By Abid Baba:
Almost, all of you, at some particular period of time, must have boasted about your eyes, but the mere mention of eyes makes me uneasy. I was born on a gloomy day in the dark period of 90’s. I am told, when I was born, there were no celebrations at home, sweets were not distributed, people avoided kissing my cheeks; my Mouj (grandma) says people thought that I am some odd and eccentric creature which has descended on the planet. The only reason of this hatred was that I was born with a squint.
Normally our eyes point at the same direction, but a squint occurs when they are misaligned. I suffer from a condition called strabismus in medical lingo, an incorrect imbalance of the eye muscles. The eyes converge and diverge, preventing them from working properly together.
I can’t focus on some particular points for a long time, I feel a burning sensation in my eye.
Because of my squint, people mocked me, laughed at me, teased me. It hurt like hell when my shy and introverted nature was made fun of; I could not confront them and make them understand. I always blamed myself for a fault I never committed.
But I pursed my lips every time, listened to all of them patiently and cried in isolation helplessly. A few years ago when I was in school, I could not decipher what exactly was written on the blackboard, I asked my teacher to repeat it to me. He rudely responded, “Get lost! I can’t dictate it to everyone individually, Mein kissi ka naukar hoon kya?”
Another time, I was kicked out of my examination hall when I was not able to see what was written on the paper clearly as we were asked to sit under the scorching sun. I could not stop blinking constantly due to the reflection which made my eyes ache. When I tried asking my teacher if I could sit in the shade, he thrashed me and dragged me out in front of the other students. Later, when he heard me out and got to know the reason for my uneasiness, he felt ashamed and apologised. But the damage could not be undone.
There were times when I was told to wear spectacles to feel more ‘comfortable’. When I took up the suggestion, my own Kashmiri friends ridiculed me by saying: “Kyasa hey, az kath sa paeth gaagal, zabardas.” (trans. Hey there, what is up with those goggles? You look dashing.)
After finishing school, I started to think seriously about getting treatment for my eye. I searched for the best ophthalmologist and finally landed up in Amritsar. The remarks of the senior eye specialist came as a shocker, “I am sorry beta. Your vision can’t be retrieved. It was possible till the age of 7 only.” Hopeless, I came back, and started to hate myself. For 21 years, I lived in my 10/10 room, its cold walls witness to how I have suffered all these years. It is witness to my terrible insomniac nights when I used to cry all night, inconsolably.
Calling people by various names does not make one cool. In turn, you lose your respect for all times to come. People, most of the times, treat me indifferently, nobody ever realized my true potential. Nobody asked for where I can excel? What I am best at?
I can write volumes about the countless miseries I faced so far but I want to put on a brave face and move on. John Milton was blind but he wrote masterpieces about nature without even experiencing it. Beethoven was a great music composer in western classics, and he was deaf! If they can do things the way they desire, why can’t I?
(Abid Rashid Baba is pursuing Journalism majors at Media Education Research Centre, University of Kashmir. He reached on his Twitter handle @AbidRBaba )