We drove for four hours, weaving through the motorbikes and trucks, from Mumbai to our village on the outskirts of Navsari, Gujarat. Over the ten days that we were there, people that I had never seen before were now there for me for all my needs.
From walking around the village and the farm, to wheeling me around Navsari, to driving me around anywhere I needed to go. My Gujarati improved a lot, but literally all I needed to go was raise my hand and someone would emerge from somewhere to see what I needed, or an auntie would come and tell me about her children.
Without knowing anything about me and my situation, or even barely speaking the same language at the beginning, I got that real sense of communal living where everyone bands together to make things happen. This is a theme I see throughout India.
Navsari was the first time I actually saw real congestion – more so than in Mumbai. With more animals, motorbikes, rickshaws and cars navigating more narrow streets, I spent most of my time sitting in the car, observing from inside. On day one, I wasn’t yet sure how they would manage adding a wheelchair into the mix. By the time I did get out and start walking around the streets, I went with an entourage – a pusher, and a person on each side.
After that we ventured out to Surat, the next big city. Crossing the street was an experience in itself, which is why I didn’t do much shopping. Everyone is fighting for a place on the road, including my little wheels and me. You have to pretend you know what you’re doing and literally just bolt for it. I saw no accidents. How you move around made no difference to anyone, so long as you don’t stop them from getting to where they need to go.