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Visually impaired showing the way in darkness!
The lines, which I read three decades back on a poster: "It's beautiful to see the colourful world. Pledge to donate your eyes to enable other to see", are still afresh in my mind.

During my association with the Home for the Blinds which houses visually impaired persons with free lodging and boarding, I have realised as to how to cope with the darkness in one's life. But you have to teach the inmates by narrating about the happenings around you.

I recollect that the Nature Conservation Society, Punjab had an unusual audience to cater to in one of its ongoing nature sensitisation programmes for the sightless youth so that they may not miss an opportunity to see and appreciate natural colours, beauty, grace and elegance of a variety of animal and bird species.

An audio was prepared of recorded sounds for them to have a feeling about two dozen species ranging from the chirping of sparrows, singing notes of brain fever bird, and ending with the roar of a lion.

I often go to meet the blind and interact with them to know their feelings. I even took them once to the Golden Temple and Durgiana Mandir in Amritsar and shared the brief history of these places of worship and the materialist world around us.

I often see them with their extra sensory memories developed with the loss of their sight. Some of them dressed smartly and conditioned themselves to the architecture of the buildings for moving without any assistance just by touching walls of the corridor with their left or right hands, probably to get signals of familiarity.

I remember when one of the inmates – KL – visited my house. The moment he was made to sit on the chair, he sensed our presence and welcomed me with generous words of praise for inviting him. On hearing the tick-tick of the old clock hanging on the wall above his head, he asked, "Dear, what is time now?"

He was, however, feeling regretful at having retired from government services, while a new computer invention has come in the market of a talking computer. Anyhow, all of them have a good memory and some of them are even interested in pursuing higher studies.

When I kept a newspaper on the table, he quickly updated me about the heavy floods in West Bengal which he had heard on All India Radio. Radio is the best medium for them to get an update of the happenings around the world.

He shared with me his long journey of darkness turning into light with him learning to move with a folding cane, listening to the radio and TV and reading Braille language – a language for the blind in which characters are denoted by a pattern of raised dots invented by Louise Braille.

With playing cards made in Braille, they also enjoy card games as raised dots help them in identifying different cards. Sometimes the blind also enjoy cricket with the help of a ball which produces sound when thrown.

I recollect that actor Naseeruddin Shah, who had played the leading role of a sightless man in the movie 'Sparsh', wrote in his autobiography: "And then one day that the script of the film 'Sparsh' was a starting depiction of the fact of their being deprived of one sense, necessarily means being compensated rightly by nature in others, including the sense of ego. Their gentle unhurried approach to life, their willingness to enjoy life, the pride they take in their achievements, their acceptance of willingness to cope with permanent darkness, is really an inspiring in the way they are happening."

Frankly speaking, when sitting with them and watching them clap and smile, keeping their necks a little tilted (which frankly I don't understand as to why they keep their postures so. Perhaps to concentrate in the darkness), but these moments knock on my eye ducts to shed a teardrop or two.

My being with the blind inmates is always a deep and humbling experience, compelling me to think they are showing us the way in darkness.

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