“Yes! We’ll have fun at her place today!” I thought while wrapping up my work on that Friday evening. It was the day of Karwachauth, the great Indian festival for married folks, and we cousins had planned to get-together at my sister’s place. She, along with her husband stays at Bomanhalli and we had planned to celebrate the festival together at her place. The hunt for my Mr. Right is still on, so I wouldn’t be taking part in the rituals. However, the thought of festival delicacies, witnessing interesting rituals and of course, the late-night ludo and carom game was enough to get me going from Whitefield to Bomanhalli.
I boarded the office shuttle that goes to that area and as usual grabbed a window seat with my earphones on. I was happily enjoying the light evening numbers being played on the FM channel. Now that we had crossed quite a few stops, I guessed it was time I do a route check of the shuttle’s whereabouts. The guy sitting in the opposite seat was busy on his cell phone. “Excuse me, is Silk-board the next stop?” I asked while noticing that the guy is fairly tall, and he has that boy-next-door look on his face. He routed his glance from the cell phone screen to my face, stopped for a second and to my surprise, went back to his cell phone. I couldn’t believe my eyes that a guy just ignored me! He continued to fiddle with his phone while I stayed shocked and embarrassed. “Some people are so rude! They don’t even have the courtesy to reply to a fellow female-passenger, who is also an employee of the organization they work with. This guy is so rude!” I almost thought aloud. But what do I see now – the “Mr. Rude” is looking at me and from his looks, urging me to take a look at his cell phone screen.
With an unusual curiosity, I looked at his cell phone screen. “I cannot speak or hear…do you need to get down at Bomanhalli?” were the words on his screen. Do I need to say anything here? Yes, I was ashamed of myself and the fact that the “evil” part of me had been so judgmental all this while. But even before I could realize, the “good” part of me gave a warm look of acknowledgment to the guy and took his mobile phone from him. “Oh ok, yeah I need to get down at the Bomanhalli stop :)” I typed and displayed the message to him. “Sure, the next stop is Silk board, and the stop after that is Bomanhalli.” he replied. I gave a smile and said thanks. I was sure that he understood when I said “Thanks!” because I had identified that he has good lip-reading skills by the way he could make out that I asked about the Bomanhalli stop. “Which branch of the office do you work in?” was the next message he entered and I took the phone and replied “I work in the 4th branch, and you?” That was just the beginning of the next one hour of engaging-conversation that we had through the journey till Bomanhalli.
I could have never imagined this aspect of the cellular phone technology. We shared about our home-town, our tenure in Bangalore, places we have been to, family, siblings and so on. My new friend shared that had been with the organization since the last one and a half years and is looking forward to a promotion in the next couple of months. The feeling of “interacting with a differently-abled person” had long left my conscious and I had started getting a feeling of a cab-buddy while exchanging text messages, smilies, and smiles during our conversation. “Passengers of Bomnhalli stop may get down.” announced the shuttle driver. We shared a warm good-bye smile, and I got down. I started to walk towards the auto-stand, still engaged in my thoughts on this unforgettable experience.
With the help of the directions provided by my sister, I guided the auto rickshaw to her apartment. I entered the house and then the usual excitement of meeting all cousins. “So the Bangalore traffic made you so late” inquired my brother-in-law. “Hope you didn’t face any challenges on your way” was my sister’s question on that. “Well, yes the traffic was mad, but I only noticed it till I asked my fellow-passenger about the Bomanhalli stop.” I replied. I could now hear numerous questions aloud, the way everyone was looking at me. Before they could start imagining anything else, I narrated my experience with my new cab-buddy. Not a word I could hear for the next few minutes.
“Hey, isn’t that the moon!” someone exclaimed from the society lawn, where the women had gathered to worship the moon and break their Karwachauth fast. The voice broke the silence in our flat, and all of us picked up the Pooja-thalis and started to walk towards the society lawn for final rituals of the festival. While walking down the path, I was still thinking about the whole shuttle experience. I realized that we often miss on treating the differently-abled people as one of us, celebrate with them and recognize them for their talents. I remembered the Hellen Keller’s quote, “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but has no vision.” We read and hear so much on Inclusion these days, but today I guess I experienced a whole new meaning of this word.
This short story is an entry in the ManipalBlog.com writing contest 2014, in support of India Inclusion Summit 2014 to be held at Bangalore on November 29th and 30th. To know more about the idea of an #InclusiveIndia follow @IndiaInclusion on twitter or visit their Facebook page at India Inclusion Summit.
About the author: Ms. Minu Trivedi Mishra is a resident of Bangalore, Karnataka.