It was in August last year that I came home for a few days after spending a roller coaster three months in Mumbai, Allahabad, Surat and Lucknow. And one of my dear friends here proposed that we spend a day at one of the biggest malls in Hyderabad. It was a great day, with clear blue skies and everything happened as per the plan. We met at the Malakpet MMTS station and had a great time travelling in it all the way to Hi Tech city. After picking up another of our friends at Shilparamam, we finally reached Inorbit Mall.
We were six of us, but no one had any idea as to what 'Dialogue in the Dark' was all about. All we knew was that it was a theme restaurant where every activity is done in a pitch dark environment without a single ray of light. And when I say pitch dark, I mean it literally because no illuminating instrument of any sort was used - ZERO LIGHT. Essentially it meant that we would be experiencing what it felt to be completely blind for 45 long minutes. We were not supposed to carry anything except for some cash and so promptly submitted all cellphones, purses and wallets at the reception counter before entering the darkest tunnel we have ever known. Everyone was excited and looking forward to experience what later turned out to be a completely enlightening moment for me.
We entered inside and soon realised that we will have to fully rely on our remaining 4 senses or otherwise give up walking through the scariest path one could walk through. The guide was a bright, confident guy of my age and guided us through a Kitchen, a bedroom, a bathroom, a garden and then finally to a theatre hall where we were asked to identify voices of prominent personalities. And all this while, we felt and knew what we were walking through. We smelt soap and spices, felt pillows, bed sheets and towels. But more importantly we actually felt what it is to be blind, something that was increasingly becoming a difficult proposition with some of my friends stumbling here and there and hurting themselves in the process. But all this while, there was only one question that was bothering me. How were the guide's trained to maneuver in an environment where there was literally no light? The guide was effortlessly guiding us through the innumerable obstacles in a very curvy path interlaced with what we felt were speed breakers!!
And when we completed all the activities and were finally led to a cafe cum restaurant, I couldn't resist asking this to the guide himself.
'How much time did you take to get trained to operate in zero light conditions? A month?', I made a wild guess.
'A month?? No, sir. We merely took about 30 hours', he replied in a rather nonchalant manner.
I was taken aback. My guess wasn't even remotely close to what he said. But I was sure I was missing something all this while.
'But how could that be? The path that we walked on is so mind boggling. How did you....', I stopped midway unable to complete the sentence, searching for appropriate words to express my disbelief.
'Sir, I am partly....I guess, about 60% blind. In fact all my colleagues working inside 'DID' are blind to various degrees of extent. The guy who served you Coke, Chips and also correctly gave you the balance amount now is the only guy who is completely blind'
All of us fell silent on hearing this. It was an eerie silence that was making us very uncomfortable. I could in the darkness of it all, feel that each and everyone of us was pondering as to how these blind guys here were adept at doing something that we normal people were struggling to in the first place.
To lighten up things a bit, I finally broke the silence and complimented the guides there for doing such a wonderful job. Most of them were youngsters from the Old City, but chose to be independent despite being physically handicapped. And, mind you they were the best in what they did. What impressed me most about this group of 4-5 youngsters was that they were silently guiding visitors through the path less traveled - A path where there is no LIGHT but still could be walked on, only because you are being guided by someone who knows exactly what it feels to be in the DARK forever. And that is precisely the reason, that these guides here are diligent and focused because they know 'Where there is a WILL, there is a WAY'; doesn't matter whether that WAY is illuminated or not!!
And when we finally came out of the tunnel, it felt so good to see things the way they are. And that is when I realised that we (gifted with the ability to see things) often complicate LIFE and so fail to see things the way they are. We complicate all things, relationships, emotions and thoughts and in the process hurt everyone involved. But then LIFE is all about perceptions and stereotypes, isn't it? And, I guess that's what complicates it. So if you are the one who thinks your way of life couldn't have been more complex, then I suggest you come to Hyderabad and visit 'Dialogue in the Dark'. The 45 minutes spent here will change the way you look at things or at least keep reminding you that you are still any day better off than the Blind guides working here the hard way to lead a dignified way of life!!
'A grateful fool'