Tunnel Vision! The first time I heard of it as a physical ailment was in one of my early day at IFFCO. There was this young chap, working in the Library, who had come over to our section and the other guys were talking to him in a concerned manner. Naturally curious, I overheard the conversation.
This librarian was, apparently, afflicted with Tunnel Vision. What was worse, his ailment was such that the doctors had told him that he would progressively lose his vision till he became completely blind. (Retinitis Pigmentosa, is the term, I think!). It was apparently a congenital condition and there was no known cure for it though some courses of treatment could retard the progress of the problem.
The chap was describing his issue in such a matter-of-fact manner and outlining the stages that he would go through progressively that I was thunder-struck. Apparently his night vision was close to nil and he had lost nearly all his peripheral vision as well. How could any human being discuss the possibility of slowly losing his vision entirely without a trace of self pity?
God knows what slough of despond he must have passed through from the first time he was informed about his condition to the time he made peace with the idea. How he must have railed against a destiny that had completely destroyed all the hopes and certainties of his life and replaced it with a long uphill climb to achieve any semblance of normalcy in his life? How he must have tried to take his mind of the issue – watch TV, read a book, look on the beauties of nature, whatever – only to be reminded of the fact that all these things would become impossible for him soon? How every single simple act in day-to-day life must have reminded him of the fact that each of them would require either help from others or arduous retraining of his faculties to carry out? How he must have hoped against hope that there would be some remission and that someone would find a cure soon?
It is not like we have a society that is particularly empathetic to people with problems. Oh! We all learn to say ‘visually challenged’ instead of ‘blind’ and feel quite virtuous about it. Say ‘visually challenged’ with as much contempt as you used to say ‘blind’ and I really cannot see much difference. A society so full of people with so little a sense of self-worth that the only thing they can feel proud about is the fact that their eyes are functioning when the others’ isn’t - and feel the need to express it by being patronizing to or contemptuous about the person with the problem.
I have no idea from what deep well of courage he drew to get over that abyss of gloom and achieve such serenity in his life. I tried to put myself in his place and I could not find it in me to say that I would have had the courage to have all physical, financial and social security destroyed and still continue to retain hope in life. It takes incredible courage to face up to something as devastating as this and still find some stability in your soul. I wish I could say that I have it. This man – a ‘lowly’ librarian – towers over me in the sort of courage that he evinced and I can only salute that courage without really hoping to emulate it.
On the day I heard him my instant reaction was, “And I think I have problems?” Sometimes it seems to me that it is we who have Tunnel Vision!