Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Is This How Disabled Aunties are Treated in India?

This post is not for the squeamish or faint of heart. I'm warning you now it will be somewhat graphic and TMI. You will likely be appalled and I'm certain if you're a westerner your heart will sink, break or shatter at what you're about to read. You were warned. There is nothing pretty in this post.

Picture the scene. (From a girls perspective.)
You're at your local mall enjoying time with your family. You've just gotten done with your shopping and now you're having coffee while you wait for a storm to pass so you can go home. Then nature calls and you go to the ladies room.

As you're walking in there is a handicapped woman (aunty) in a wheelchair being assisted into the bathroom by a young woman. The young woman is dressed in expensive Indian clothing and has all of her chura (wedding bangles) on her arms. There is also another woman, a friend, with them and there are four attendants in the bathroom. 

The young woman pushes the aunty to the last stall which is not handicap accessible. (The handicap accessible restroom was on a different floor of the mall.) They stop the chair and help the aunty to the floor. The aunty then proceeds to crawl on her hands and knees into the stall. Once she's into the stall she sits on the floor and  struggles and pulls her pants down. No one is helping her and since her wheelchair is blocking a stall, many other women are shuffling in trying to push it out of the way while others waiting for their turn are staring at the disabled aunty on the floor. It was as if they had no concern for this aunty's dignity.

The aunty gets her pants down and pees there on the floor. This is a western style toilet stall and she was obviously unable to help herself. The two young women with her didn't have the basic human compassion to help her onto the toilet or even into the stall. They didn't help her with her clothes. They simply stood there watching while this woman sat in a pool of her own urine until she was doing going.

From a westerner's perspective this is cruel and inhumane. Of all the people coming into and out of a crowded, 8 stall bathroom and many of them watching while they waited for their turn, not a single person offered to help this woman. Not a single one even seemed surprised, shocked or at all emotional over the scene as it played out before them. The attendants didn't alert the women that there was a handicap accessible toilet just downstairs. They just all watched on as a grown woman had to suffer this humiliating experience.

The westerner witnessing this cared though. She took the time to tell the young woman about the handicapped accessible restroom and then an attendant came over to re-emphasize it's location and make sure it was understood that there was a handicap accessible restroom. The young woman seemed unconcerned, uncaring and unmoved by the fact a westerner felt ashamed on behalf of the aunty. Not a single person had any compassion for this aunty.

This was a real event. It happened at Alpha One mall here in Amritsar Sunday, April 29, 2012.

How would you feel if you witnessed such an event? 
How do you think this makes a foreigner feel about Indian values? (Especially Indian values towards their elders)
What would you do in this situation? 
Is this how the disabled are treated in India? It would seem common judging by the reaction of all the other Indians entering the room.

26 comments:

  1. Ugh, my god, if I was there everyone in that bathroom would've got a peace of my mind. I would've been so angry, I would've shouted at them and demanded to know what the hell is wrong with them until they felt ashamed, especially those who couldn't even be bothered to help the poor woman on to the toilet.  It's absolutely disgraceful.

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  2. See, I'm so angry, I can't even spell "piece" properly.  Piece, not peace!! Sheesh.

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  3. That's exactly what this westerner did. She gave quite a few people a piece of her mind. It's just crazy so many people acted like this womans dignity didn't matter.

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  4. Yes, I have seen this situation and have helped many an 'old aunty' in public restrooms use the facilities with dignity. I've seen this situation on airplanes quite frequently also. Learning to 'transfer'  a handicapped person from a wheelchair to a handicapped equipped western style toilet is simple to do. Done properly you can easily assist a handicapped person that even weighs several kilos more than yourself. 
    Once while on an Air India flight from Delhi to Paris the handicapped 'old aunty' was accompanied by a well dressed man - aunty and wheelchair were simply shoved (partially hanging out) of a regular stall. I rang for the stewardess. Aunty was stuck like 'pooh bear' in the stall with the door open trying to arm lift herself out the wheelchair to the toilet. Finally, whomever was in the handicapped stall (and wasn't handicapped) got the hell out of the handicapped stall. I asked aunty 'Madame, may I help you? I used to assist my mom when she was in a wheelchair".
    Aunty was HAPPY  as I showed her how to park the wheelchair in the handicapped stall- I showed her how to put her arms around my neck & I put my arms around her waist & 1-2-3 LIFT!!!
    We made it, sari, pants & underpants lowered and raised, modesty preserved, & Aunty replaced in her wheelchair both of us with hands washed.
    The Air India stewardess came and left, no help was offered. 
    This was Business Class. This is India!!!!

