This piece has been written by Anchal Bhatheja (Batch of 2023). Artwork by Priyanka Paul.
Dear Potential Beholders,
I will start off with introducing you to another rendition of the word disability. Just like what Robert M. Hensel once said, I too, “choose not to place dis in my ability.” I feel placing the idea of diversity in my ability defines me in a better manner. For, I choose to appreciate the things that are doable instead of lamenting over the tasks that are beyond the scope of my abilities. For, everyone is diverse-able with limited abilities. And that is a fact.
By way of introductions, I am a beholder. I behold beauty, I behold light, the stars, the sun, the skies, the lands, the flora and fauna and everything else.
My mission here is to enable you to behold and observe, just like I do. Because it is okay to be blind, but it is not okay to turn a blind eye.
Hopefully, my piece will teach you to how not to turn a blind eye. Let us embark upon this journey of beholding, perceiving and observing. Here are some pointers that you can (but I recommend you should) keep in mind.
1. Never play the voice recognition game; it hurts.
I genuinely disregard this funny and curious act of walking up to visually impaired people and saying this in the cutest possible tone, “do you recognize my voice?” Look, I get that you’re curious but it is certainly not okay to make someone realize that they can’t recognize you because of their inability to see. I’d recognize your voice if we talk frequently. But just as you can’t remember faces that you’ve seen once, I can’t remember voices that I’ve heard once either.
2. Unsolicited help is never worth it.
Don’t just randomly grab the arm/cane of a blind person in the pursuit of exhibiting the generosity, consideration, compassion and kindness that flows through your veins. Consent is important here (in a way that is important everywhere). For a person who is using a cane, who knows? You could just be making them lose their way by abruptly grabbing their arm. In addition to this, I’d say that you should be okay if I sometimes refuse to take help. Rest assured, I will gladly ask for assistance if I need it at any point.
3. Sneaking in and out of a conversation silently is not cool.
I deserve to know when you enter or exit a conversation. Just say “hi” and I’ll make some sense of whom you are. But obviously the caveat attached here is don’t play the voice recognition game again. Expect me to know your voice only if I know you well or else just be nice enough to announce your name. I suppose you are nice enough, right?
And remember: before you leave, say “bye”. I deserve to know when you leave. You wouldn’t want to leave me talking to myself with the false assumption that you’re there listening to me.
4. Some solicited answers to Frequently Asked Questions:
Yes, I see dreams, and guess what? I see dreams while I’m sleeping and my dreams are the ones which don’t let me sleep… that’s a bit far fetched! But still, my dreams don’t let me sleep for too long.
Yes, I can watch movies. I make sense of the plotline them by listening to the dialogues. Try it that way sometime; it’s fun! For it’s not just about the visual part of it. I suppose that is why musicians, lyricist and dialogue writers make so much money in the film industry.
5. Wait, I’m inspiring? But you just met me…
I believe that the people who do extraordinary stuff to do good to the society are inspiring for sure. But you see, I am not inspiring just because I exist with my disability and I’ve accepted it with a smile on my face. It’s okay, breathe, know me as a person… meet me sometime and let us have a conversation about life, hardships and other stuff. Then, I shall give you the mandate to call me an inspiring homo sapiens. Reaching conclusions without forming logical arguments and reasoning is a bad practice.
6. Get over this ‘Chair-Offering Syndrome’.
Far too many people suffer from this syndrome. I generally observe, people tend to offer me a chair, even if I don’t need it, even if I don’t want it, even if there is no chair in the radius of 1 km. it just magically appears from somewhere. People just magically get it from somewhere. Just saying, there is nothing wrong with my legs, bro… its okay, chill.
There is nothing wrong with my ears either! Speak normally – at a normal pace, at a normal volume, at a normal pitch… why trouble your vocal cords that much? I get that you’re concerned and want to be nice to me. But we all know that an excess of everything, almost everything is bad.
Here, I come to an end of this brief exercise which dealt with the art of beholding. I do not expect any patronization. For, I am not a super human being. I just don’t expect dehumanization. For, I am no way ranked lower amongst the species of humans. It’s just about striking a balance. As I said before, the excess of everything (almost everything!) is bad. Just be normal, just be casual, for I am no different, you are no different. We are just the same.