In each issue of beyond the I, this column presents a first-hand account of a visually-impaired person's experiences in the 'real' world. Jitender Sharma shows us how an everyday thing as a trip to a market can be fraught with danger.
I decided to go to the market one evening. Little did I realise that I would be undertaking an adventure, albeit not a very happy one.
I stay in the hostel at the National Association for the Blind, or N.A.B. (which is in Sector 5, R.K. Puram, New Delhi). After stepping out from there, I had to request a man to help me cross the road. Since I wanted to go to a market some distance away, I decided to take a bus. I boarded bus number 578. When the conductor came to give me my ticket, I informed him that I had a bus pass meant for 'handicapped' people and should be given a concession. The conductor rudely lied to me that it was invalid. He yelled to the driver to stop the bus immediately, and forced me to get down in the middle of the road. No one in the bus raised their voice against this gross injustice.
For a minute, I was very sad - why had Fate been so cruel to me? Why couldn't I have had eyes that could see the world? But I told myself to snap out of this mode of thinking and get on with the work at hand.
I had to ask another man on the road to help me out, because I was not sure where the bus conductor had made me get out. He helped me a part of the distance, and then went on his way. I had taken just a few steps when I collided with a cow, standing on the walkway. It was lucky that I did not hurt myself.
Unknown to me, this had been witnessed by another person on the road. He now came forward to help, and escorted me to my destination.
Once in the market, the voice of a loud shopkeeper guided me to a shop. When the shopkeeper realised I was blind, he immediately gave me priority and packed all my stuff. When it was time to pay up, he was astounded at how I could differentiate between currency notes despite not being able to see.
I showed him how I measured the length and widths of the notes, using my palm and fingers as reference. The hardest part is in remembering which note is equal in length to which finger!
It was time now to go back to N.A.B. I decided to walk back. Suddenly I heard the squealing of tires and a two-wheeler came and crashed into me. A man, obviously the erring driver, started abusing me. I realised that instead of asking me if I was hurt or not, he was preparing to run off. Sure enough, I soon heard the scooter zoom off. Luckily I was not seriously hurt. I stood up shakily, and was about to proceed on my way when I found that my cane had broken due to the accident! I was even more scared now. How would I walk back to N.A.B.? It was getting late, and soon the gates would be locked.
Luckily, I heard some voices I recognised as those of my friends. I knew that they were still inside N.A.B. This meant that I was quite close to my institute. Using the voices as a guide, I found my way back, safe and sound.
My trip to the marketplace taught me a valuable lesson. Life will deal me many unfair situations - but that happens to everybody. The fact that I cannot see does not mean that my life is over. I have the confidence to help myself, the strength to live my life the way I want to - I am no less talented and able than any sighted individual. I may lack sight, but I will never lack self-confidence.
Do you have an ‘everyday’ experience you would like to recount? Write in to us at.