Darkness has many shades, maybe even more than colors. Yes, you can call me a deluded fanatic behind my back because I never knew color, but then again you never knew darkness. What you recognize as darkness is just momentary absence of light in your neon lit world. But I have lived in blindfold of darkness all throughout my life and I do have the authority to claim my truth.
When I was born, a comment on my medical report stating 'damaged cornea' destined me to a world of oblivion. But little did I care. For a newborn, life is itself excruciating punishment served on the platter of celebration like the fine print of some insurance policy. By the time you realize the selfishness of those sugarcoated promises, it is too late to rewind. But it will be hypocritical of me to claim that I did not enjoy the excess attention, the fake care and the hushed tone of people around me and their desperate attempts to make me feel inclusive to their colorful world.
But I could feel the mockery in their voice pinching through my skin every moment, their claims of superiority was always a hollow justification of their miserable existence.
''Mr. Chatterjee....few more hours. In afternoon we will remove the dressing, but let me assure you the operation looked promising. The replaced cornea should not be rejected by your system. If you are lucky you shall reclaim your vision today'' the nurse said.
''Haha, who told you I am unlucky sister. But I am pretty sure my luck won’t be destined by the vision, but still it would be a privilege to see your world and it’s so called grace''
''My world?? It’s your world too, isn’t it? Don’t you want to see it?''
''No sister, my world is not that shallow to makes judgment on basis of the colorful glitterati. I tend to rely on my other senses more for a more accurate judgment''
She mouthed an audible laugh and walked away.
My mother died when I was 7 years old. And suddenly the cushion I had from the vulgarities of the world wad torn away. People used to say my mother was very beautiful. But what i missed was that damp charcoal smell of her that slowly stuck to her skin after the long hours in the kitchen stove of our joint family.
My father married soon after that, and no it was not as cruel as it sounds. He married because somehow he was not equipped with rearing his blind child. And you can’t blame a person of being cold hearted just because he can’t feed and clean his blind son. He thought a new mother could do that for me, but the only fault in her was she used to bath with those imported soaps every day after cooking. The 7 year old me could not just let a new mother touch him if she doesn’t even smells like mother. But somehow people took it as my arrogance, and i never bothered to correct them.
Only person who I could not manage to dissuade with my anger was my cousin Sreelekha. She was 4 years older than me, but she never showed a little bit of pity on me. I guess she was jealous of all the excess attention i got over the time and as a result my every effort to push her away from me was responded with a slap out of nowhere. I admit at those times I surely felt the loss of my vision crippling my independence. But slowly I did not mind losing my independence to her and she in turn became my new guardian.
No one in the family protested because by now they were fed up of my tantrums and my behavior. But in our society the blind child with a dead mother has social apathy as his fundamental right, and I was exploiting just that.
No, I did not go to a special school. My father simply did not know any and did not bother to find out. But that did not stop me from learning. I always had a private tutor at my disposal who would read out my lessons to me and I learned about the world though his words. But writing was a whole new challenge, though I could write perfectly well but my teachers could not make any sense out of it.
On my 13th birthday i got my first typewriter as the birthday present and surely i found a new best friend.
''Mr.Chatterjee, can you please sign this form I have?'', the doctor said approaching in a hurry.
''Ah...Dr.Das, don’t you know you can’t just ask me 'blindly' to sign anywhere...its illegal''
'' Funny Mr.Chatterjee. I assure you that at the age of 72, I won’t scam your money off. It just a affidavit that states you won’t sue us off if things don’t work out as planned.''
''Aha..you don’t have to worry about that...I am planning to sue god for my blindness after I die. I have heard heaven anyways have a faster judiciary system.'' I said scribbling my illegible signature.
''Very well, Mrs. Chatterjee is completing the formalities downstairs. Within few minutes we will be back to remove your dressing. Best of luck'', and he walked out with the aloof arrogance i could always sense in the walk of doctors.
