‘During a grocery run, realised things aren’t easy for disabled people in lockdown’
“The lockdown has affected my training. My academy in Hyderabad got closed, so I returned home to Ahmedabad to stay with my parents. Luckily, I reached before the lockdown was imposed, otherwise, I would have to stay in Hyderabad alone. I am doing home-workouts, keeping in touch with my physio, trainer and my dietician. They have planned a proper schedule for me. They are helping me to figure out what training I can continue to do during the lockdown.
“There is a limit to what exercises I am able to do at home, though. There are a lot of cardio-exercises I am unable to do. We had created a gym as per requirements, but now I have to readapt to my current requirements. So, it is obviously a problem. But we are trying to adapt to whatever situation we are having.
“In the meantime, I have enrolled for an online course on ‘Disability Awareness and Support by University of Pittsburgh’. I have been reading and keeping myself busy. I am writing emails, talking to people. I had a busy year in 2019, so I didn’t get time to be social with people or connect with my friends. So, now is the time to get all those things going. I am keeping in touch with people. Every day, I try to contact my friends and check up with them how things are going, and what is happening in their lives.
“I am also cooking at home. It was a hobby of mine, but then I started cooking to survive. But now, I can cook to experiment, which I enjoy. I made South Indian food for my family the other day. We used to have a cook aunty who would come to my place and cook some amazing delicacies. I tried to cook palak paneer, and beans in her style. I try to put a twist in everything, and do some experiment with it. I made a different type of Frankie, which turned out to be really tasty. So, I am trying to experiment with my cooking, and eat different stuff. But of course, following my diet (laughs).
“I also watch TV. I watched Special-Ops on Hotstar. It was quite interesting. I didn’t get much time to read anything, though. I keep myself busy 24X7.
“With Paralympics getting postponed by one year, it has exceeded my hopes of going to Tokyo and to compete for a medal. So, this hope is keeping me quite motivated these days. One year is a lot of time for me to work on my development. It’s definitely a blessing in disguise for me.
“Last year, we had a lot of tournaments. Every 15-20 day we used to play a tournament. I had broken one of my prosthesis when I was in China for my World Championships. After that, even though I tried to change the cue part of my prosthetic, I was unable to reach the alignment that I used to play at. So, now I have the time to adapt and learn to play with my new prosthesis.
“I, now have time to learn different skills and styles. I have also placed an order for running prosthetics. So, I am also planning to learn running this year. I have kind of forgotten how to run. So, I am hopeful this will be helpful in training. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
“I am following the WHO guidelines on how to prevent oneself from coronavirus - washing hands, wearing masks in public, maintaining social distance. Another thing I keep doing is keeping my prosthetic devices clean. At home, I use crutches, and walkers, so I keep their surfaces clean by wiping them with sanitizer.
“At our household, we take turns to buy groceries. So, I also went out one day and I realised that it’s not easy for me. I had to stand in the queue for too long. Usually, I would just sit and wait for my turn, and not stand in the queue. But these days, I don’t want to contaminate myself.
“People know me, my disability was quite visible, I was in my shorts. But nobody gave up their tokens for me. People who were distributing tokens, did not think that they should think about putting me ahead in line, so I won’t have to stand for too long. I had only gone to buy essentials, and not for fun.
“I went for vegetable shopping later, and there were people pushing me in order to get their shopping done first. When people push me, I lose my balance, even if I am just standing.
“I really wish people and government are considerate and kind enough to allow people with disabilities and senior citizens to give them a chance to get their grocery shopping done first. I really appreciate how these supermarkets are still running in these times. But I just wish there could be some rule to allow people with disabilities to go first, but then it would also be better if people become considerate themselves.
“It struck me that I live in Hyderabad alone, and what if I was there on my own. At least, here, I have my siblings, here. If I ask them to go grocery shopping, they will do it for me, they are super supportive. But then, in our household, we treat everyone equally. I believe in being independent. I don’t want to be dependent on anyone. But I would request authorities to understand and be a little more kind and considerate.
“People with disabilities have to touch other surfaces to know where we exactly are, and at this time, people are advised not to touch. People with disabilities are at higher risk of catching COVID-19, we are the ones who need more attention. We should keep in mind that disabled people are also vulnerable members of the society who are getting more affected by the lockdown. We should think about larger things than ‘my own problem’.
“I cannot go on to just say that everything is perfect if it is not. People are empathic, but to sensitise the general public, we have to create more awareness. If I say that you need to help people with disabilities, all people say is that we will get groceries for them. That is not the type of help I require, all I need is mere ko pehle jaane do. If you don’t wish to give your token, it’s fine. But at least tell authories inko pehle jaane do.
“We need to change how people react to disaster in such a scenario, and how we treat the vulnerable sections of the society. We have to think from a different perspective when we are devising a plan on how to tackle this pandemic.”
(As told to Karan Prashant Saxena)