"The looks of sympathy and disdain"

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

So as a break from my usual routine during evenings and weekends (which is normally youtubing cooking videos, reading random stuff on wikipedia or online blogs etc), I decided to start jogging around the serene boulevard near the palm beach road, mostly frequented by joggers and cyclists. Physical excercise had become a thing of past for me, and the last time i engaged in any sort of meaningful physical activity was the post lecture football sessions during my ug days ( a good 6 years have passed since then!). So seeing those well built men and women and their physical endurance, I kept running through the tar road near my apartment. I was filled with motivation to not stop but since my body was not used to such nicieties of hard work, it failed me.. As I finished, my knee started aching like hell. I couldnt flex it beyond a point and it so happened that my medial collateral ligament (a band of collagen that connects the knee joint to the tibia, the shin bone) had sprained. There was swelling and severe pain and I was advised rest and to be cautious in my walk. The first week after the incident, however, I decided to go to the office, located some 20 kilometres from where I live, braving the pain and wearing crepe bandages to support my knee. For my usual commute, I take the mumbai local and the red BEST bus to reach my office. The travel back and forth from the office to the home gave me a sudden realisation about the struggles differently abled people face in their daily lives. I could hardly find any ramp in my local railway station and every climb up and down the stairs was a herculean task for me! Taking slow steps and walking through the heavy rush at the kurla railway station (one of the busiest junctions on the mumbai suburban route) was another nightmare. The buses too dont come with a ramp. One still has to climb the steel and iron steps to get inside. More than the absence of smooth commute and travel, what irked me was the condescending looks and the gazes of sympathy. Every now and then as I limped across a crowd, people would stare at my legs and give an "ohh sorry" look. I felt less dignified and broken inside. Thanks to medicine and some good rest, I have recovered from my not so serious condition. But think of the countless numbers of people who have to endure apathetic infrastructure, condescending looks and apologetic comments on a daily basis. As a society, I believe we have failed to restore dignity and confidence among the marginalised sections including the differently abled. I think more than euphemisms and tokenism, we need to make our spaces more accessible and looks and comments reeking less of sympathy and more of assurance and courage.

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