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  5. Oh yes, the well dressed man accompanying aunty retrieved her and actually thanked me. One of the few times I've been thanked by an Indian.

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  6. You did the same thing most westerners would. I used to have to help my great grandmother around the house as a child and I watched my grandmother help her to the bathroom. It's just basic compassion not to want to watch someone suffer. It's just so sad this woman had to go through this in a crowded mall.

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  7. That is definitely a treat then! I've got Rohit well trained now lol. I hear him say "mihirabani" to his mom all the time lol. I don't think that happened before I got here.

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  8. Thanks for adding on to the story Nicky. I know it must have been very difficult to see this scene. Just imagining it is heart breaking for me. I feel so sad for her and angry at the women who were with her and not helping. I don't understand how anyone could stand there and watch.

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  9. Unfortunately I'm not surprised.  I've been with my wonderful Indian husband for 10 years and while there are things I enjoy from his culture like the food most of the culture is just revolting.  After four visits to India I firmly believe the primary value of Indian culture is selfishness.  Selfishness is a the root of most of the bad behavior in India.  People there just do not care about anyone but themselves so it is no surprise the country is poor and filthy.  When my mother visited India last winter with me she was appalled to see a mentally handicapped man by himself and likely homeless on a street median and she thanked god her mentally handicapped sister was born in America. 

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  10. As a nursing assistant that started out working in nursing homes I have a special place in my heart for the geriatric. I probably would have made an incredible scene. I hadn't seen anything like that on either of my trips so far and I hope I never do. Thank you for writing this post.

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  11.  Oh my ..... This would have been so unfortunate  for that elderly lady . But there seems to be so many things that don't really add up . first of all ... in the last bathroom stall how many people would have seen the person inside . Next how many people pay any attention to any stall other that the one they are waiting to go into and why would anyone get down on the floor instead of sitting on the toilet and does this make every Indian responsible or the 2 useless girls that were with the elderly lady maybe her caregivers or bad DIl or daughter  ! Just wondering if it is safe for a westerner such as myself to set foot inside of India again in light of all the horrible things I see posted here each day . I am starting to rethink my plans . Is it possible that the only good Indians in the world are the ones we are married too and in my case a few of his family members  ? If so aren't we so special !

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  12. I was talking to my sister in law about this selfishness trait on Sunday. She explained it as the result of lack of resources, and I do know it to be true although it doesn't make it easier to get used to and accept. In the west, we have all our basic needs taken care of so we are more able to focus on compassion, helping people, being considerate. etc. Whereas in India, people still have to struggle to get their basic needs met, it makes them selfish and only think about themselves.

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  13. I've never witnessed wheelchair lady in the toilet, but that sadly doesn't surprise me :(
    I have never seen a country where the educated lot who claim to be so smart and superior has so much selfishness and disdain for others in need in public places. An elderly lady trips on uneven pavement on a sidwalk, most ignore it, I helped a couple of people who triped running toward them while about 5-6 people close to that person just ignored the incident. Once in a mall in Bangalore I was need the entrance and saw a lady carrying a baby in the distance, baby lost a sock, I saw it drop, in the 30 seconds it took me to rach her, about 10 people had stepped on the sock, some even annoyed at it kicked it with their foot, seeing the lady with the baby walk away not noticing that one sock dropped of her baby's feet, I picked up the sock and ran after her to give it back...I mean not noticing it is one thing, stepping on it when it is near the mom with a baby and kicing it away...not nice.
    Another time I was walking down a street, a guy got a call on his phone while on his bike so he stopped, removed his glasses to remove his helmet to answer his call, I was again  about 30 meters away, the call was short but someone his glasses fell on the ground and he was putting his helmet back on and about to kick start the bike to leave. His glasses lens power might not have been strong, I know how it is I have that issue myself and tend to forget to wear them outside only to notice much later. So I ran after him shouting and picking up the glasses for him...the glasses fell, about one foot away from a beggar that was sitting there and pestering the guy about money very loudly, he saw the glasses, but not once pointed to them or even stood to pick them up and hand them to the guy! When I reached the spot to pick up said glasses the beggar suddenly started tugging on my clothes asking "maaaaaaaaaa paisaaaaaaaaaaaaa" not bothered by anything else. I understand being poor sucks, that he might be hungry, but it never crossed his mind to help the guy, who would probably felt more inclined to give him a few rupees if he helped int he first place.
    I have had beggars and homeless people in Switzerland call after me to tell me I dropped something, I even had beggars and homeless rush to me to help me after I tripped, lack of money or shelter isn't an excuse for being rude...period.

