One definition of independence could be the freedom of movement, to be able to physically move around. The Independence Day Flower Show at Bengaluru's famous Lalbagh draws lakhs of visitors, but for people on wheelchairs, it isn't exactly a walk in the park.
NDTV accompanied Jacqueline Colaco, a former hockey player, to the show. She showed us just where the legally-required access for the differently-abled falls short.
It began at the ticket counter itself which was not really accessible for a person in a wheelchair. The windows were so high that Jacqueline could not see the face of the person selling the tickets. She was told the entry was free for her as she was on a wheelchair. She appreciated that, but said, "It would help to have a sign that said it was free entry so that it would be clear."
We moved towards the famous Lalbagh Glass House, where the flowers were on display. There was a Bonsai Garden along the way. There was a ramp of sorts that led to it, but it was so steep that Jacqueline's friend, Bengaluru-based architect, Mansoor Ali, who was pushing her wheelchair, could barely move the chair over it and required the help of two others to actually lift the chair after turning it around.
"This ramp is just too steep," he said. "It should be a much gentler gradient. It was painful for Jacqueline also due to her arthritis."
After crossing the ramp, they could go no further. There was only a flight of stairs that led to the garden. Wheelchair access was impossible. "I would have loved to see this. This is disappointing," said Jacqueline.
We moved towards stalls that sold plants, bags etc. Again, there was a roadside curb that required her to request strangers to actually lift the chair physically across the curb. People helped her, but it was a process.
The straightest approach to the Glass House was a steep flight of stairs. There was another longer, curving path that led to the building, although the surface not being smooth made progress rather bumpy.
On the way was a sign to the public toilet. "Look at those stairs," said Jacqueline, pointing to not just one but two steep flights of stairs down to the toilets. Access was simply impossible for her.
We reached the Glass House and the chair just fit through the metal detector. And then there was another step. The crowd waiting behind to enter began to build up. "Move to one side," said a security guard.
"Help me get my chair in," said Jacqueline. Once more the chair had to be physically lifted.
We made our way around the display through the crowds and clicked some selfies. The armed forces were being honoured at this year's flower show. There was a floral helicopter and a depiction of soldiers on the Siachen Glacier.
Jacqueline, who is in her 60s, loves plants, and in her feisty and positive way, she was happy to have been able to see the show this year. She has been to the show earlier, but was not sure about coming again this time as it is such a huge effort and she was not sure that things would have changed for the better. She found that a couple of cement ramps have been added, but she says more small, simple changes, even temporary ramps would make the whole event so much more pleasurable and easier to access for those who need their wheelchair.