Around India on Wheels

Neenu Kewlani and Sunita Sancheti in Lucknow

Four wheelchair-bound friends are touring India in an effort to sensitise the government and the people to the need of making travel barrier-free for the disabled

Finding your way across the sprawling Rock Gardens in Chandigarh is not meant to be an effort, unless your movement is restricted by the wheelchair you are travelling in. The uneven paths make progress difficult and negotiating the narrow lanes is an exercise in patience. When Arvind Prabhoo, Sunita Sancheti, Neenu Kewlani and Nishant Khade decided to undertake a road trip across India, it was difficulties such as these that the wheelchair-bound friends had anticipated and hoped to document to sensitise governments to the need of making travel barrier-free.

Appropriately then, the 81-day tour which began in Mumbai on September 28, is called Beyond Barriers —The Incredible India Tour, and it will take the "Fearless Four", as they call themselves, across every Indian state and union territory and their capitals on the mainland. The trip was Prabhoo's brainchild: "I have always loved travel. I have seen how seamlessly the disabled can travel and enjoy the experience abroad. India is a tourist haven. Why can't the disabled too savour the experience?", asks the 41-year-old, who had a near-fatal accident over two decades back, resulting in a spinal cord injury that rendered him wheelchair-bound.

Their itinerary is ambitious. Initially planned for 55 days, it bulged to 81 days after factoring in halts and other operational necessities. Once Prabhoo formulated the plan, the other three came on board. NGOs and other sponsors like accounting firm KPMG, too donated generously. "Leave alone travel, I couldn't even read a map. And here I was, drawing up an itinerary around the country," says Sancheti, 41, who was partially paralysed after an operation to remove a tumour in her spinal cord went wrong. Her planned itinerary has already seen them through Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Leh and Srinagar. Now they are on the last leg of their tour that will take them to the NorthEast, followed by Kolkata and south India before turning back to Mumbai on December 19.

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