It was half-past twelve in the afternoon. I was sitting, sweat-drenched, in the crowded waiting hall of a popular eye hospital in the city. There were patients of various age groups sitting around me. The waiting hall exclusively for patients requiring a general check-up. So unlike regular eye hospitals, there were no patients with injuries or those waiting for a post-surgery check-up. I was, at one point, surprised at the sheer number of patients who had come for a general eye check-up. I deliberately chose a working day to avoid the usual rush of weekends. However, the fully-packed waiting hall seemed to say a different story.
I wondered what might be the reason behind the increasing number of eye-related ailments in the city. Many reasons like pollution, increased digital exposure, irregular sleep timings, etc. popped up in my head. Only after my check-up did I come up with a possible reason: that we are, for long periods, leaving behind the darkness, and not letting our eyes rest.
My list of complaints with the ophthalmologist included sleeplessness, a burning sensation in the eyes after long work hours, and frequent episodes of irritation. I was quite unnerved until I walked into the doctor’s chamber. I was quite sure something was not right with my eyes. One look at my complaint list and the doctor’s frown said it all: I was not the first person to hand him such a weird list of complaints. He diligently looked at me as per hospital standards, although he filed a normal report in the end. The way he prescribed an ‘anybody-anytime-anywhere’ use drug hinted at the pathetic routine he might be going through with scores of patients like me, wasting his time every day.
I was back at home and, as usual, started asking Google questions about the drug and its side-effects. Google makes even laymen like me feel like medical experts. A couple of searches redirected me to videos relating to eye massages and eye-soothing techniques. There were Yoga videos for eyes, simple exercises, home remedies and what not. A glance through the videos drove me back to my earlier question, of what might be the reason behind so many people with eye-related complaints in the city. The viewer count for the videos confirms that the city I live in is not alone with respect to eye complaints. The entire world seems to have a serious issue.
I scrolled through the remarks and comments for the videos. I went through a couple of websites and blogs that many said have actually worked. The more I browsed through, the more I landed on blindfolds for meditation and gel masks. I quickly ordered a blindfold, and it was there at my doorstep that evening. After one week, I must confess I feel a lot better than I remember feeling a year ago. The blindfold indeed worked! But what is it that made it work better than medication?
In a flash came the answer: darkness. I closed my eyes to savour the darkness that the blindfold had been giving me for past one week. No, there would be no darkness if I close my eyes. I tried thinking deeper. What about at night? I don’t use my smartphone when it’s time to sleep, but it is smart enough not to let me sleep without it. Apart from that, the lights outside my balcony shine into my room through the glass windows. Darkness, where did I see it last other than when I used the blindfold? Seriously, nowhere- this realisation cropped into my mind gradually. Eyes, like every other body part, need rest. But eyes, unlike other parts, do not go to rest right away when we sleep. They need darkness to caress them to sleep soothingly. But darkness has long left our city skies. A new moon night casts as much light on our cities as a full moon does because our pollution doesn’t let the city lights call it a day.
If our eyes are to sleep, we need darkness. And for that, we need to shut down our phones, lights, and minds for a while.