Two years ago I met someone who has left imprints on my mind and heart, I know will never fade. I met him through my mother, incidentally. My mother used to read and record lessons on a tape recorder for two blind children she happened to come across. These boys although blind, were studying for their B.A. exams and were in their first and third years respectively. My mother would record their lessons on a cassette, which they would listen to and accordingly type out in Braille on old Magazine papers and other papers which we would collect for them and study from.
These boys stay in a chawl about 15 minutes from my house and would come walking hand in hand or hand on shoulder each week to collect their cassettes and papers. One of them, Prafful is the one who is the person I’m referring to in my first sentence. There are so many things I love about him, and I'm unsure of where to start. Let me just tell you a few things about him and you can figure it out yourself…
He always has a smile on his face. There were times I walked in home, possibly from a bad day at work, and I would be greeted with a “Hi Kashi Ahes” (Hi! How are you! ) accompanied by a radiant smile - the kind that brings only happiness with it, I felt ashamed immediately of letting trivial inconsistencies have gotten the better of me.
He always looks in the precise direction where I’m standing, I could be standing at the far end of the room or have entered from behind him, but he looks almost at me… Its not only me, it could be anyone in the room… the persons voice is his identification and he has a keen sense of presence, of being tuned into each and every movement made, each noise he heard. If I turned the page of a book he’d ask me which book it was and what it was about... It was almost like he dint even need his eyes had they been there…I felt like we take simple things like having a functional body and senses for granted.
He is always neatly dressed. You don’t need fancy expensive clothes to be hygienic, clean and be pleasing in your appearance.
He can joke about his blindness... One evening both Kailash and Prafful stayed a little longer than expected since my mom served them tea and sweets…on which Prafful says to my mom “Madam we’d better leave now, its turning dark. This Kailash turns completely blind when its dark” of course my mom was confused (weren’t they both blind?) on which Prafful explained that he is completely blind no matter what time of the day it is, but Kailash feels a gleam of light in his eyes which goes when its dark.
Unless he tells you, you don’t know he’s blind. He never talks of it as a curse, he never wishes he wasn’t blind, he never tells others how lucky they are… he’s accepted his blindness and conquered it. It does not bind him, does not hold him back form anything he wants to do, and anywhere he wants to go. His limitations are the only ones he sets for himself.
Prafful has taught me that he doesn’t need my pity. And I don’t pity him … I did initially as all of us would I guess… but he’s taught me that there’s no room for pity in his life… he doesn’t pity himself and doesn’t like others doing so.
He doesn’t look at himself as lesser gifted, or lesser able. He participates in Govinda and silently laments he wishes he could climb to the top (I want to but these boys don’t let me he says), he’s in his chawl plays and dramas which ive been invited for but sadly don’t land up going (but I will someday). He always narrates what character he plays in the drama to me - my fav was when he was shown to be a school boy who doesn’t turn up to school one day cos he feels lazy and the next day explains to the teacher that he could’nt come cos his hen delivered !!!! of course, this is funnier in Marathi accompanied by the full range of expressions.
He works as a Salesman and travels all over Mumbai trying to sell cards/stationary Ive met him on a B.E.S.T. bus one day and bought his ticket when he dint know. The minute the conductor told him his ticket had been bought, he insisted on knowing who it was and paying the person.
I respect him. And I respect the way he lives his life. I love that none of the boundaries or limitations of his life are defined either by his blindness or by any psychological barriers. I love that he dreams dreams like all of us, none that “befit” a blind boy who should dream small. I admire that he faces each day with courage and that he wants to earn well and have a good job. I take inspiration that this boy has a smile on his face, no matter what. And it’s a smile that reaches his eyes… and they don’t feel so dark anymore.