It’s strangely amusing how some people react to your challenge. There’re those who blame you for finding yourself in a difficult situation. And there’re those who chide you, with all good intentions of course, for having failed to care enough to avoid trouble.
The funny thing is, people just project their own ideas and imaginations in another man’s life without ever bothering to understand his challenges. I never doubt the good intention behind every frantic attempt to rescue us from the bind. But, as people often say, the pathway to hell is paved with good intentions.
As for me, people often react to my challenge with alarm, disbelief, and, more often than not, pity. I once remember a woman in my neighbourhood holding my single hand in two of hers and squeezing it with all her might, all along crying that I should petition to god; demand what I truly deserve.
That experience, as you can see, had left me with a bruised hand and nothing else. And there’re those others who would thrust a sheet of paper in my palm, begging me to consult the doctor and assuring me that my particular affliction would be cured “with god’s will.” And I would stand in the middle of the street or in the railway platform clenching that piece of paper and wondering whether those kindly folks have actually scratched out the address to heaven.
Wherever I turn, I’m made to feel like a sick man; like a desperate man who needs a cure from his condition. But in reality, I’m neither sick nor desperate, though I may be guilty at times of making my acquaintances feel both.
Usually, the conversation with a perfect stranger –who may be observing me from across the seat in the moving train or walking on the crowded pavement dashing against people in a constant hurry-, would go something like this:
“Oh, how very sad? God has no eyes.”
At first I’d assume they’re passing on this wonderful piece of wisdom to someone else. And then it’d occur that the word “eyes” is a dead give away. Just to make sure that I don’t end up looking like a fool, I’d gently nod my head and check if there’s any response from the wise stranger.
“tisk, tisk, tisk…god really has no eyes,” they’d say, or something very similar to that, ramming in the idea that I have a challenge that is out in the open for them to notice.
“Why do you say that?” I’d ask out of curiosity.
“If god can see, he’d have given you your eyes,” the wise stranger would say.
I’d shrug my shoulders in response, not knowing what to say to the statement that revealed the foolhardiness of the speaker than anything.
At that point, the wise stranger would mercifully leave me to my senses, or try imparting more of their wisdom in the guise of guiding me along the crowded pathway, or stuff my hand with the sheet of paper or a visiting card with the doctor’s name.
In the last twenty-seven years, this happened so frequently that I react with indifference to the way people respond to my blindness. In the early days, I used to get worked up, though even back then I was too polite to say something nasty. Or maybe I didn’t feel confident as I do now. The sign of confidence, of course, is to be sure of your situation and not let others plant the seeds of doubt in your head. And avoid reacting to what people say, which would upset them, but save you from letting them feel emotionally better at your expense.
Folks ask me how to stay confident “despite” being blind. When that particular question is put to me, not too often as I’d like since folks usually think a disabled man is always depressed or pained by his condition, I’d laugh aloud much to their astonishment and tell them it’s not despite blindness; it’s because of it.
“You keep your eyes ahead of the street and see the bike or the car zooming by without much care for the pedestrians,” I tell them. “But I don’t see that guy, which saves me the stress and the rage. Not that I’m not aware of him, but I keep myself to the corner and remain there. If I happened to see the dangers I face as a pedestrian, I’d die out of fright or decide not to venture out of the safe zone…home, that is.”
It’s harder to explain that blindness is an experience; disability is an experience of life, just like how the three genders experience life or those walking alive from an accident but find it life changing.
Most people looking at us think disability cripples our ability to sense things around us and find it harder to believe it is the opposite.
If you are blind, you should begin to understand how different your experiences would be from others. This would strengthen your confidence. And if you are able-bodied, you should understand that persons with disability aren’t protagonists of god’s tragic script, but an altogether different group of human beings who offer newer perspectives to life.