THE BLIND LADY

The old lady didn’t know what it was to be blind, because she had never seen the world, so she neither had anything she missed nor she longed to see the world. She had been blind, even before she was born, and all her memories were stored in a form only known to the blind, and she had no complains. She had never known what it felt to see something; her whole life was all about sound and touch, and she felt complete with those faculties intact. In that small town where she had lived for fifty years her beauty was often talked about, and when they told her that it was sad that she couldn’t see how beautiful she was, she had the same retort, which she always said with her beautiful playful, smile, ‘it would have been really sad if you all were blind. You wouldn’t have seen such a beautiful face.’ She never told them she didn’t know what ‘beauty’ meant.
People often asked her if she ever thought about the idea of seeing the world. She was still to devise a way to convince them that she didn’t, because they couldn’t believe one could be content without eyes. For everyone, seeing was more significant than anything else; for her it wasn’t. It wasn’t that she had never thought of it, but somehow seeing the world had never excited her, in spite of all she had heard about the world. It only confused her. People told her about different shapes and colors, not knowing that it didn’t make any sense to her. They told her, excitedly, about height of the mountains, thickness of the forests, depth of the oceans, the sky lit by stars, the endless deserts and more, but no one ever saw in her the desire to see. In a way it had become a challenge for the people in town. Was there anyone who could show her that seeing the world was the most beautiful gift God had granted humans?
Our old lady used to sit on her porch in the evening to feel the transition between the day and night. It was her favorite time of the day. It was precisely at that moment when sun was about to disappear she heard the tap of a stick. She had a visitor, apparently, and she knew intutively that it wasn’t somebody she knew. She waited for the sound of tapping to increase and then she asked, ‘Who are you, old man?’
After a moment of silence, the man spoke in his gruff, hoarse old voice, ‘I am an old man. You guessed it right.’
‘I wished to know the purpose of your visit,’ the blind lady said.
‘I am new to this town. I just thought of meeting my neighbours,’ the old man said. ‘Wouldn’t you offer me a seat?’
‘Yes, you may sit. What brings you to this dead town?’
‘This isn’t a dead town. In fact it’s filled with so much of buzz and excitement,’ the old man said.
‘Who said dead means silent?’ The old lady said with a smile.’Anyway,’ she added, ‘what brings you here?’
‘I am a traveller, and this town happened to be on my way. Destiny brings me here,’ the old man said.
‘And, I assume, you don’t have a destination,’ the blind lady said.
‘You seem to know few things.’
‘Had you been blind for fifty years you too would have known a lot. Your eyes stop you from seeing the world,’ the blind lady said, realizing that it was time to put on the lamps.’Excuse me, I need to put the lights on.’
‘Why do you need lights when you can’t see?’ The old man asked.
‘It’s for people with eyes. They can’t see in dark, you see,’ the blind lady said with a smile.
‘You seem to have a hatred against people with eyes.’
‘It isn’t hatred. I just pity them,’ the old lady said, and came back to her seat. The sun had almost gone down, and it’s last hue of red and orange was about to disappear.
‘With your permission I would take a leave. I just remembered there were few people coming to meet me this evening.’
‘Of course. It was nice meeting you.’
‘Pleasure was mine. Would you care for tea early morning?’
‘I don’t mind a company. You will find me right here.’
‘Goodnight,’ the old man said, and tapping his stick walked out. The old lady’s mind followed him for a while, and then wandered into the dark world of hers.
Next morning, the old man looked jubilant for the reason he would reveal in a while. He wished her and sat exactly at the place he sat last evening.
‘Oh God! There aren’t many things you can compare with the sight of rising sun. It’s splendid, and along with it the mornings are beautified by the fragrance of flowers, silence of the best kind, and the gentle breeze caressing your face. It’s perfect,’ the old man said, not exactly talking to the blind lady but as if immersed in a monologue. The blind lady didn’t reply.
‘God is one hell of an artist,’ the old man said, still in the same state of rapture.
‘Do you want sugar in your tea?’ the blind lady asked.
‘No,’ the old man said. ‘Actually I don’t drink tea. Would you like to take a walk?’
‘Not really. I feel good sitting here. I have been sitting here for a long, long time and I feel at peace,’ the blind lady said.
‘We can just take a stroll in your garden. You have got some beautiful flowers here.’
‘Now I doubt you are an old man. You sound like an excited kid,’ the blind lady said wondering the type of man he was. She didn’t even know his name, but neither was she interested in knowing. For some reason she agreed. ‘Let’s go for your stroll.’
