I watched in the direction of the street corner and heard the loud horn. Being a late blind, the tendency to turn my head in the direction of a sound or a voice comes to me naturally. But on that day, I turned towards the loud horn and the roar of the moving bus imagining my daughter’s face on the bus window watching me as it left the street.
I stood outside my house gate dutifully as she ordered me to do so because that was the last day of her school term. “You won’t come to school. So you at least watch my bus go,” she told me before leaving.
My daughter is 10 years old now and understands my disability more clearly. I believed that my disability would create a wall…a kind of barrier between us, but despite clinging to that notion since her birth ten years ago, I still don’t find enough reasons to think it to be true.
She was three years then…or may be four, when, running to catch the ball, she fell down and had a mild bruise on her ankle. Tears gushed from her eyes, dripping from her nose, and over the upper lip. Well, that’s how she cried; intense and vehement.
My brother was the first to ask her what happened. “I’m hurt,” she said in a quavering voice. In fact, she showed the bruised ankle to everyone before coming to me, realised that I couldn’t see, then took my hand and placed it on the raw wound.
That was how sensitive she was all those years ago. No one instructed her how to handle her blind father, but she discovered it herself. Children always do, I guess. It’s the adults that need training.
A couple of years later, as I once gave her a bath and slipped a pullover around her tiny frame, she asked me: “Dad…are you really blind? Really?”
“Why do you ask, sweetie,” I asked her tousling her curly hair.
“Because you buttoned this shirt,” she said. Watching me unfasten the buttons again and do up for her benefit holding my fingers closer to each hole and slipping the buttons in. She just giggled mildly. Only the two of us were there at home when this happened, but I could imagine her eyes widen with a new sense of awareness. “My dad could button my shirt…” she said aloud as if for my benefit.
We were not together all those ten years. I was single and she needed attention and care young children always need. My family chipped in. In fact, my brother and sister in law virtually became her parents. That meant she was away in another city.
Three years ago, she came back to live with me. She was grown up now, almost four foot with a beautiful face that never betrayed her heart’s feelings. I wanted to introduce her to the basics of astronomy, the outer space and the universe. Such conversations were always intense as I described how the outer space was full of gleaming stars painted against a dark canvass, with the sun dispatching a brilliant light that illuminated the earth and other planets of our galaxy. I wanted to search the image for the galaxy and show to her, but couldn’t get myself to the task. Watching her excitement grow, I realised I was doing a pretty good job at narrating the whole thing.
We did a lot of things together in the last three years. She was largely helped by a close friend of mine in her daily studies, but there were those weekends when she would sit by my side, describe the math problem and ask me to help her solve it. Those were simple addition, subtraction or division sums that I had no problem solving for her in a step by step way so that she grasped the process.
Yes…my daughter knows I can’t see, but she also knows I could use a computer as good as anybody else. She knows that I’ve authored a book all by myself and I could tell her exciting stories about the outer space and the universe. I always think there’s more I could have done to be a good father, particularly the evenings and nights I have to spend at my newspaper office and watch her sleeping frame as I return home, but I guess I’m trying to do everything possible to be a good dad. I’m certainly trying…though success in relationship building is not guaranteed as you may all know.
**We are inaugurating Association for Persons with Rare Eye Diseases (APRED) on Sunday, April 20 in Bangalore. The project would function under Organisation for Rare Diseases India (ORDI) under the able leadership of our friend Ms. Anandhi Viswanathan. If you are interested to volunteer, please write to me personally.
**My book “Lights Out”, the story of a man’s descent into blindness, is published by Random House India and is available in all major book stores, and also with amazon.in and flipcart.com. I’m donating part of the book’s proceeds to APRED so please spread the word and contribute to the cause.