Kyros accompanied his husband on a work trip to England, Sweden, Switzerland, and India over the course of two weeks. He and Monica thought it would be a good opportunity to blog about traveling with an Invisible Illness. For those of you who don’t already know, Kyros particular Invisible Illnesses are peripheral neuropathy in both feet, a torn meniscus in my left knee that has refused to heal correctly, and somewhere in-between severe lactose-intolerance and a medium dairy allergy. So this is his story...
If you missed previous installments of this series, go here to catch up before reading this.
Day 12 - 2/1/18 - Pune
I felt much better when I woke up today. I still had to deal with a few of the after effects from yesterday's accidental exposure to dairy, but it's been blessedly minor.
With my knee and foot problems, I usually attempt to take advantage of local transit, be it a cab, train, or bus whenever possible to save energy for the things I want to do. Here in Pune, I have the option of renting a car and driver. They take you wherever you want to go for the entire day and it only costs about $25 US dollars. I used this service from the hotel last year and it was a lifesaver. The driver will drop me off wherever I want to go, then when I’m ready to leave, I just text or call him. He picks me up right where he dropped me off and we head to the next destination. Travel tip: Always make friends with the front desk people, they can tell you where the best sites to see and what deals you may not know about.
I had a long talk with the chef this morning at breakfast about the horrible day I had yesterday. He apologized and personally checked to make sure that my food today was free from any dairy contagion.
After nervously eating breakfast, I hired a car to take me to the temples I wanted to visit and to the shopping area to buy gifts for a friend. The first temple I went to was one that I wanted to visit last time I was in India, but couldn’t find it. That is until I saw it as we were in the cab on our way out of town. It was literally four blocks from our hotel. So that was the first thing on my todo list this time. It was a very beautiful temple, but stairs... OMG, so many stairs. I think I counted sixteen separate sets of stairs to get the top of the hill.
I purchased an offering from a little stall at the bottom of the hill and began my ascent. My knee complained for the first nine flights, yelled for the next five, and then screamed bloody murder for the last two, but I made it to the top. It only took me most of an hour with several stops to rest along the way. The 90º F heat had nothing to do with why I was out of breath and soaked to the bone in sweat when I finally made it to the top, I swear. Okay, maybe a little, but that climb was brutal. It was empty except for me (the advantage of going in mid-morning on a weekday). I half-limped, half-stumbled up to the altar and gave the priest my offering. He was very polite and showed me where everything belonged on the altar. I sat there for a few minutes in silent prayer and then began my descent. Thank goodness there was a railing. I don’t think I’d have made it down the stairs without something to hold onto and brace myself.
When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I looked to see if I'd missed an accessible way to the top, but I couldn't find anything. If you can’t climb those stairs, the only way you would ever get to the top is if someone carried you. It made me curious about how people with mobility issues cope here in India. I'll do some research and include some links for further reading at the bottom of this post.
So I called my driver and headed to the second temple of the day. I visited this one on my last trip to India. No stairs. Yay! The biggest problem with this temple that it is a veritable fortress. To get to the priest, and thus the altar, you have to go down a narrow channel, through a metal detector, then wind through what feels like the queue for a popular ride at Disneyland. Thankfully, you can bypass all that and go into the temple proper to sit on the floor and worship. I can't see how anyone in a wheelchair or any other assistive device could navigate the channels. This temple does have a ramp at the exit, but it appeared to be mostly used for sweeping excess flowers and other offerings down to a collection area. But it could easily have been used by someone in a wheelchair.
This temple is right in the middle of a large shopping district, so after I finished my prayers, I walked around for a bit of shopping. I picked up the items that a friend requested and even a few things for myself. Pain and exhaustion catching up to me, I called my driver and informed him I was ready to head back to the hotel.
So there’s one thing about hiring the driver that I forgot to mention. When I was here last year, I figured out after my driver stopped to let me "shop" at three different places, that while they may work for the hotel, they also get kickbacks from businesses to bring tourists to their shops. That’s why I walked around and did all my shopping before I called the driver. Last time, my driver stopped at four different shops to “show me things I would like”. Each time, I saw the business owner hand the driver cash for bringing me in. The salespeople were a little high pressure, which, thankfully, I am mostly immune to from traveling as much as I have. This time, when the driver offered to stop, I just kept reiterating, “No thanks, I’ve already done all my shopping.” Forewarned is forearmed and all that.
Back at the hotel, my husband had gotten off work. He and I changed clothes and joined his co-worker for dinner at the restaurant on the roof of our hotel. You’d think with it being a fancy restaurant that I wouldn’t have as many problems explaining my dairy allergy and ordering, right?
The first server came to take our order. I explained my dietary needs, and he said he would ask his chef what was safe for me to eat on the menu. He took our drink orders and left. About ten minutes later, a different waiter came up and asked for our order. I repeated the explanation of my dietary needs to him. He also said he would talk to the chef. Another ten minutes passed. The first waiter came back with our drinks and asked if we’d like to order. I reminded him that he said he was going to get the chef. A few minutes later, the chef finally came to our table. He and I talked about my dairy allergy. He said he would need to make something special for me because everything on the menu had ghee or yogurt. He offered to make me both an appetizer and a main course. Great! My husband and his co-worker both ordered appetizers, planning to order their main course when the waiter came back. The appetizers arrived without a problem. They were huge. I admit I was worried whether or not I would have any room left to eat the main course at that point.
When the waiter did come back to take their main course order, we decided that I would share my main course with my husband so he didn’t need to order a meal. His co-worker had also filled up on his appetizer, so they both ordered desserts. I lost track of how long we waited for my meal, but when one of the waiters came by to ask if we would like drink refills my husband heard him mention that my meal was ready, but they were holding it for some reason. So another ten minutes or so go by and they show up with my meal...and my dining companion's desserts. They had decided to hold my meal until the desserts were ready. This made things complicated because I planned to share my main course with my husband. From when we walked into the restaurant until we left was around four hours. And we didn't sit around after the meal, we left as soon as we finished eating. Oh yeah, and since we were outside on the roof, the temperature continued to drop the entire time we were out there. Cold weather and my feet are not a good combination. By the time we finished with dinner, my feet felt like they were being crushed.
Distance walked = 3.0 miles
Out of curiosity, I did a little research about disability in India, here's a sampling of what I found:
- India's disabled face mobility challenges
- India has a long road ahead in becoming a disabled-friendly country
- Planet Abled: Meet the woman making travel accessible for disabled people in India