I was out of things to do. I was bored. I was out of things I wanted. I was restless. I was afraid I would do something I would regret. But then again, I wouldn’t. I never would, because I wanted to do nothing – Nothing but get home and go to bed!
I had sworn off writing. I didn’t think I could write well. But the gravity of the event was such that I was compelled to pick up the pen once again. I was forced to venture into that world of the unknown, struggle for survival, introspect on my decisions and find myself again!
It was one of those days when I sat in melancholy in my regular spot, in my regular bus, through the regular route I take home after my regular detention because I was regularly irregular with my homework. I glanced out of the window – I rarely do because nothing is interesting in this bland city life of mine but this time, I saw something I couldn’t digest. Something that made my stomach twist. Something that made me feel that I was the lucky city creep!
I saw a woman take her little child to an open drain. The roads were full of them – They were being reconstructed. She pulled some water out of the drain and bathed her child in it. I felt revolted. But the child didn’t seem to mind. But what made me introspect is that none of these damn city dwellers did either! Not a single soul! Maybe they saw this every day or maybe they didn’t. But they didn’t care! They seemed to get along their self-centered lives with no concern given whatsoever to that which took place around them! Value Education had been my last class and I was thinking about the egoistic, dastardly lives these city dwellers led these days. They were ‘dead’ even whilst moving along with the ‘life’ around them!
Then my dumb head realized, I was one of those ‘half-dead, city-bred zombies’ myself! I, too, carry on with my life everyday! It’s just by chance that I saw this incident today! Instead of blaming them I could be the bigger man and actually do something! But what? Pray to God that she finds a better home?
Pray, is that all I could do? Why speak about the lack of humanity in others whilst I, a human myself, lack the very mettle of it! No one can teach you unless you want to learn. I wanted to learn. I was ready to teach myself. I decided to break the ice. I decided to ‘be the change.’ I jumped down at the very next stop, grabbed a big bottle of Bisleri from a nearby shop and ran towards the woman. I paid the shopkeeper, of course! I so desperately wanted to do something and now I had the chance! Water, the drop of life that everyone so desperately wants but just don’t seem to care about!
I tapped the woman lightly on her back and she turned to face me. She had brilliant blue eyes, like the ones I always wanted, but they were but jewels on her face, for she was blind! Staring into those eyes was like being a spectator of a supernova -black- hole explosion emitting thousands of kilojoules of pure energy pushing you through time and space, and at the same time sucking you into its depths with such great ferocity that you stood there suspended in a figment of your own imagination doing nothing but staring into the abyss.
The child brought me back from space. She joyfully extended her little hands to reach out for the bottle. I gave it to her. The woman sensing her daughter’s happiness smiled in reciprocation. She might have said some words in gratitude. I don’t know. I couldn’t hear her. I was deaf. Trust is the key. How could she trust me? A complete stranger? Did she trust my young age? Did she trust my uniform? Did she trust the packed Bisleri bottle? I didn’t know! I couldn’t think. All I remember is the daughter made her mother smile. And that old, warm, wrinkled smile made me smile!
In my joy of savouring the moment, I totally forgot about the child. Her little hands were busy balancing the big bottle as her mouth sucked in its contents. Her mother watched her. I didn’t know what she saw but I could see that it was I who was blind! The dawn of truth made me smile. I was blind!
I saw her moving her lips, but I could not hear a thing; I was lost in a figment of my own imagination, delusion? I knew not what to call it! I was deaf! I saw her staring at me with those big blue eyes probably puzzled at my cold response. I tried to say something but nothing came out! What could I say? I didn’t know. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was dumb! I felt a chill run down my spine and then, I felt nothing. Nothing at all. Not the wind blowing against my back, not the dust blasted on my face like it was Holi’s gullal, not the little girl pinching me to see if I was still alive. Nothing! Well, I knew what I felt and recognized it to perfection, but trust me when I tell you, it was not anything like not knowing anything you felt. It was the state of not feeling anything! Was I stoned? I hope not! Was I hit by a ton of bricks on my head and screamed at, “Wake up you fool, open your goddamn eyes to the truth!” That’s exactly what happened! My parochial senses failed me.
I don’t know what happened while I stood there, but I felt a drop trickle down, my cheeks moist. It rested for a while on my lower lip before falling off to the ground. It tasted saline. I felt shallow. I had wasted water! I knew that ‘Water is Life’ but is it then that the quality of water that we use is a measure of the quality of life that we live? Does my use of packaged water have any say in defining my life, likewise the use of the drain water by the woman?
I saw the child after her bath totter to a nearby temple and offer her prayers, her mother behind her. I saw a sight that I relish even to this day. A sight that made me glad that I had eyes. I saw the child leading her mother, holding her hands like a parent would, making sure she wouldn’t lose a step. For a brief moment it looked as though the blind woman had regained her sight! Her daughter, the apple of her blind eye growing up, showing a sign of maturity that I, a 6 foot tall good-for-nothing never showed! A very rare feat to achieve at an age so tender. I smiled. I prayed too; prayed twice. Once to the little child’s god, in the makeshift temple to fulfill all her dreams, hoping that two voices prove to be more effective than one. But would her God listen? I didn’t know! I was confident about my second prayer though to the ‘God’ inside me. The one who knows right from wrong. The one who tells me what to do every time I don’t. Conscience? Soul? Heart? I didn’t know. I didn’t what to know! I prayed to him to make me a better man every day. To learn something new and do something good whenever I could. And hopefully, I listen to him.
I put down the pen. The paper I had written on had damp spots. My vision went fuzzy again as a drop fell down and spread the ink. I wiped my tears and took up the pen again,
“A blind old woman was given a life,
A blind old life, to live she strived,
The blind old heart that never once cried,
For the blind old life, the lord despised!
Preaching void of values is blind in their own right,
This is blindness Disguised!”