The Complete Cycle: Being Blind; Being Sighted

It was a normal summer evening. Vijay could hear a lot of noises from the street. Grocers selling vegetables and fruits, autos rustling across the road seeking travelers, cars blowing horns and overtaking each other, fellow pedestrians accompanying him to the medical shop where he was headed.

Vijay wasn’t blind by birth. He lost his vision at the age of 5 in an accident and has been blind since. Thirty years have passed and he has accepted the fact that he’ll never be able to see again. Initially, it was very hard on him. It’s the change that’s the hard part, not the vision loss itself. People born blind don’t need to struggle with this aspect; they don’t see black – they see nothing. People like him who lose their sight later in life do. Even if, he lost the sight at a tender age, the change was drastic and haunting. It was a terrible experience.

A few hours ago, he was running in the house, getting chased by his mother who was after him to finish the milk. Now, he was as stationary as the table in his room which he saw day and night. Every time he ran, he feared he’d rub his thigh against the edge of the table that was protruding out. However, now he could rub his thigh against the table anytime. The colors that he had discerned, the shapes that he had learned, the alphabets and the numbers that he had read were all gone. The most destructive part of losing sight was the feeling of incompetence. As a child, he was not naturally organized and orderly and now the loss of vision would make his life even harder. He’d get clumsy and gawkish. The way he interacted with the people would change. The new way would get rough and bitter.

He learned the techniques that blind people use to navigate and read to be accepted and become a part of the society and the world. In the beginning, learning these techniques were really tough and his mother showed tremendous amount of patience and perseverance with him. However gradually, things became better and he learned. After 5 years of training, he could read and walk in the home through his touch and in the roads with the help of a white cane. Of course, he stumbled very often. He had no choice but to accept this new life.

Presently, he lives with his mother. His father died of a cardiac arrest couple of years back. The last time Vijay visited his ophthalmologist, he was told that a cure had been found for his condition and there was hope that he could get his eye sight back. He was confused and happy after learning the news. He was happy that there was the slightest of chance that he’ll be able to see again. He won’t be physically incapacitated anymore. He thought he’d run, play, watch movies, shave on his own, go shopping and visit Europe and get charmed by its beauty.

An operation was performed. His cornea was transplanted and suddenly everything wasn’t black again. There were a great number of colours about which he never learned and the impression of colours that he had in his mind were a lot different in reality. The dress of the nurse was sky blue in colour. However, he had only dark blue in his mind. When he stepped out of the hospital, he saw the trees. The trees seemed to be a lot taller and a lot greener to him. The shapes too seemed out of shape. He had always imagined apple to be perfectly circular which it wasn’t. He had always visualized a tube light to be rectangular but it turned out it was cylindrical, a shape he never even heard of.

He had always imagined grocers to be drenched in sweat, selling only potatoes and onions. He had always visualized cars to be white in colour and triangular in shape. He had always thought autos to be a perfect amalgamation of the colours yellow and black. He had always believed the people who walked with him were physically sound which wasn’t true. He saw people on the road who were blind. One had broken his arm and one walked using crutches.

The thought of being able to see again always thrilled him but now he wasn’t so sure. The impressions and the thoughts in his mind about things – their colour, their shape, their state; They were completely different than what he had imagined and thought over the last 30 years. Now, he would have to learn again.

Water from the shower when it kissed the tiles had always sounded intimidating. Regular honking of the autos had always sounded irksome. The clattering of the dishes in the kitchen had always sounded angry. The sound and the vision were out of synch. A perfect blend would be required between the two.

His mother had organized a small get together and all the close relatives and friends were invited. All they wanted to talk about was the miracle that took place a few days back when Vijay regained his sight. All of them had the same questions. ‘How many fingers do you count? How does it feel to see again? Do you recognize me?’  The people surrounded him and bombarded him with such questions. They didn’t wait for him to answer and asked the next question. He found it to be very distracting to look at people’s faces when he was having a conversation. He could see their lips moving, eyelashes flickering, heads nodding and hands gesturing. At first, he tried looking down, so that he didn’t have to make an eye contact. It was easier to close his eyes or tune out the visual input. This was often necessary in order to concentrate on what they were saying. Visual communication was much more cumbersome and tedious.

He always had great interest in tennis. He always wished to watch the match on television and within one month of his operation, Wimbledon started. He tuned in to television with great interest and excitement. He acted like a child whose favourite cartoon was about to start. His mother accompanied him. He clutched her hands and the match started. He found it to be intricate and strenuous to watch the match. His mind couldn’t form the images at the pace the match was moving. He had great difficulty in observing every little detail and when the ball moved as fast as it did, the stress levels on his brain was immense. After watching the match for fifteen minutes, he had a headache and he gave up. He closed his eyes and listened to the commentary while sitting in front of the television set.

A friend suggested him to use binoculars while viewing things so that much more detail can be observed and formed in his mind. Every afternoon, he takes the binoculars on the terrace and watches the cars that move in different directions, he watches autos rustling across the street looking for passengers, grocers selling fruits and vegetables and a hundred pedestrians cross the street. He sees. He observes. He forms an impression in his mind. The previous impressions that he had when he was blind are getting replaced. However, this process is slow and it takes a lot of time. Change usually does take a lot of time even if it is the change from being blind to being sighted which would seem to be the most seamless change. He was accustomed to use hearing and mind to form images. Now, the number of players had increased. Vision was added to the list.

8 thoughts on “The Complete Cycle: Being Blind; Being Sighted”

  1. A very lucid article, beautifully presented. Speaks volumes about the feeling of inadequacies that follows the vision loss at such a tender age and how the restoration of vision juxtaposes the newly formed impressions of the world with the earlier perceptions of the mind.

  2. Thank You Ashutosh. I know and we ‘normal’ people never feel blessed that we are normal. We keep whining and cribbing about some or the other thing.

  3. There is always a sense of suffering in all your articles and what better way to tell of human emotions; each one of them put up in a different style makes it all the more intriguing.

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