All I see is darkness. In that, what I mean to say is, I see nothing. I hear screams. Screams of fear. I grope around to feel something – anything – familiar. My feet crawl across the uneven ground, centimetre by centimetre, asseing the land above which I stand and move ahead. I twist and turn my head hoping the darkness lies in the direction I face, not with me. My heart pounds within my chest, the heartbeats getting louder and faster with each slide of my foot. I spread my arms, my fingertips aching for a touch of familiarity. They feel nothing. Slowly and steadily I move forward. Screams. I still hear them. Blindly I move towards it. I lose my balance as my feet slip into a grove. I let out a yelp and fall down. Feeling and freeing my feet out, I stand up and move in the direction I think, is right. The screams have subsided. I feel a hand wave across my back. I turn around to grab the wavering arms. “I found you!” We exclaim and grip each other’s hands tight.
As instructed, we wait there for a minute or so. Finding company, my heart fades its beat to a normal pace. Someone approaches us and says “I will guide you through”. She places my left hand on her left shoulder and my partner’s right hand on her right shoulder. With her guidance we moved, with mixed sense certainty and doubt. She informs us about the a flight of stairs winding down before us. We feel the shoulder sink down. We let out a synchronised cry. I lift my right feet above the ground and slowing bring it down. Unable to find ground at the expected height, my brain sent out signals indicating my fall. I scream. My guide tells me there are still a few centimetres before my feet touch the ground. I follow her instruction. As my sole touches the rocky step, I let out a sigh. She informs us there are still about 10 steps, of varying heights before we reach level ground. I curse under my breath and condition my depth perception deprived brain. I start hearing a lot of cries again. With a few more instructions, curses and a foot sprain, we reached level ground. We walk a metre or two and halt. Our guide slips our hands off her shoulder. Our blindfolds are removed. I look at the clear blue sky and the surrounding trees. Viewing a familiar sight, I am flooded with relief. I look around and see others steadily moving in to where we are. Their faces distraught-I am sure mine was too.
As and when the blindfolds were removed, huge exclamations were heard. I am sure they were of joy, of accomplishment, of having survived the darkness. Once everyone had their blindfolds removed we were asked to assemble around our guide forming a circle. She asked us us about our blinding experience. Responses ranged from thrilling to frightening.
We were being taught about the importance of sight. We were on a school outing. This was the most exhilarating learning experiences I have had while on a school outing.
What made me write this today was an incident today morning. On my way to work two or three blind folks get down at the same bus stop as I do. They need to get to the other side of the road. And this road is always bustling with traffic. Usually anyone getting down at their stop helps them cross the road. If no one does I help them get to the other side of the road (I am bad at crossing roads). Today, I was the only one getting down the bus along with one of blind person – let’s call him X. I helped him get down the bus and waited for the traffic to slow down. I look towards my left and saw a second one of them – let’s call him Y – a little further away, get down a different bus and assumed someone getting off his bus would help him cross the road too. (The dumb me! *Facepalm*). So I look the other way and while making casual small talk with X, wait for a clear spot to slip through the other side. He says he works at a call centre, gives me directions to his work asking if I could drop him off there if I am heading in the same direction. The traffic slows down, X and I cross the road. I turn around to see if Y has come through too. A crowd of college students are crossing the road and again I assume someone has helped him cross the road too. The road past the bus stop cuts into another street via three or four steps. I help X get past it and a little further into the street, past the under construction area – cause it’s Bangalore. I look back, still no sign of Y. I tell X to have a good day and head back to the main street. I find no sign of Y on my side of the road. I look past the traffic, divider bushes and crowd to see Y still standing in the bus stop asking help from strangers and hoping someone would help him cross the road. No one did! I was infuriated. How could no one from such huge a crowd not help him cross the road?! As I moved to cross the road in traffic. I saw a guy walk towards him, offering to help him cross the road. I waited for him to safely cross the road onto the street leading to the street where I dropped X off. I went my way, infuriated.
Empathy is getting rarer. All he would have asked you for was to cross a busy road, not buy him a iPhone X.
A months back a cousin of mine told me about a restaurant which supported blind people. The restuarant had blind chefs and waiters. Customers were asked to be seated in a dark room with no lights. They would be served in dark. They are too in the darkness, relying only on there tactile senses. I would love to visit this restaurant.