Planet Abled's first Mumbai Greet Meet gets a big thumbs up!
There was plenty of laughter, chatter and teasing going on amongst the small and lively bunch that got together at the Planet Abled Greet Meet in Mumbai. This is the first time that the inclusive get-together, which is very popular in Delhi, was held in the city.
Greet Meet events enjoy great popularity in Delhi, soon to be held in other cities
Few of those gathered had met each other before, but no one would guess that looking at the ease and comfort with which everyone chatted about their work and other interests, with plenty of food and beer flowing to add to the happy cheer.
The venue for the Mumbai Greet Meet was at Doolally Taproot in Khar, a popular watering hole in the city, which offers the vibe of a pub and cafe. It prides itself as being the only one of its kind open to kids and pets, but this inclusive get together was a first.
Such events are becoming more common, something that makes the brainchild of this idea, Neha Arora very happy. Arora is the founder of Planet Abled, the world's first company to make travel easier for the disabled.
"We started the Greet Meet because when we started going out for trips or tours, people would give weird reactions like some aliens had come in or pass comments. So the idea was to make disabled people a part of ordinary life. Like going to a pub, a coffee shop, or having a drink, dancing, a hookah, etc. This is so that people see and accept that the disabled can come and enjoy like everyone. That is the whole idea of doing such events." - Neha Arora, Founder, Planet Abled
Like all Greet Meet events held by Planet Abled, this was open to people with all kinds of disabilities There was a sign language interpreter and the venue was accessible for wheelchair users, with the cost per head kept at a reasonable Rs 600.
For Sadaf Khan, a Human Resources recruiter who is vision impaired and rarely gets to go out, the idea of a safe space where one could meet new people was a big draw. "This is my first Greet Meet and its fun sitting here and chatting with new people. When we go out, its usually with people we know. This way we get to meet new people in the same city."
Ruchir Falodia, who is a manager with Tata Cliq, and is vision impaired, has attended similar events earlier. "I think you never know in which Greet Meet, you may meet someone with whom you can have a long-term friendship."
For Amar Jain, a blind corporate lawyer with equity capital markets, the biggest attraction about such events is the personal connections one forms.
"Until now technology was our best friend but there is a difference in connecting face-to-face. You can meet and decide if you want to take it further. People with disabilities do want to go out, but the culture is not developed and companies like these are changing mindsets." - Amar Jain, Corporate Lawyer
With the disabled community getting more comfortable with such events and venues becoming open, one will hopefully see even more such events across India, not just in the metros but in smaller towns.
"We had a Scrabble tournament where a young woman who was blind came here and started playing", recalls Priyanka Menon, Community Manager, Doolally. "We realised that this was possible and that it is so easy to make a venue accessible to people with disabilities. Its not expensive or difficult in any way. So we definitely want to do this again."
For Arora the biggest message that goes out is that of social inclusion.
"There is no barrier. And the more people with disabilities come out and interact, the more barriers fall. People realise they are just like me", says Arora, who promises to be back in the city for more such Greet Meets.