The peaceful silence of our home in those sultry afternoons was soon ruined by my incessant clikety claks of typewriter. Though no one mouthed any protest against me, but mysteriously my typewriter used to disappear from my cupboard if left unattended and again used to appear out of nowhere during evenings and mornings. Finally, people were learning to exploit my shortcomings and i was pleased. Till now my arrogance against normal people in general was like a unfair fight. Now the humanity in form of my fed up family, my uncles and aunts, my step brother and Sreelekha came back to draw blood. It felt fair and gratifying.
My typewriter was my way to get back to world. To shout back at them till the point the clicks drown the cry of my mind. I have reached puberty and I wanted to break free. I began with documenting everything around me, the sounds, the voices, the breeze, the screams, the cries. I typed pages after pages to be swept to garbage in the morning by the house maid. But slowly i learned to listen to one voice that was drowned in all these noise. My voice, voice of my thoughts. I typed down every passing thought in my mind and my typewriter was the patient listener. Initially I could feel sreelekha hunched at the corner of my room, reading silently my private thoughts inked on the strewn pages on floor, but she soon could not keep track and lost interest. I did not mind, she was not that smart anyways to decode me.
''How are you feeling? Nervous?'' she whispered slowly near my left ear, moistening it with her fragrant breadth.
''Not as nervous as the day i got married to you under all those disapproving eyes burning on me'' I replied a bit startled at her ability to always cheat my alert senses and stealth beside me.
''Mrs. Chatterjee, ask your husband to at least fake bit nervousness. Else it robs us doctors of our proclaimed godliness of miracles.'', the doctor slowly walked up to us.
''Ahh Dr.Das, I might as well call you a thief of robbing me of the comfort of my darkness. You better make it a miracle.’’, I replied almost choking over my laughter.
''Mr. Chatterjee keep your eyes closed as we remove the dressing and don’t open them until we ask you to.'' I felt the cold steel of the scissors cutting slowly through the gauge.
I was in my early twenties I guess when Kolkata was swept with one of the worst heat waves of the decade. The slow fan of my room on attic was fighting a long lost battle with the sweltering afternoon heat. I lay on my bed slowly tracing the trickling sweat down my neck, channeling through my chest. Sreelekha busted into my room with a suppressed excitement in her voice.
''I got a letter from the editor for you, came just now by mail.''
''Ok keep it on my study table.'' I already had a pile of such letters on my study table. I don’t mind the fact that they don’t find my book suitable for publishing, but what I hated was the pity they felt for the blind struggling wannabe author. I was not struggling for got sake.
''Don’t you want me to read it to you?'' she said almost with firm conviction.
''Something tells me you did not wait for my permission to read it. So why don’t you go ahead and recite.''
She came and sat beside me and whispered to my ear, ''Well if you insist on knowing, the editor of Rita Publishers incidentally found your book a fabulous account of a beggar in a world that is much more colorful and optimistic than the one we live in. He finds it’s almost a fable of inspiration and fantasy.''
Though i failed to understand how a struggle of a beggar in was bland world that I tried to describe with fake metaphors was optimistic for him, but I was too overwhelmed to care.
I might have cried unknowingly a bit because all I remember was she hugging me and for the first time i touched her sweaty back and chill passed through me. She kissed me and I opened my mouth to the moistness of her lips.
My hands were kneading through her softness as a blind man struggled to discover new secrets of her feminity. As she undressed herself and guided me to herself there was an unusual calmness in her and I realized how beautiful she was. I traced those pointed nose, carved collarbones and her soft breasts. Every curve and troughs in her body that had accumulated pool of sweat for me to discover and taste.
I lay on my back while her hands tore every off every piece of fabric that separated us before she climbed over me and claimed her every right over me as if I was her trophy.
She pinned me down and took me inside her. I felt her warmth spread through our loins to our soul. In a moment I knew all those hidden words we never said. I reached out to inhale the musk smell of her neck before I exploded with such vibrancy that it felt like the New Year fireworks all over again. I loved her and she was mine.
''Mr. Chatterjee, now slowly open your eyes, Mrs. Sreelekha Chatterjee is standing in front of you. Calmly open your eyes.'', doctor said.
