The half stitched garment lying in front of me gave me a promising look. I knew it could be
better if I put a little more attention to the detail.
The last garment stitched by me also gave a promising look but it had failed to get me the highest marks in my Clothing and Textile class of my sophomore year. The fellow class mate who had taken the highest grade had a knack for the tiniest detail and this time I was planning to take every detail as an important
one. Jealousy would not be the word to describe my feeling, competitiveness, was a better term to describe it. This is how I would like to believe. As I took an elaborate glance through the garment, I made a few mental notes about the sections which required more finesse.
The sound of the door bell interrupted my sequence of thoughts and faintly giving them away, I opened the door. There stood two young boys of about the same age, about seven or eight. Their apparel suggested their poverty and gave me some idea why they were here.
One of them asked the other “Is it a man or a lady”? This statement took my attention tothe boy and I realized that he was blind. From his shabby and innocent face stood out two beautiful brown eyes. The realization brought all my focus to that child and I became blank for a few seconds. As the other boy told him very meekly that it was a lady who was standing in front of him, the blind boy very energetically bellowed out his well rehearsed lines, “Please help us. We are in need of food and clothes. I am blind by birth and I don’t have parents. Do you have any old clothes and shoes? God will help you if you help us.”
I was still blank and could not understand the emotions going within me. The feeling was a lot different than what is usually felt when we read about blind or watch them on television. This was the first time I had encountered blindness in person and to see it in a child and that too an orphaned, poverty stricken child was becoming too heavy for me to handle emotionally. I was overwhelmed and had a lump in my throat and was unable to speak. Battling with my emotions and bringing myself back to my normal self, I asked them to sit down by the stairs adjoining the entrance door. They took their seats and the blind boy again asked, “Do u have clothes for us”? I was emotionally compelled to answer that in affirmative although I was not sure whether I would have anything in their size. My heart and mind were not ready to disappoint them particularly ʻhimʼ. The reasoning of any kind
was not in the picture. In this overwhelmed state, I heard myself asking them if they would like to drink tea. They both said yes in a very enthusiastic manner which made me happy but brought another lump in my throat.
As the water boiled, I went to my room and opened the cupboards to find anything, just anything which could fit the boys. I so badly wanted to be of any help particularly to the blind child who seemed to be an epitome of misery. I managed to find three old school shirts lying in the dark corners of the cupboards and I felt glad for having found them. I searched the shoe racks and found a pair of old trainers which seemed to be oversize for them. “But they could use them later”, I thought. Putting the tea and biscuits in the tray, I called the boys in and made them sit in the veranda. As the boys drank their tea and ate biscuits, I started a conversation asking about their names and age. The blind boy, 8 years old, was called `Pritamʼ and the other boy, same age, who was his cousin was called Deepak. Pritam had a crisp enthusiasm in his voice and as much his face was pitiful, his voice did not have any hint of gloom owing to his condition. As the conversation progressed, I became aware that Pritam was brought to the city by Deepak’s father from a remote village in central India after his mother died and father abandoned him. Pritam seemed to be a chat lover as he was the one who answered all my questions. Seeing Pritam talk as a normal child brought me to my normal self and I felt myself coming out of the overwhelmed state of being. Pritam chuckled every time I gave him a biscuit in his hand. As they finished the tea, I brought the shirts and the pair of shoes for them. I was relieved and glad that I had managed to find something to give them. I was eager to see Pritamʼs expression on receiving these from me.
I handed over two shirts and a pair of shoes to Pritam and one shirt to Deepak, and as I did this I realized my biased behaviour. My biased act had brought a patch of grief on Deepakʼs face. That was the first time I realized I had not even noticed this boy. All my attention had been taken up by Pritam. I immediately tried to rectify my mistake and asked Pritam lovingly to give either one of his shirts or the pair of shoes to Deepak so that they both have equal number of things. I was astounded on getting bluntly refused by Pritam.
As he uttered his refusal to part away with his possessions, he moved away from me andstarted walking towards the road feeling the stairs to get the sense of direction. Deepak, with his head down stood there, and said in a sombre voice “He always does this. One day when Iʼll become blind, I shall give him nothing”. Saying this, Deepak hastened his pace tocatch up with Pritam and held his hand leading him onto the road. Later that evening, as I went for a walk in the neighbourhood, I met a few acquaintances and they all happened to mention their encounter with the blind boy today. The subject and
of the discussion was to announce how compassionate everybody felt for the blind child and what they gave him. Just like me nobody seemed to have noticed the other boy. Blindness must have been so desirous to a mere eight year old for whom good clothes and shoes and toys carried much more meaning than sight. Deepakʼs sorrowful eyes engulfed my thoughts and I realized that it’s the perspective and not the circumstance which governs our emotion. How could this emotion be interpreted, jealousy or competitiveness or basic need, I failed to comprehend. Poverty had made blindness a trophy to be desired as it made
the necessities of life much easily achievable if begging was to be considered a means to earn a living.
As I folded the finished garment that night, I found myself too caught in a perspective, right or wrong, I could not understand. The garment was beautiful as long as I saw it without the grade attached to it. But at this point of life, grade was what mattered to me, just as the clothes and rest of it had mattered to Deepak.
About the Author : An affiliate from ACCA UK, Nidhee holds Bachelor’s Degree in Home Science from Punjab University, India. An ardent reader who loves to write, she was an avid worker for her school and college magazines. Her biggest passions are Indian Classical & Folk Music and Dance; she has been involved with various organisations in India as well as abroad for promoting these. She is presently a housewife and is residing in Durban.