Stories From A Yellow Room

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Being Blind

The following article was published in "Hindustan Times Next".

Encouraged by my curiosity to unravel the very mysterious workings of the blind, I charted upon a journey to figure out what life is for the visually challenged. I did not crack a scientific query or stumble on a Nobel Prize winning discovery. But I discovered an answer to my question…Adaptability Maybe Darwin’s very idea worked here…Adaptability to the world around them!!
It is during my journey that I met some fascinating, enthusiastic and enlightened souls, who altered my perspective on Blindness. If vision is normal so is Blindness. Among them was Ashu.
I met Ashu at the North campus lawns of Delhi University with two of his friends, enjoying the warm sun on a much cold December afternoon. I went up to him and introduced myself. Ashu at first didn’t know I wanted to speak to him, he didn’t know

who I was; all because he couldn’t see me. He is blind, fully blind by birth, yet I met him at a university campus where Ashu’s not so lit eyes dare to dream and ignite in him like in any other human being a sense of gaining knowledge. He is pursuing his post-graduation now, a Masters degree in Hindi.
There are many like Ashu who move around the campus sometimes finding their own way and at times led by fellow friends. They move around like other regular students, rushing for classes, going to libraries….sitting and chatting with friends…They do it all minus their visual sense.
An argument put forth by ashu startles me. He firmly states that his blindness should not be looked at as a disability, since for him it is normal. “I was born without sight and have lived like that henceforth. I see no reason why anybody should differentiate between me and any other person” states Ashu. He continues to talk about his life as a student “We do all the things regular students do, I go for movies, sit and talk with friends and have all the fun. Staying away from home for the past 8-9 years Ashu has managed to get himself accustomed to his surroundings sans his replenishing sense, he stays in a hostel for blind students with many others like him. “I want to be a lecturer in the near future”, states Ashu. With his plans for pursuing higher education not being deterred by any external factors, he wishes to enlighten other students.
On asking him if he seeks inspiration in other blind people who have made their mark he claims that he respects and looks for inspiration in both blind as well as non-blind people. He reads Tolstoy with much joy as he reads homer.
I ask him a final question…so how does he visualize me if does so at all…he replies with a smile “you are just a voice to me, a distinct voice…”
For Takeshwar shah tarak who hails from West Bengal, poetry brings out the best in him. For him knowledge supersedes all and even being visually handicapped cannot and should not deter him from dwelling into the endless world of possibilities. His much comic nature eases me as on his first meeting as he breaks the ice by cracking jokes and passing humorous remarks. He pulls out a self composed book of poetry and hands it over to me. As I flip through the pages I find the intensity and depth of emotion this man feels, it moves me. He asks me to read out a poem for him written in Hindi, he wants to check my fluency in the language so he can make me pen down his next poem. We converse for a bit and his closed eyes which stare back at me coupled with his insightful knowledge make me look beyond his disability.
Meeting these young students made me realize that they all are as concerned with shaping their careers as any other person…owing to their disability they understand that they do not stand as potential candidates for jobs that require physical labour…yet education is one field they all explore not only proving themselves as enthusiasts of knowledge but also bent upon evading barriers of any sort and earning a livelihood rather then succumbing to any social constraints.

I later come across teachers, who under the reservation for the blind have procured jobs as lecturers at some of the most reputable colleges of Delhi University. I meet Mr. Amit who teaches political sc at Ramjas College…walking around with his lap-top in tow Amit delightfully spares time to talk bout some problems faced by him due to his vision…some insolent students play pranks between classes, they walk out…put music…but we’ve just got used to them… “Education is for the serious lot”…he takes this in a positive stride and shifts the topic to his love for the subject.
I make a trip to the Braille library, out of curiosity and find a whole new world existing there. Oblivious to the introduction of modern techniques of reading and writing, I find myself in an unfamiliar territory. I soon gain immense information on different softwares which help students access texts and notes without having to use their hands. The computer I stand next to, reads out a document, something I fail to understand, but the students accustomed to the language get hold of what the machine reads out. The university even provides recording rooms, where students from other courses can volunteer by recording in their voice certain texts that are required by the visually challenged.
My entire journey was an eye-opener, I made a whole new bunch of friends, who can’t see me, but identify well with my voice. My curiosity is now at rest, as I have mapped the world of darkness, something unfathomable. I came across those who monitor themselves with the presence of some sixth sense, being visually challenged by birth, not having seen themselves, the world around them what constructs their imagination is a mystery. Yet they continue to socially adapt themselves to the world they cannot see.

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