Kokila Shah has lived with polio ever since she was two years old. It is not so much the disability that bothers her, but the lack of amenities in the city. Says she, I feel that the city planners are most insensitive to the needs of the disabled. If I want to go out and buy a dress for my granddaughter, I have to sit in the rickshaw and wait for the shopkeeper to bring the samples out to me. This is because there isn’t a single footpath in the city that has ramps or banisters that a person with disability can access.
People are very helpful, I know, but what really helps us people with disability is the feeling that we are not dependant on anyone. But without the help of the Pune Municipal Corporation, we cannot do it. Why can’t the PMC make it compulsory for builders, hospital’s and to the public places to have ramps, banisters and other such things that make it accessible to persons with disability? Why do we have to depend on people’s generosity?
I don’t understand why we cannot have a special bus service which can be used by people in wheelchairs? Why doesn’t anyone think about us? I have tried talking to ward officers and so on, but I think that we can achieve all this only if we put up a united front. I feel it is very important for people like me to come together and campaign for our rights.
Late Chhaya Mehta
This was the time she started experiencing acute pain in both her legs. Says Mehta, “After this I started getting sick. In between I was able to finish my graduation in Home Science from SNDT College, Mumbai and even hold the post of a lecturer. But I had to stop because of my arthritis and a skin problem on my right leg which did not seem to disappear. This was when my brother took me to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi. Sometime during my treatment, certain injections which were given to me led to the formation of gangrene in both my legs. The team of 16 doctors attending my case decided to amputate both my legs. I could not be given heavy anesthesia because of my condition and I could feel doctors operating on me”.
For Mehta the trauma was really painful. Says she, “I kept wanting to tell them to stop cutting my legs but I couldn’t find my voice”. Then, there were other complications which developed because of the pain killers she took despite the doctors advice. “Their side effects led to high and low blood pressure, failing kidneys, a collapsed left lung, cataract in both the eyes, diabetes, fragile bones and lesser blood supply due to contracting veins. This only goes to show that one should take drugs only on the doctor’s advice”, says Mehta.
In due course, Mehta also tried to get artificial limbs fitted. But she encountered another disappointment. Says she, “My body could not take the burden, which came as a big shock to me. It meant a lot for me to be able to stand on my own feet. But I can manage rather well now, with the aid of a wheelchair. Since I have always been good at handicrafts, I have taken this up as a profession. I get a lot of orders from friends and neighbors. I also managed to get a telephone booth for rehabilitation from Late Vijay Merchant”.
Late Chhaya Mehta’s Achievements
Inspirational Poems for the Disabled
When Narendranath Dubey had a rail accident at 21, he did not expect to become a paraplegic. Says he, “Initially all I felt was the amputation. The doctors assumed that I would know that I was about to become a paraplegic, but I didn’t. Even when they told me it took time for it to sink in. It was only when I moved my leg and it would not move, that I realized what had happened”.
It may come as a surprise to most, but I did not feel depressed or angry or any such thing. Yes, I did feel the loss, I did feel the loss of not being able to run around, of being bound to a wheelchair. But I got over that phase pretty soon.
I feel in fact it was my mother who was devastated. My parents were shattered and it was I who told them that I would soon become ambulatory, that I would be able to live a fairly normal life.
In the beginning, it was hard. You lose control over your bowel and bladder, you find it hard to get used to the wheelchair, but I think it all depends on how you deal with it. I have noticed that disabled persons who are outgoing do better. It’s actually simple. If I need to go to a store to buy a book and cannot climb the footpath with my wheelchair, then I ask a passerby to help me. People are very happy to help someone in need, that makes them feel useful and I get my work done.
If I were to sit in my chair and mope about my condition and not reach out to people, then I’d feel more miserable about being in a wheelchair. I feel people with disabilities should get rid of this hesitation and ask for help. There’s nothing wrong in it. As far I am concerned, I don’t feel my disability till people come ask me something.
Dubey needs to know where he can procure hand operated gadgets for automobiles in India.