Seventeen years ago, my sister Moy Moy bought our daughter Moy Moy a stroller. It was expensive and out-of-the-question for us at the time and Moy Senior’s generous gesture was a Godsend. For 17 years, that stroller has been our ticket to mobility and freedom.
I have a car, but cars can only do so much. Cars can only go so far. They can’t drive into someone’s garden. They can’t mosey inside someone’s house. And they definitely can’t go with you for a walk.
I’m a walker. 7 miles a day is my average. If you are a walker and if you have a daughter with a disability which prevents her from walking with you, you need to figure that out. The stroller my sister gave us was the answer. I could pop Moy Moy into it and go virtually anywhere. We went to parties in our neighbourhood, to meetings at my office, and to friends’ homes for tea. We went on long walks to the tea gardens or the Forest Research Institute or for quick trips to the local vegetable market and the chemist. We went to Latika Vihar functions, PSI gatherings and neighbourhood celebrations.
With a little maneuvering, I could get it over bumps and into buildings. It was so light that I could swing it up onto the roof of the car single-handedly; if Moy was in it, with the help of two friends, we could carry it down a flight of stairs. We didn’t miss a thing.
I felt so lucky to have that stroller I imbued it with a personality. I lined its footrest with different colored yoga mats and I tied balloons on its handlebars when feeling celebratory. I actually felt affectionate toward it. I patted it goodnight when I locked the gate every evening.
But over the years, the dear beast’s road-worthiness (Oh Dear! I feel so disloyal!) diminished. I was 41 when we got it and I am 58 now. Maybe it was me. But it got harder and harder to push it on down whatever road we were on. It was more and more of an effort. Every now and then I would look at the company’s website and think about investing in a new one. But at Rs 60,000, the price was prohibitive and getting it to India would cost almost as much as buying it.
Then one day, out of the blue, I got an email.
This is Kousalya from Chennai.
Read your article in the Hindu Magazine.
I fully agree with your views and enjoyed the expression that “living with disability can keep one connected to our essential humanity”. I saw the pic in the article. Is that your Moy Moy? Lovely child. May I request something? I like the stroller in the picture. I think it is nicely foldable. Is it convenient for Indian Roads? I want to get one for my son Nikhil (16 years old). Yes, I am also in the same boat) I have wheel chairs for him, though convenient, quite heavy. So, transporting the wheelchair in a small car is also not convenient. Can u pl. help.
I wrote back, sharing my experience with the stroller we had and recommending it enthusiastically.
This was in 2012. In 2015, Kousalya wrote again, explaining that she had indeed bought the stroller for Nikhil, but found it too large for her small flat. Did I know anyone who would like to have it?
Did I know anyone? Did I know anyone? I wrote right back (the very same day in fact, trying not to sound too eager) saying that I would love to buy it – how much was she selling it for? But there was no response. After a few weeks of anxious waiting, I forgot all about it.
So imagine my surprise when Kousalya wrote again in October of 2016, reminding me of our earlier correspondence and asking me if I still wanted the stroller. This time, when I asked the price, she wrote right back saying that she didn’t want to sell it – she would be happy just knowing that someone like her own son was enjoying it.
(Kousalya? We have never met, but what an amazing person you must be!) What followed was a long and complex series of arrangements to get the stroller to Dehradun. A dear friend in Chennai collected it from Kousalya’s home and then puzzled for months over how to get it to us without it costing the earth. Plan after plan fell through. This guy said he would do it, only to refuse at the last moment. That guy said it would fit in his car, but it didn’t. This mover was too expensive; that one was too unreliable. Finally, last week Ravi was traveling to Chennai to give a lecture. No checked luggage. The thing weighs 15 kilos, the exact amount of baggage you are allowed. BINGO.
Shaila brought the stroller to IIT where Ravi was speaking. It was all packed in bubble-wrap and strapping tape. The next day, Ravi loaded it on the plane to Dehradun. And today, LO AND BEHOLD, Moy Moy has a new set of wheels.
I will forgive you for not understanding just how much this means to me. I didn’t quite understand it myself.
I thought our old stroller was amazing. It turns out that a lot has been discovered in 17 years. This new stroller? THIS is amazing.
It turns on a dime. It rides like a dream. Light as a feather, fast as a new penny. It has swivel wheels. SWIVEL WHEELS, folks. You have no idea.
I come home from a long day at work and all I want to do is pop Moy Moy into the stroller and go for a walk. I can hardly keep up with it – it has a mind of its own, speeding ahead, pulling me along . . . and as we stride through the neighborhood, I think about all the families who don’t have what we have.
This machine – this marvel of engineering and design – transports us into the outside world. With it, we can be a part of the great spinning universe that we would otherwise never even know about.
Everyone should have what we now have. I believe that a case can be made for providing strollers to every person in India who has special mobility needs. They NEED to get out and about. So do their mothers. Depression is a major problem for people with disability and also for their primary caregivers. Fresh air, exercise, social interaction! They are all there to be had as long as one has mobility.
60,000 rupees may seem expensive, but projected over 18 years, it’s an investment of 3300 per annum. Surely the government can see the long-term benefits involved. Physical Health. Mental Health. Emotional Well Being. Put them all together and the sum is Happiness. Happiness! All summed up in a stroller.
(Kousalya? I can never thank you enough. But thanks. Thanks, thanks, thanks.)
This blog was originally posted latikaroy.org