Chand Sethi

Tragedy


Chand Sethi

Tragedy


The Diary Of A Blindman

The Diary Of A Blindman

11 mins 40.3K 11 mins 40.3K

My operation is in few hours. Though they say there are no major risks in operation, I still think I may die. So I asked my dad to bring my chart, ruler and needle. I wanted to write.
People always hide their personal diaries. I’m writing mine on a public hospital bed. This is the best thing about Braille. No one can see what I am writing.
I was lucky enough to learn Braille.
This word “luck” has many memories associated.
I was unlucky to be born with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia (ONH).
Doctors discovered it when I was 13 months old and fell from a bed and my parents took me to a hospital. My mother kept blaming herself for next six months for not taking care of me. It took six months for the doctors to convince her that it was genetic and the fall had nothing to do with it.
My father left no hospital and my mother left no temple, mosque, Gurudwara or church.
Hospital clearly told my father that there was no cure for ONH. And my mother, she never got a reply.
Doctor said that the next child could generate the same defection in womb (which hasn’t been proven yet). So my parents decided not to try. What’s worse than a blind child? Two blind children!
What’s worse than having two blind children? One of them having brain issues.
Yes, ONH can associate itself with Morsier’s syndrome which causes some brain issues. I was lucky enough to not get that. Next child might not have been(?)
My parents were not poor. They were ready to put any amount of money to get me treated. I consider it unlucky for me. Had they been poor and left me in a temple, I would have died and avoided all those sufferings.
Luckily, they sent me to a blind boarding school. 

I was not at all okay with thoughts of leaving my parents. I was crying all the way. I mean, who puts a 7-year-old blind scared kid in a boarding school?
I remember standing in front of my father and touching around his belt to find his hands and begging him not to go. But he did go and I kept crying. 

My parents weren’t cruel as I thought then. They were strong and wise.
The school was really big and noisy. I wasn’t used to either.
We were made to wear hostel clothes during evenings and school uniforms during mornings. Everyone had their names embroidered on their clothes for ease of identification. I mixed with the crowd in a few days. I made friends.
Year after year, I survived. Parents came every 6-8 months. But I never missed them. There were a few seniors who always inspired me that I could join the ‘mainstream’ people.
But there were also some religious ‘mainstream’ bastards who visited school and provided us free food in the name of god (with a small g).
We were used to listening to statements like “bhole panchhi hai ye. Inhe dukh nahi pohnchna chahiye
Why don’t you people understand?
Why do you treat us like abnormal people? We are just unique.
It hurts when you consider us something other than human beings.
We don’t need your help as much as we need your respect.
Coming back, I made it to class tenth. And things decided to change when God decided to enter.
That year when my parents visited, I went for a walk with them. I was holding my father’s hand and he suddenly stopped.
“Is that a car?” I said pointing to his right.
“What? How do you know?” He was in shock. A good shock.
“Everything is black. This thing is less black,” I said.
I had started to see and differentiate between different shades of black because of whatever image my underdeveloped eye nerve could carry was now received by my brain. My mother started to cry. Because few months ago she had made a mannat to some god requesting to show some sign of improvement. God shouldn’t have entered. 

 

We woke up early morning to attend the 5AM aarti . There wasn’t much crowd. Most of the pilgrims were tired of the last day’s hike to see stones of god. But my mother didn’t want to miss any aarti .
If god is everywhere, why is he in the mountains? 

Around 5:45 we came back to our lodge on foot.
We had reached a point where we (technically my parents) could see our lodge when we heard screams and rumbling voices rapidly coming near.
Screams turned from “bhago” to “bachao” in seconds.
Before I could ask my father he picked me up and ran.
After a few moments of that adrenaline run, he stopped and took the side by a rock. I felt splashes of water on my head. By then I had realised that there was a river flowing just a few feet away from us. The river hadn’t been there before then. We were hiding behind a U-shaped rock of sufficient height and strength to protect us from the landslide, but not for long. We were inside the curve of that U and the landslide was hitting it on the outer curve.
Emergencies slow down the time. My father had a plan made in his head in few seconds. I climbed on his back and we started hiking up. After hiking up a few metres there, we were stuck. In front of us was the disaster again.
We were on a thick stone and there was water everywhere around us.
Everything else disappeared. Our lodge, that Mandir from where we were coming – everything had vanished.  

Our life saver, the U-shaped rock was immersed by then. It started raining heavily and we were just waiting to die. My mother almost fainted seeing dead bodies flowing few feet below her. After sometime, the flood slowed down but was still fatal. And then there were gigantic rocks coming in the flood tearing apart the rock we were standing on.
We came closer and a stone the size of my head hit me in my abdomen.
It hit it me really fast and I slipped. I was in the water up to my knees when my father caught me by my hand. This wasn’t a Bollywood movie. The flow was fast and I was then a part of the flood. Last thing I remember was my mother screaming my name. And then sound of water. Here lies the biggest doubt of my life.
I’m writing this which means I’m alive. So I know that after this accident, my mother didn’t talk to my father for a really long time. She never told me the reason behind it. But I’m blind in my eyes, not in my mind. I can always see through her heart. She was certain in her mind that my father had deliberately let me go.
What can I say? I hadn’t seen him leaving my hand.
But maybe, I was really a burden to them. Or at least to him.
I am still looking for a final thought on this. Sometimes I accept that I’m a burden and he might have thought that it was the best way to get rid of me, guilt free. Sometimes I want to believe that it was really an accident. The flow was too fast and he had not much space to stand. And what kind of father does that...?
Anyhow, while I was in the flood, I realized it wasn’t water as I had assumed. It was mud, thick dense mud with rocks and stones in it, flowing faster than a usual river. I had given up. I would take a breath if I came up by chance for a second. But then for a long time, I didn’t come up and was unconscious. When I woke up, it was still raining and I could hear chirrups. I took them as birds and wondered if I was in heaven, but later my ears started working and they were actually humans talking. 