‘Did you plant all of these?’ The old man asked, as he kneeled down to smell the fragrance of one of the white flowers.
‘Yes, I am blind; my nose works perfectly fine. I chose all of them myself,’ she said.
‘But the flower here normally is more fragrant,’ the old man said.’The soil here is not so conducive for it.’
‘But they smell all good to me,’ she said.
‘Because you are yet to smell it at their best. You don’t have to go so close to it to feel it’s fragrance.’
‘Are you some expert on gardening?’
‘I don’t know if you call it expert but I use to love spending time with flowers. Had you not been blind you would have seen that these flowers look better than they smell,’ the old man said, expecting some reaction but her expressions didn’t change.
‘I am content with what God has given me. You enjoy the sight of it. I will enjoy it’s less than best fragrance,’ the blind lady said with a smile.
‘Fair enough, I guess,’ the old man said and smiled, as he sniffed the soil in his hand.
‘Where are you from?’ The blind lady asked.
‘I don’t belong to any place. I am a traveller,’ the old man replied.
‘It means you keep running away from life,’ the blind lady said.
‘Yes, and perhaps also towards life. Have you ever thought of travelling?’
‘Is there any difference for a blind person? It’s the same I suppose,’ the blind lady said.
‘I don’t think so. Sight is just one aspect. There are million other little ways that make places different from one another,’ the old man said, moving from one flower to another, leisurely smelling each, and revelling in their fragrance.
‘Maybe in some other life,’ she said.
‘What is stopping you?’
‘There is neither stopping, nor any urge. I am comfortable in my life of unchangeable repetitive routine,’ the blind lady said.
‘There is this small village in middle of the forest, only two hundred kilometres from here,’ the old man began explaining. ‘Those people, like you, have never stepped out of the forest. I am going there after few days. If you wish to join me I can make arrangements.’
‘I wish it could excite me, but I think I will pass. You do your travels. I will sit here at my porch feeling sun rising and setting, day after day’ the blind lady said.’And, I think we have to end our meeting here. I can hear people coming to meet me.’
‘You don’t have to reject my offer so fast. You take your time. I will come after few days to take the rejection,’ the old man said and stood.
‘I don’t even know who you are.’
‘I will tell you all if you come with me to the village,’ the old man said smiling.’Goodbye. I will see you in few days.’
The old man left, but not without leaving blind lady with few thoughts.
Lying on her bed, the blind lady couldn’t understand what was happening. For a long time she had comfortably lived with her blindness, staying in the world of predictability. All those old thoughts of seeing the world had vanished in the background long back, and suddenly this old man-who had come out of nowhere-had ruffled up the surface bringing forth all those suppresed desires. She had kept that bold face of calm and poise for so long that she had started believing that she was content with her life. The old man had put a doubt in her mind. It would have been so easy to believe in what she had forced herself to believe and to deny his offer, she thought, only if the old man had tried hard to convince her. The old man didn’t seem to care much about her blindness and that was making it difficult for her, and she really wanted to visit that village, perhaps deep inside feeling that they were like her.
Three days, later, the old man came back to the blind lady’s house. She was prepared with her answer.
‘I will come with you,’ she said, even before he had asked. ‘I knew you would,’ he said, and for the first time in many years the blind lady felt she was losing control, and surprisingly it felt good; it felt light.
They sat in his mini truck early morning, next day, and their trip began. She felt an apprehension but her face belied her fears. She looked composed and calm, while inside she was feeling something incomprehensible to her. How could she so easily be persuaded by a stranger, or perhaps it was easy because he was a stranger.
‘Beautiful morning, isn’t it?’ the old man said, as the truck hit the road.
The blind lady thought for a while and then asked something she had waited for almost her lifetime.’What is beautiful?’
‘The morning,’ the old man said.
‘No, I asked what do you mean when you say it’s beautiful. How do you explain it to a blind woman?’
‘Beauty isn’t explained, but felt, and trust me you don’t need eyes. Even when we, with eyes, have to feel beauty we close our eyes. You have a natural advantage. Your eyes are always closed,’ he said. She smiled. ‘Put your head out of the window, and feel the cool breeze on your face. That is beauty,’ he added, and she followed his instructions. It was somewhat difficult to not follow the instructions of this old man with an hoarse voice, because it seemed to have something magical about it.
‘Does it feel beautiful?’ he said.
‘It feels something,’ she said, smiling, trying to control her hair flying in all directions.
‘It’s just the beginning,’ the old man said, and pressed the pedal as far as it allowed, and the truck vanished through the lonely road in the thick of the forest.
THE BEGINNING……….

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