    DH and I also have been on the side where we would have appreciated a little help but got none, try traveling with 2 suitcases, a duffel bag and a baby by train, we had no need for a collie because navigating ont he platform was easy, but came the train, and all pushed and bumped into us not caring about DH trying to hoist the biggest suitcase up the steps into the train, and me dealing with my daughter on one hip and the other bags, some people even cribbed, then this guy who had a kid and a family too and looked like an NRI came rushing toward us to help, then seeing he had a folded stroller too DH and I offered him help, all the tohers cribbed, none helped any of us. Had people crib behind me in scurity check at the airport because I took too much time to extract a laptop out of my bag while carrying a toddler who chose that moment to be fussy, no help. People come and pinch my daughter's cheek int he queue to the gate saying "sho shweet" only to bump into me later to cut in front of me (DH gave these people a piece of his mind).

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  14. It is very sad to see all of these things here. You're right, there's not enough compassion and concern for others by the majority. I've seen only a couple of examples of people helping others and caring for the community in this city. There really needs to be more.

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  15. The aunty crawled from her chair to the floor because she was unable to walk or (I assume) get up. The two women with her didn't help. The bystanders in the bathroom were concerned with getting in a stall but even from the main wash area of the bathroom here you can see all of the stalls so a woman crawling on the floor would not go unnoticed. I fully blame the 2 useless girls.

    I catch your sarcastic undertones but think you have missed the point of my blog. It's interesting how people can comment that all I ever write is about the bad stuff but those same commenters NEVER have anything to say when I post something good. I don't find much good here in Amritsar. Maybe you've never been here and don't understand but I'm not alone in my thoughts. Indians that live here agree with me. Pardesi's that live here agree with me (4 out of 6) Indians I've met coming from other locations agree with me. So unless you've been here and seen what goes on in this city, don't chastise me as if you can't fathom these things.

    As far as being married to good men. There are several gori's who are not married to good Indian men. I know you don't see it because I don't out those who contact me but I have received 36 contacts from women seeking help just in 2012 alone. Many find themselves in situations just like mine. A few have seen these issues but don't personally experience them. It's wonderful that you have not and I'm glad you didn't. But that doesn't discount all the other women who come here and do have to suffer through these things.

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  16. I notice the struggling too. It's like most people here live in a survivalist mode. Everyone is always competing for something, even if they don't realize it. I've never had to compete like that.

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  17. It's good your DH said something to the people. I can't help but wonder if when someone trips here people automatically think that the person tripping is doing it for some kind of drama or to get attention. Maybe they think since the beggars are gangs (so they say) that these people tripping will do the same thing.

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  18.  I don't think people in India realize that selfishness is making it more difficult to meet their basic needs.  And women shopping at an expensive mall in Amritsar do have their basic needs met so they were just being selfish.  The widespread selfishness leads to a culture of mutual distrust and malice that leads to fraud, corruption, littering, I mean come on Indians don't even care about leaving the toilet clean for the next person! 

    Mutual cooperation, following the law, and sacrifice for the common good lead to orderly and developed societies.  Honestly paying taxes, universally enforced laws, competent and wise governance that oversees the building and maintenance of decent infrastructure, public schools, parks, etc. are traits of developed countries where people actually care about each other, not just themselves.  I'll give a small example that contributes to a higher quality of life: the founding fathers of my city set aside a large tract of land to serve as a park for the future generations.  They planted trees that are huge today and hired the premier landscape architect of the time.  The founding fathers could have tried to profit from the land but they didn't, they thought about how people not even born would enjoy the park. 

    The explanation for the widespread selfish behavior in India is cultural and can't be justified by saying people are trying to meet basic needs.  People long struggled to meet basic needs at one time in developed countries too; they set aside "me first" attitudes and adopted "community first" attitudes and their countries prospered.  And yes of course they exploited others through slavery and colonization but in 2012 culture is why some countries are rich and have higher quality of life and others are dirty, poor, and treat women badly.

