This long weekend I am staying at my sister’s place. The chance encounter I am referring to, happened in the Delhi Metro. I was boarding it from MG Road station. I hardly ever get into a scuffle for a seat but then I am also human. Today I got into one such scuffle and being more agile I captured the seat. I am not proud of the fact at all. The lady whom I edged out was naturally not pleased. She protested, “you pushed me” to which I truthfully replied that I did not. I had only put my luggage in her way. I repeat I am not proud of what I did. This is extremely unusual behavior on my part. I also scolded myself for indulging in it, but what was done was done.
While the two of us were at it, I heard a male voice saying, “I am sorry it is my fault. You tripped over my feet.” I was first quite taken aback as I was in the ladies coach. I took a sharp breath and looked at the voice, but in that instant I realized he was visually impaired.
The metro moved and we moved on. I started fiddling with my cell phone to get over my embarrassment. The person next to me started dozing off. The lady with whom I entered into a scuffle got down at a nearby station. After a while the gentleman next to me said, “I hope you were not hurt,” to which I said, “no I was not, not at all.”
Then we started chatting. I can’t remember what broke the ice but I told him that as my brother-in-law is wheelchair bound, I am used to people with disabilities. He said, “maybe that is why you were not too surprised by my presence.”
He then inquired, “Since when is your brother-in-law has been wheelchair bound?” I told him it was since birth. I added “it is a love marriage between him and my sister, they met online! They now have a daughter”, my bratty niece Vasudha.
He then mentioned that being visually impaired, his parents were initially quite protective about him. But gradually they told him, if he wanted to study more he would have to travel on his own. By now everyone in the vicinity was openly listening to our conversation. He then told me many times he has dozed off in a bus or metro and then turned back again to reach his destination. His parents were now used to the fact and if he was late they assumed that he would have slept!
I complimented him on his traveling alone, to which he said that he was in the ladies coach because it was easy to get assistance in that coach from the metro attendants at his destination. He works as an assistant manager in Dena Bank. I told him my brother-in-law runs his own content writing business.
I briefly told him that when I traveled abroad, particularly UK, I saw so many people in public life using wheelchairs. We talked about accessibility in India. He said, “I take buses frequently and if I have to cross the road, I have to literally shout and say to people passing by that I need help.” I told him that my brother-in-law uses a power wheelchair so no one needs to push the wheelchair for him. That itself attracts so much attention.”
Within no time, I reached my designated stop, Rajiv Chowk. I said bye to him and wished him luck. True to my form I did not ask his name! It was such a chance encounter, I can’t remember when I talked for so long with a total stranger.
PS. Note to self, do not get into a scuffle for a seat again, ever.