Are We Blind Towards The Blind?

imagesFor the last some months I have been hearing several non-fiction books – yes, not reading but hearing audiobooks downloaded from a library abroad, though I still like the feel of printed books, going back to re-read passages, mark and saving quotes.

Perhaps hearing books is a preparation for possible blindness (though I wish not to live so long) from a neglected, incurable, glaucoma that causes total loss of vision.

Clicking on a ‘like’ on my post, I read (  Giulia’s fascinating account of her dining in total darkness at a London restaurant, Dans
le Noir. It made a good read.

I recommend to every sighted person to have at least one experience in life, of total blindness, to appreciate the amazing gift of sight. And understand – not pity – those who are denied it. The blind have a wonderful world of their own, where sounds, touch and smells almost fully make up for the missing sight.

It brought back memory of a girl I interviewed when she got an MA degree. Though blind, she could match the colours of her saree and blouse, as she could tell a cloth by touch and allotted one colour to one type of fabric.

I recalled the blind telephone operator of a non-profit organisation I had worked with, who remembered by name the voice of whoever usually called me – and connect them to my extension. And also the blind Bengali professor at the New School of Social Sciences, New York, who went around that city without assistance in the 1960s..

Near the entrance of a State Assembly I was covering, there used to stand two blind boys waiting for  bus, who could tell a number of the bus by its rattle as it came to the bus stop. “Hey, that is our 352 coming,” one would tell the other.

A Fulbright scholar from the US, who had joined a service club I started in the 1960s, had ‘mobility training.’ We trained hotel waiters, policemen and bus conductors – who deal with the blind as a part of their jobs – on what to do.

In as Indian ‘thali’ (dinner plate) the blind can understand if waiters use the analogy of a clock and say “curd is at 9 o’clock”. or “curry at 3 o’clock.” Conductors can help the blind embark and get down froms bus and policemen in crossing the road.

In the social work days, after being associated with a vintage car rally in which blind navigators read out the route from a braille sheet, I proposed a march by some blindfolded people with different professional attires (doctor’s white coat,boiler suit of mechanic etc.) carrying a banner: “Are we blind to the blind?” or a protest by blindfolded volunteers barging into government offices, tripping over tables and chairs, colliding with people.

That was meant to highlight how most offices and buildings in India are inaccessible to the differently-abled and how for decades governments paid only lip sympathy to them, without doing anything concrete.

No one goes blind by choice. Sight, as Milton says in his famous sonnet on his blindness, is “that one talent which is death to hide.” Gifted with it, we do nothing to make life a little better for the unfortunate who lose it.

They “see” without eyes that we are all blind – to their plight


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