical mastectomy because I wanted to be sure that cancer would not be left behind in my breast. I did not want any risk involved.
But standing here in front of the mirror, looking at myself, I wondered about my decision. Will I be ever able to wear all regular dresses or do I need something different hereafter? How will my status as a woman be affected by this? I knew I had no answers.
Suddenly I could feel a rush of love for my breast that was going to be sacrificed tomorrow. It was as though she was an entity of her own, someone different from me and I was bidding her goodbye. I cupped both my hands around her and held her lovingly for 5 minutes. I am not sure whether I was comforting my breast or myself, but that was it. It was a bonding moment with my breast for me, like we share with another person with a hug. It was a soothing, comforting and releasing moment for me, a time when I could really let go of my breast even before the surgery.
I looked at myself for one final time trying to etch the picture of myself with two breasts in my mind. I wished I could photograph myself like this, but it was too late. Those were not the days of mobile phones or digital photos. My surgery was scheduled in a few hours. Sigh! I let the idea go and walked out of the bathroom and slept on my bed. I could actually catch some winks of sleep after that.


Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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