A thought has been cooking on a simmer in my mind for a while now. That I had this question, and that I gave voice to it, has bothered me. And now I know why.
Adarsha Hostel is a small privately-run girls’ hostel for blind college students. Ten to fifteen girls stay in a small two-bedroom house here, with the help of a caretaker and cook/helper. The girls come from impoverished homes across Karnataka, and the proprietor Nawaz Pasha who himself is blind, along with his sight-challenged wife, try to provide them a roof over their heads and continuing education. Life is challenging, but as Pasha says, there goes us but for the grace of God.
Some months back, a few of us got together from our community, and took charge of supplying monthly groceries to the hostel. We get the grocery list at the beginning of the month, and do a round robin to figure out who will pick up and drop off materials at the hostel. I am the go-between and have it all meticulously captured in a Google sheet – the list, amounts all tallied and squared away.
One item is a staple every month. Two brooms.
This is a small two-bedroom house. And I know from daily use at my house that a single broom can survive more than six months easily. But like clockwork, it appears on the list. Two brooms. The thought niggled away. So I asked, and the answer was simple.
Sweeping when blind can cause much damage to brooms.
The everyday struggles the girls have to surmount is unimaginable. Every step we take so blithely is a challenge they have to overcome. The outside world is a horror. Vehicles zipping by with nary a concern, footpaths that are dangerous to walk on even for us, no information panels catering to those who cannot see. Nothing. I write here specifically about our city and corner of the world.
The assumptions we able-bodied make are astonishing, if you think about it. Wake up, eat, do and go to sleep. Repeat. We think life is tough.
Our spaces have been designed to ONLY cater to a certain segment of the population – the able-bodied. If you are not able-bodied, don’t come out. Tough luck. Our attitude and ignorance scream, we do not value you. We do not want you. We do not want to make our space to accommodate your challenges. If we don’t see you, the more we can continue to shut the door to that room.
Making matters worse, is our complete ignorance of how life is for the atypicals among us, and the questions we ask with such amazing naivety.
Why did they need two brooms, I asked. What the heck. I mean WHAT. THE. HECK.
I was blindsided by the answer, humbled. I have been struggling the past few months to reconcile with myself. Rage at the unfairness of it all overwhelms me at times, and then life takes over with the busy-ness of everyday.
Should I have asked or not, the question still bothers. I have not made my peace with it. But I take from it lessons nevertheless, to be a better me.
We face the same issue with able bodied in our building. Garden brooms. I have taken the same brooms to my sons abroad and they last for over a year.