Sunday, 30 March 2014

A wonderland called Arushi

A little more than a year ago, I acquired an e-friend by virtue of the pieces I had been writing on matters concerning disability. Through her, I came to know of an organisation called Arushi which has been doing yeoman service for decades, facilitating children with various manners of impairment, rendering monuments of national importance accessible for people with disabilities, etc. And this woman e-friend,  a quite accomplished writer, used to wax eloquent on the theme of Arushi in particular, and Bhopal, in general. So it is that I have wanted to visit Bhopal and Arushi for a while now.

And as luck would have it, I found myself being invited to speak at a conference being organised by IISER Bhopal in mid-March. My wife, with interests in aechaeology, was waxing eloquent about Sanchi which she had visited many moons ago as a student. And my daughter also being around and relatively free, we trooped off en famille to Bhopal - after having made sure to ask my e-friend Shefali for some contacts at Arushi; and she had promptly obliged by giving me the phone numbers of Rohit and Anil.

This was a three-day conference at IISER, fixed for Friday-Sunday a few weeks ago. Although I had already told my host at IISER that I would be bunking a day of the conference so as to be able to visit Sanchi and Arushi, it turned out that the scheduling of the Conference was such that I could only take Sunday off. So I called Rohit, and asked him if I could visit Aruushi on Sunday afternoon; and he cheerfully said `any time is fine; only you won't see the children, because it is Sunday'. I explained to him that I really had no other time I could come (I was flying out of Bhopal early on Monday morning).

We left for Sanchi early on Sunday morning, and one of the first things I noticed on entering there on my wheelchair was the strip of tactile tiles throughout the area and I proudly told my family this could only be the handiwork of Arushi - which it was, indeed! After a very calming few hours at Sanchi, we returned to Bhopal for lunch before heading for Arushi. I had told Rohit I'd be there by 2,30 and we were unfortunately some 10 or 15 minutes late. When I called Anil to apologise (as I couldn't get throughto Rohit's phone), he said they were waiting for me.  The wonderful experience I had for the next few hours was possible only because of the obviously great regard and affection that my hosts had for Shefali, a long-time volunteer at Arushi. Tomorrow happens to be her birthday, and I wish to put together assorted photographs that my daughter clicked on my phone camera, and say: Thanks, and I hope this aid to nostalgia would start off a wonderful birthday, Shefali.

The board says it all

Lush greenery inside the premises

Lots of welcoming ramps
Bright happy colours

Octopus's garden?

Plenty of natural light and air

Anil making Rohit autograph a memento for me

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