October 10, 2017: When my visually challenged colleagues taught me how to see.
By the time I left the library and rushed to the Officers’ Mess, it was late and the only few seats available were at the table reserved for the visually challenged. A total of 4 people usually dine at that table, of which R is in my class. S, V and P are participants of some other program in the other wing of the academy. They were kind and scooched over to accommodate me. I was an idiot and I tried to “help” them. Immediately after sitting down, I had realized that not once in the past 6 days had I tried to really get to know any of them, except all the technical aid R needed in the lecture halls. That too had invited my attention simply because when it comes to GB, he is one of the brightest of our lot.
I was told, “It’s you Madam, who needs help. You don’t know how to eat.” Taken aback, I waited for them to enlighten me. Patiently chewing and swallowing, one of them spoke up, “You don’t wait to feel, touch, smell and savour the food. People with eyes gobble and gulp. That’s all. They see stuff and they think they know.” For the first time in years, I took about half an hour to properly eat, respecting every morsel and thanking the gods for my eyesight. I have been spending a little time with them for 2 days in lecture halls, sports wing, acupressure track and the cultural theatre. They have been teaching me a lot of things, including their daily struggles, stupid stereotyping the rest of us throw at them, and most importantly, how the privilege of my eyesight makes me blind to so many things in so many ways.
There is so much we don’t know. We don’t even realize what all we don’t know. It’s rather shocking to discover that most of the 18 hours I spend being awake, my brain and my eyes are on an auto-pilot mode. It’s true that it’s an involuntary mechanism, yet it is possible to be aware and present. Not just to the world outside, but to the world within