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  19.  No Kristy I have never been to Amritsar . I was planning to go there sometime to the Golden Temple my husband told me it is very dirty around the temple and he couldn't understand why it was like that for such a holy place other than that I don't know much about the place.
    I have however spent a lot of time in India and have never come to see the people as you and many other people do and I hope that I never will. I have been bothered by lots of the same things that you are I just feel like you are putting everyone in the same boat and you can't do that to any group of people anywhere in the world . I know that you come from a wonderful country and so do I but no class lives here also.
    I said to you once before that I think it is very disrespectful to your husband to be talking about his family's hand washing habits  and how dirty their dishes are etc and I still feel the same . It's sad that you ended up living with a family like that but not all Indians are the same .
    By saying that we are all married to good men I am referring to the few woman that I see make comments here who are happy with their husbands from India but not much else meaning are our husbands the only good thing about India . I know that all white women are not married to great Indian men by any stretch my own cousin was married to a real SOB from Punjab many years ago for a very short time I still can't understand about the bathroom situation and it has been on my mind all day .Thank you for saying you are glad that I have not experienced these conditions that you have . Sorry if you think that I am one of the people who never comments if you say something nice lol would I find them in your latest post ? Who are all these people anyway  insulting your mother and all that other crap why do you even talk to them ????  and you say that I don't get the point of your blog..... maybe I don't

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  20. I also would like to add that if you feel I'm too negative all the time, consider that I live in an environment where I'm harassed, insulted and stepped on (proverbially) daily. This is a very negative environment and it's become almost impossible to have a good attitude toward this place (this house, this neighborhood and this city).

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  21. You're right, I don't think that many of them do realise that it is making it harder for themselves. A prime example is the way people try and board the Mumbai local train. All rush on at the same, without waiting for everyone to get off, and jam the door so no one can get through!   So, everyone loses! I think it's like that in many situations -- fight and scramble so much for resources, that no on ends up getting them.

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  22. Kristy I can see that you have a difficult time living there and seeing the good in anything. Life is difficult at the best of times and at the risk of sounding like an old Aunty I was surviving  India before you were born at the tender age of barely 20 I learned a lot from India it taught me patience love and tolerance like I had never known .I didn't recognize a thing hardly even my own husband because he seemed so different when he was there . I was his world here and then all of a sudden there were all these people whom he loved and he was part off so my adjustments were huge . There was no running water western flush toilet no western food or restaurants anywhere just pure madness was all I could see at first . Maybe that's why I get upset about the things that are being said all the time . I hope you have a great trip home and your husband gets his visa soon that you can live your life in a way that best suits you both .

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  23. Oh yes, the train! Whenever Rohit and I are going on the train we show up early (sometimes before the train) and board last. There's always a group shoving each other to jump on and get a seat. And a lot of times we get in there to find someone in our seats. We book early so we can make sure we sit together but not everyone does that. Then you have to bargain for someone to trade you. It's a mess.

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  24. Thanks Cathy. I'm certain I'm living in a much different India than you have faced. I don't get bothered by the Indian toilets, the differences in kitchens, etc. It's really only peoples treatment of each other wears me down. I eat Indian food, I just have to be careful what it is so I don't have bad reactions. I think I've even gotten used to the traffic. I found a post I wrote a year ago talking about how I would never drive here and now I'm certain I'm getting a car and driving. So I know I've adjusted to a lot. I still have a long way to go and I'm facing a lot of serious issues. I'm not so sure I can do it anymore. I'm just praying this break is enough to clear my mind so I can come back with a fresh perspective. We'll see. Thanks for your comments and insights.

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  25. This is going to sound a little harsh.  But you didn't 'care' enough.  You sat back and watched while this woman dragged herself into the stall and relieved herself on the floor.  

    Your should have helped that poor woman...perhaps then the young girl would have been 'shamed' enough into helping her as well.  You mention a couple of times how not a single person did anything or had compassion for this Aunty.  Talking to the girl about handicapped accessible toilets and writing a blog post are not enough...if you are going to talk the talk you need to walk the walk.

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  26. It's not harsh. You make a great point. It was my understanding the westerner that witnessed this scene was pinned by the wheelchair somewhat and was verbally trying to do all that she could while the crowd in the restroom was trying to squeeze into the area. Her comments are listed here if you want more information about all that was happening.

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