Friday, October 15, 2010


The other day while taking a break from our monotonous work Maha suddenly handed me some pieces of writing. Astonished as I always am, I started reading the first piece that was in my hand. As I read the first line, it made my heart stop for a moment, and I became speechless as I read from piece to piece. Those small pieces of writing were written by Eighth graders who Maha taught at her previous job. While she was getting amused by their writing style, something inside of me just stopped. The poem was about a blind boy narrating his experience as someone who cannot differentiate between days and nights. For him, all times of the day are almost the same. I had not read the poem myself, but the way those children had written its explanation made me speechless and tears filled up my eyes. 

A particular line really stopped my heartbeat for a moment. It went something like this, ‘The boy says, I can’t make out day or night. For me it’s a day when I’m playing and it’s night when I’m asleep.’ How simple is that? We the blessed are often complaining about the hot days and humid nights. The pollution that our faces take in everyday. The eye-soars that we see on the roads. But how conveniently we fail to acknowledge ……. we can actually SEE? The early morning blue sky, the freshly watered grass, the dew on the leaves, the huge trees that cover us by their shade, the blooming flowers that smile at us when we pass by them, the night show that the moon and stars put up for us almost every night. All the other beautiful things in life and of course, the faces of our loved ones. Realizing this fact, I suddenly began appreciating my sense of sight. I cannot imagine living a life of blindness.

Tempted to read the entire poem, I asked Maha if she remembers the title or the poet’s name. And there, she Googled it for me. I read the poem as slowly as I could. Trying to visualize how it'd be for someone who has never seen the beauty that surrounds us. I recalled one of our old neighbors who were blessed with two daughters and both of them were blind. I can never forget their smiles, their positive attitude, their faith in God and the courteous manner in which they spoke. They were in some way an inspiration for me. They were high achievers, and my family always gave examples of them. The girls were highly skilled from academics to domestic activities, they were good at almost everything. They spoke politely and always had something good to talk about. Though I was quite young then, I remember my elder cousins being friends with them. Whenever one of us grumbled about life's challenges and trials, we were reminded of them. That would instantly bring a silence on our lips.

A few weeks ago, I was discussing Philosophy and Religion with someone knowledgeable and wise. He asked me, "Do you thank Allah for His blessings?" Ah! The good child that I have always been, I said, "Yes, of course! I thank Allah for giving me a nice family which raised me so well. I thank Him for providing me good education and a well-paying job. I couldn't have achieved any of this on my own." Satisfied that I have provided the answered that he wanted to hear, I was startled by his reply. "What you have mentioned are secondary things. But do you thank Him for your eyes, hands, ears, feet?" I went silent......"Err.......yes, I am thankful for my senses and body parts too without which I wouldn't have been much functional." I was again corrected that this was not what he meant to say. His question this time was, "Do you actually thank Him every morning or at night before going to bed that you can see, you can hear, you can walk, you can work with your hands?" And I went quiet. Though I silently acknowledge their presence I have never actually expressed my gratitude. 

And this poem just came as a reminder. As much as we abuse our eyes by crying, glaring at someone we hate, expressing our anger we fail to recognize what a great blessing they are. Here's the poem that really touched my heart.

The Blind Boy

O SAY what is that thing call'd Light,
Which I must ne'er enjoy;
What are the blessings of the sight,
O tell your poor blind boy!

You talk of wondrous things you see;
You say the sun shines bright:
I feel him warm, but how can he
Or make it day or night?

My day or night myself I make
Whene'er I sleep or play;
And could I ever keep awake
With me 'twere always day.

With heavy sighs I often hear
You mourn my hapless woe;
But sure with patience I can bear
A loss I ne'er can know.

Then let not what I cannot have
My cheer of mind destroy;
Whilst thus I sing, I am a king,
 Although a poor blind boy.


Friday, October 1, 2010

The Many Faces that I See

A man's age is something impressive, it sums up his life:  maturity reached slowly and against many obstacles, illnesses cured, griefs and despairs overcome, and unconscious risks taken; maturity formed through so many desires, hopes, regrets, forgotten things, loves.  A man's age represents a fine cargo of experiences and memories.  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wartime Writings 1939-1944, translated from French by Norah Purcell

Nothing could best describe old age than this quote from Wartime Writings. Since childhood days I'm known to be an observant person. I love studying the faces that I meet. These could be people that I know or those that I have never met before or will ever be introduced to. Random people that pass me by. Old aged drivers, watchmen, cooks, beggars, or anyone. Regardless of their background, they always catch my attention. At times, I find myself spellbound. I want to go sit with them and talk. I want to learn their stories. No, I don't want to peep into their personal lives, but I firmly believe every person carries a story. That story is what shapes them. While some learn to conquer the many challenges that life throws at them, there are some who quietly surrender. We can never judge them, but there is a lot to be learnt from their experiences. Makes me wonder, how many times have they witnessed their hopes and dreams being shattered? Loved ones who chose to leave them alone? Failures that hit them to test how strong they were? Illnesses that came to break them, but they fought and survived? How many times were they challenged? Just how many times? The wrinkles that we see on their faces are not something that should repel us away. They depict the experiences and memories created by those people on their life's journey. 

For some reason, I have always been fascinated by the grown ups. As a child, I used to enjoy the company of my father and the other elders in our family. Perhaps, it is the wisdom that I want to learn from. The stories are so compelling that they just keep you glued. This is what taught me to appreciate things I am blessed with. I know my parents didn't have what I have and they did their best to provide us the best. (Incomplete!.....)