I started shaking my head and someone near me shouted, “Arre, he is alive.”
I was picked up by a few people and I screamed in pain, the worst pain imaginable. It was my leg. Then they told me that I was lying by the side of a valley and they had thought I was dead. Because of my leg.
From my toe to my knee my bone was visible. I had been there for a day and had no idea where my parents were.
“Why didn’t I die?” I thought.
Pain killed my hunger. Lucky me, people near me were starving.
People would make a group and go higher on hills looking for food packets dropped by the military. But nothing was dropped that day.
I went unconscious umpteen times.
On day 3 rain stopped and packets of food were dropped by helicopters.
No one offered me food. Then a Sardar (assuming from his voice) gave me a bread loaf. 

Holding it gave me pain.
Chewing it gave me pain.
Swallowing it gave me pain.
Crying in pain gave me pain.
By evening, rescue team was there. They were not starving and so did something human and picked me up. I remember being picked up by a stretcher and getting an oxygen mask on my face. 

Next I woke up in a hospital in Dehradun. My parents had found me. And my leg had lost me. 

I hated people. All they did was to give pity, sympathy or wishes.
I hated myself. I was just a bag of blood and bones converting food into poop. Couldn’t see. Couldn’t walk. Uneducated. Unemployed. Life was aimless. 

I hardly met people. They all always sounded dull. Except her.
One day I heard some unfamiliar voices from the other room. They were our new neighbours.
“So, you have a son. In which standard?” An old female voice asked.
“Ah, actually he doesn’t go to school. He is blind.” And then my mom repeated all the tragic story.
“So what?” said another sweet yet commanding voice.
“It doesn’t mean he will sit on a bed for the rest of his life. Where is he? I wish to meet him.”
And I heard footsteps approaching.
“Hi. Want to play a game?”
“Yeah. I’m pretty good at footless soccer.”
“I said ‘game’. Not ‘sports’. What about chess? Actually, hold on for a minute.”
And she ran out. In minutes, she came back with a chess set.
Not an ordinary one. It was a magnetic chess board with iron pieces carved especially for easy identification by touch. I had seen one in school but never played. 

She told me the rules and we started playing. Contrary to what I expected, she didn’t let me win. Instinctively, I asked for another round.
“Not today. Be ready at 10 tomorrow. I’ll pick you up. We will get a place where you will find a lot of people like you.”
Then she told me that she was part of a self-help group of some physically challenged people.
“No. I’m done with this. I don’t want to see sick people again.”
“And I thought you couldn’t see,” she said laughingly.
It was a lame joke, but I managed to smile.
“It’s okay. You can avoid people. Just come with me.”
I couldn’t say no.
The next day she took me to a building. As promised I wasn’t introduced to anyone. While playing chess, she said, “Quick questions. Answer in a line or two. What do you enjoy doing?”
“Things where I don’t have to rely on anyone. Singing, writing...,” I ran out of the list. “...chess.”
“Question two. What’s wrong with you?”
“I feel like I’m a burden to my parents. I can’t do anything about that. And this is killing me.”
“Question three. What do you want?”
“To be respected.”
She continued the game. She kept me busy all day. Someday I would learn abacus. Another day I would read someone’s biography. French lessons were given a separate hour. We were learning piano together. I was getting better at chess. I read GK books at home. Science and economics were fun when learnt for knowledge. I learnt doing signature. I started meeting people. They appreciated my singing. I started to write short stories, poems and songs. Day by day, I was getting better. Life was still aimless. But happier. 

“Results matter today. They might not tomorrow,” she said one day.
And that was the day when she took me to a hospital telling me it was a general check up. But they checked my eye and sent reports to another hospital. And last week doctors told me that they could fix it. Just one operation. That’s it.
And here I am. On a hospital bed. My parents sitting in front of me. She is out for coffee. Doctor said OR will be ready in 10 minutes.
He frankly asked me whom do I wish to see for the first time.
“Obviously, Mom.”
But perhaps, I wouldn’t mind seeing her the first. And, to the Operation room!
****************************************
10 Years Later
Whoa!
I had really forgotten about this diary.
Would never have found it if I weren’t moving today.
Since I’ve found it, I can continue.
Still, in braille. Because I still can’t write.
Operation didn’t go as expected.
No harm was done but couldn’t fix it.
I was a little disappointed at first, but it’s okay now.
I think I’m doing good now-a-days.
Two years after the operation, I managed to forge some graduation degree and got a job under physical handicapped quota.
I make announcements at railway station.
Isn’t fun though, but allows me to pay my bills.
I can send some money to Maa as well.
Father passed away three years back.
I still sing sometimes. Whenever I get bored alone.
But now I’m moving out. To a new city. I got transferred.
I am quite excited. Maybe I could make some friends. Any friend.
I’m all packed. She is waiting outside in a taxi.
Her husband is also with her.
He is a good guy. Keeps her happy. 

They’ve a kid as well.
Life is just fine. Workable.
Fine.
Results matter today. They might not, tomorrow.  


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