To hell with being calm, before the last layer of the gauge was removed, I could already feel the burning sensation of brightness. The darkness was already fading, and literally world was just a blink away.
Slowly i opened my eyes and light like an angry mob busted through my pupils. Bursting into my inner confines light was winning the battle against the darkness and insanely erasing every trace of it.
I opened my eyes to whiteness, burning whiteness pricking my eyes like a million needless. For a moment i thought as if this is all you people mean by vision, stark bland whiteness that overpower your every senses to blur your ability to judge.
Then slowly the colors erupted, I don’t know what colors because till now I only knew them by mythical names of greens and blues. They drew outlines on my white canvas, outlines that took shape and maybe even meanings.
When the confusion receded, the blurriness sharpened to make her shape. I saw her for the first time, i saw my wife for the first time, standing there with a pleasant expression on her face, which something told me was expression of happiness. I saw her, I saw Dr. Das, I saw his stethoscope. I saw my hands, my legs, my bed, my white washed walls, my glittering bottles of medicines and it was mediocre.
I so wish they were brilliant, vibrant and exquisite. But more I tried to over value them, mediocre they appeared to me. I kept staring for more, for something new to happen, but I guess that was that of the miracle I had in store for me. No more splendidness waited.
I gazed at her, trying to recollect her from my memories. That lushness of hair that tickled me was replaced by a dull bunch of hair that did not shine as they told in stories. That pointed nose of her, I used to pull, was little crooked to left. The small mole near her left ear that used to make her different was no more than glaring imperfection. She was nothing those women i met in the books I was read to, or I imagined her to be. She was ordinary.
I felt the walls closing in; trying to squeeze me in this normality I was gifted. I needed to breathe, i needed to falsify myself. I rushed to the window to breathe as all of them stood there failing to understand my dilemma.
But they say when you wake up from a dream, reality strikes you hard. It was not the fragrant world i write about in the books, it is a world filled with stark clarity. The green lush trees were not meant to be dull and sparse. The sky was meant to be serenity of blue, not scattered yellow. The brown soil was grey and black. And when I saw my reflection on the window panes, it was not me.
It was a stranger who was tired of living, tired of the lies I was webbing in the comfort of my darkness. I was disappointed with myself for the first time. The arrogance suddenly felt all so fake, overcome by humility of reality. The velvety stubble was an overgrown beard covering an expressionless face as if documenting my failures.
I stared at those confused faces, perplexed by my sudden aggression and disappointment. Somehow I struggled to my bed and kept hoping for a sudden surge of rewind to take me back to the day when I first got my typewriter and learned to dreams. Then I realized dreams were nothing but god's way to laugh at our disappointments.
''Mr. Chatterjee, please talk to me. Tell me is there any problem? Are you feeling sick? Are you fine?''
'' Yes doctor I am...no actually.. no no, I am perfectly alright. I just need some time alone.'', I tried a fake attempt to smile.
''Take your time; we will be waiting outside, just in case you need us.'' She said in her always reassuring voice, with that smile with a hint of melancholy, I knew she understood.
''Sreelekha? Why dint you said to me before? Why dint you said they all wrote lies in their books?''
''Maybe I was jealous of your dream world. Maybe I wanted you to shatter a bit'' she said without looking back.
''Can you please switch off the lights on your way out, please'', I lay on my bed and closed my eyes.
P.S: I am getting lazy day in day out. Dear future me, if you are reading this and if you have turned into a workaholic (which i seriously doubt!!), kudos to you, you did it. And if u are still this good old lazy bum, then, kudos...atleast you survived till now...u shall keep doing it...amen!!Now about the story, it was written on my phone all over kolkata, sitting at parks, footpath, coffee shops, buses and autos. Hence it means a bit more for me, coz it was fun writing it :) But also apart from that I tried to write something which I dont have any experience with, I always wonder about people who cant see, and their perspective of world. Maybe they have completely different perspective, but it was just my take on it...no hard feelings. I also refrained from giving my protagonist a name, coz then his identity wud have mattered, and i dont want that to matter at all...he is just a medium..his perspective is the source. Enough Said!!