Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Whichche din? Certainly not this month!

The first few days of December have been some of the most nerve-wracking and miserable that it has been my misfortune to live through. The reader of my last post would know I was hoping to go with my wife to New Zealand to be with our daughter for our 25th wedding anniversary, and I was anxiously waiting for the medical assessors of NZ immigration to stop pondering over the weighty matter of the possible implications that giving an Indian with MS a two-week visitor visa might have for the national health or health care facilities and consequently for the national treasury. I had already bought tickets a while ago when they were not prohibitively highly priced, according to which I should have left Chennai not long after midnight on the 8th. When it became clear that I was not going to get an answer one way or the other even on the 4th, I had to cancel our tickets so I wouldn't suffer a heavy loss as a `no show' come flight time on the 8th. That was strike one.

On the other hand, we had come to Bangalore for a conference in Bangalore during the first few days of the month. This had the one positive consequence that we had come away from Chennai when it witnessed the heaviest rains in more than a century and was subjected to unbelievable flooding; roads, railway lines and airport connections to the outside world were all shut down, and the city witnessed  the kind of horror no one would ever want their worst enemy to witness - no power for several days on end, water-logging in streets necessitating rescue teams in dinghys helping to evacuate people from the islands their homes had become, many houses/apartments on the ground floor being inundated with two or three feet deep water.... But the city also witnessed amazing selfless acts day after day to voluntarily help others in distress, and there were no reports of crime of the sort associated to times when there are blackouts. The world heard praises being heaped on the city, and the citizens announced proudly that they were Channaiites! Chennai lost more than 300 lives, a bit more than the fatalities in Paris, and received a minuscule proportion of the bytes the Paris tragedy was showered with by the world media. With further rain forecast for the second week, we have been told to stay in Bangalore for another week and only then come back! Even Chennai airport only started resuming all normal flights on the 7th. So our fond hopes of leaving 7th/8th night for Wellington were stymied by meaningless bureaucratic delays and climate-change induced unprecedented flooding. Strike two!

December 3rd, the International day of Persons with Disabilities, saw another fiasco (this time, a predictable one!) The Prime Minister of India had advertised the inaugration of a grand programme for rendering the country an accessible place for the enormous number of PWD in the country. When I heard about it from my disability activist friends in Delhi, I asked them to check on the accessibility of the venue chosen for this `marquee event'. What I heard from them did little to diminish my fears regarding the true outcome of this scheme announced amid such pomp and glamour. Only the first two rows were accessible to people in wheelchairs, and it was then literallly a case of `devil take the hindmost'. Strike three and you are out!

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