Sunday, April 8, 2012

Do you have the courage to face going slowly blind?

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!


  1. even i wouldn't have had the courage to deal with this and carry out everyday chores matter-of-factly. the thought of becoming blind would have weighed heavily on my mind.

  2. Dear Suresh,

    KS Gopalakrishnan once made a film called 'Swati Natchaththiram'. The heroine in this film is afflicted by a disease which makes her lose and regain eyesight rather frequently. He had made the Black & White film in part color i.e., the film switches over to Eastman Color whenever she gains back her eyesight!


    Cinema Virumbi

  3. I didn't know of that nor do I know whether such a disease exists:):) The one I wrote about is from my personal experience.

  4. Read your comments on Bhavana's blogs and scame here :) Do you write well!

    I chose this post to comment first because I am sailing in the same boat, with another fancy name given to my problem. It started when I was in my 30s and about a decade ago I lost vision in one eye. The other is running on borrowed time and a lot of faith and hope. All the questions you had put about the possible reactions are correct. Today it is more thankfulness than resignation or desperation and makes me want to make full use of the eye when I am still able. But we need more compassion towards those who have handicaps than just change the terminology to describe them. Thanks for the thought.

  5. More than compassion I have great respect for people like you who can face up to a situation like this! It requires great courage to handle a handicap!

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