We all have often heard this saying that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. I believe that this statement is true. However, this statement also makes a huge assumption which we often take for granted- the ‘eyes’ of the beholder. What happens if a person is not blessed with the gift of these ‘eyes’? How does one then see beauty?
I had never before wondered about such a question, but a recent encounter forced me to ponder and come up with an answer to this question. I found my answer in the form of a six year old child named Ganesh, who taught me that if beauty cannot be seen, you can make up for it with your imagination, optimism and grit. This realization had a deep impact on me.
It all began with an assignment that I had to do during my second year at college. I had to visit a blind school, which was located in the vicinity of my college. I was required to interact with the students and faculty, and then document my experience.
As soon as I reached the blind school, a peon asked me to wait outside the principal’s office. I sat down on a wooden bench placed at the end of the corridor and mentally started going over my list of questions for the principal regarding the institute’s history and its administration. Just then, gurgling laughter disrupted my thoughts. Looking in the direction of the cacophony, I saw a young boy racing across the garden. He ran with wild abandon and called out to his friends, probably playing a game of catch and run. I left my seat and walked towards the garden to get a closer view. From afar, he had seemed like any normal six year old child, but his unusual eyes were a clear indication that he was not blessed with eye sight. He was the happiest kid I had ever seen despite his shortcomings. I marveled at how he managed to run around, play and not trip even once. There was also no physical evidence in the form of a stick or dark glasses to indicate his lack of eyesight.
They all were so different from the mental image I had conjured up of blind children. I had imagined them to be sad, silent and cautious, who would prefer to remain indoors. Who undertake minimum physical activity, do not venture outside without a cane or aid and grapple to perform the simplest of tasks. I thought they would be morose due to such a great handicap.
I wondered aloud how the little boy was unafraid of being hurt. How did he know when to take a turn to avoid running into the garden fence. A teacher passing by overheard my exclamation and helpfully answered that the little boy named Ganesh had very weak eyesight due to a birth defect. The motto of the school is to help these children face such adversity. These children were taught to count steps and familiarize themselves to their surroundings. Even though their eyesight is weak, they are encouraged to be independent, resilient and do all their daily chores by themselves.
Just then I was ushered in to meet the principal. She was a kind old woman who patiently answered all my questions. She also told me about the need for more funds to provide better facilities for the blind children. After my meeting with the principal, I visited the library of braille books and the music room. Everywhere I went, I saw smiling faces and boisterous children in classrooms.
Though the assignment had begun with just the intention to complete a task at hand, I was leaving the school building with a renewed mindset. I was awed by Ganesh and several other children’s joie de vivre. The thought that these children could never clearly see a sanguine sunrise or a warm robin blue summer sky filled my eyes with tears. They would never see the beauty of a golden setting sun, the greenery of rain washed hills or the sheer beauty of a full moon night sky. How would anyone explain color to them? How would they see the beauty of a smiling face or a loving glance? They can only imagine how life’s simple pleasures look like.
These thoughts filled me with a deep sense of empathy for the blind and sincere gratitude for the gift of eyesight that I took for granted. I returned the next day and donated ten percent of my savings. I continue to do so till date so that I can contribute towards the betterment of facilities at the blind school. These kids inspire me to be happy, even in the face of adversity. Post this experience, I have vowed to do my own bit of good and also spend some time with these kids whenever I can. I have also pledged to donate my eyes because I believe that when we leave this world, there can be no better gift than to give someone else the gift of vision; of actually seeing beauty and not just imagining it.