“One..Two..Three..Four… Two..Two..Three..Four…” I was teaching her a dance-step for the annual function. She was holding my face with her little hands and learning the the movement that had to be executed at beat number TWO. Then she went on to hold my hands, and then my knees, to understand the step as I counted the eight beats repeatedly.
Learning dance for a visually impaired person is not an easy task as one can imagine. A single step of eight beats takes at least ten rounds of repeating as the students touch and understand the movement of various parts of body. And these little girls were doing it.
Sanju and I were teaching this group together.
“You take Step One which we’ll repeat twice.. So sixteen beats are to be taken care of. I’ll take the next one which will go on for the next sixteen beats,” Sanju said, “Make sure you come up with something easy to understand and memorize them.”
We had distributed dance-steps between ourselves so that each one of us could master the best way of imparting them to our students. We were learning to teach. So every kid had to learn from both of us. But Devika refused. Every time Sanju would approach her, she would flatly refuse. She would shake her hands in a peculiar way to convey her reluctance.
She was one of the girls who could hear a little, and make some sounds, but could not really talk. All these girls had a diminishing eye-sight. What it meant was that the best they could ever see was today and their sight would become weaker as time passed.
They knew their time frames. Some were going to be totally blind by next six months; some, a year. And all these girls were doing was dancing, laughing and having fun.
“I’ll take her Sanju. She refuses to learn from anyone else,” I said and I began to teach Devika. It seems she wanted to learn only from me. Within four rehearsals, she had grown extremely fond of me. She used to identify me by my voice and the peculiar texture of my stole. I wore the same stole for every rehearsal.
The more she became adamant to learn only from me, the more I taught her, and the more she grew closer to me. One day, at the end of rehearsals, as I bid goodbye to Devika, she unexpectedly hugged me… for a long time… Sanju and I just stared at each other. It was that day I realised I was treading on delicate ground. I was not going to be there for more than a few days.
The girls only had each other and their teachers for support. Their families would or would not come to visit them at the school. I wondered, with the kind of attachment she had had with me, if Devika would be able cope with my absence after I left.
And hence, I stopped teaching her. I did not want to raise her expectations. I did not want her to love me more. I wanted to tell her I wouldn’t be there forever, and the best way to do that was to stop teaching her.
Having realized what was happening, she refused to dance at first. She opened her hands trying reaching out to me, made her usual sound, and waited… and waited… and waited…
I refused to budge, with great difficulty. I wanted to run to her and hug her tight, and perhaps even magically make her be able to see and speak just like anyone deserves to do.
But neither did I make a sound, nor I did not go close to her. I just watched her from a distance as Sanju looked at me quizzically. I just shook my head, and she understood. Devika waited for a long time for me to return, before slowly resuming dancing with a dejected look on her face. Thankfully she didn’t cry, she was definitely much stronger than me.
It was cruel kindness, or at least I thought it was. I just did what my nineteen year old heart told me to. I still don’t know whether it was the right thing to do. I dropped that project. I stopped going to the rehearsals because I didn’t want her to recognize me by my voice while I talked to other girls.
This experience helped me understand life. I was a girl who would be irritated if I missed my bus, feel hurt if my friend forgot to say bye, be tensed at the thought of not finding a job.
It was Devika who turned me into a young woman who would patiently wait for the next bus without fretting, who would call a friend when she missed them, and live her life in the present. A visually impaired girl opened my eyes.
By Piyu Naresh Yawalkar.
(Edited by Soumya Chakraborty)
Image Source: pixabay.com