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Through Her Able Eyes…

By Shruthi Venukumar

Her gaze determinedly pinned behind,
To the bus stop she scurried.
As she walked up the slope,
As she trudged along, a hole caught her heel.
There it was!
Like an eye gorged out of its socket!
It was missing!
That yellow pixel the red cane tips seek…to jigsaw together a map.
Grabbing for direction at something that gazing or glazing eyes don’t…
Feeling the rickety rumpled roof remove from her eyelids their squint,
She heard the sound of roller wheels locking teeth with those yellow pixels…
All the way up the yellow border that straddled the pink slope.
A skater grounding her acumen in her frolicking spirit.

Scampering down the stairs from an uphill evening class,
Her eyes swiped a glance at the tiny Braille board on the wall.
Its edges silver, almost grey … its body blue.
Smeared with scum from someone’s sense of scent,
Clouding the tiny dots meant to be felt, to be known…
Dots that shrank in sight
Sprayed with phlegm that spayed their light.

In the college sports room, where a seminar was held once,
“So what can you do for the differently-abled,” the compere had asked.
His wheelchair parked right under the fork-edged banner.
“Conference of the Differently-abled.
We must help them,” she had put forth, timid.
“Help?” his eyes had darted contempt,
And a gasp that didn’t escape its source.

On an editorial desk past fleeting years,
She felt her words walk the tightrope on tenterhooks!
As they lost and found their way in the manuscript of a textbook,
In a chapter where Meera was “visually-challenged”, not “blind”.
Not “deaf” our Rajan; he was “hearing-impaired”.
And as much as it had bothered her, and would have hurt little Adil,
What words did she have to familiarise little eight-year-olds to him,
Without saying, “dumb” or “mute”?
“As if he’s a television,” she had shaken her head.
Divyang it should be,” she had felt her coffee stir up her sarcasm from its coffin.
“That would make him a beautiful song that has been muted.
And have all his problems refuted.”

HELP is a now-dirty word.
Four-lettered, to be precise.
It wouldn’t have been,
In a world where benefaction didn’t come with condescension.
Where “charity” bowed away and out to clarity…
Where a law had claws to help one hold on to their self-possession,
And not be a vain imposition.

Pop culture popped surprises on her!
A woman wheeled her way to the fashion ramp…
Bangalore Days had RJ Sarah free-wheeling on her motorised wings.
And KFC put words…erm chicken…into your mouth, as you hung out with a wordless friend.
Even got him speechless for a bit, when you chose him over your other (d)ear buds!
We’re no longer grasping at Margarita straws!

Stories slapped her desk and slipped into her mind,
Of a girl not yet sixteen, with a home for heaven,
With only a stairway to heaven,
A girl who swung herself from step to step, her arms and hands forming a frame,
As though a prefab foldable frame!
Of men and women who were able,
To have children who were “not quite able”.
A father bound to his bed by a boulder of muscles,
Bound by notions and conventions of a father as able protector.
Of mothers who were deemed children,
“Irresponsible” to have wanted to procreate and be proactive.

Stories and then some! Made her wonder…
About her mood that flung and swung, riding the lowermost point on a pendulum,
Bipolar in a world that worked like clockwork for minds only unipolar.
Had these depths left her out of depth…?
To be the rock that should be the hand that rocks the cradle?
Could she treat as burst-able bubbles the black clouds of her moods?
When called by the silver tears of a child?
Could she come down from the cottony heights of cloud eighteen,
And tend to childish joys and sorrows much too narrow for her mind’s confines?
Could the ravines of her mind hit upon a bedrock,
Upon which to set a nimbus bed?
Was it a disability she had?
Or was it an overarching overreach to think so?
Commonalities between them and her… was she finding … or forging?
Was it her skin trying to slip over the imagined entrails of disability?
Was it akin to “mansplaining”?
Perhaps they weren’t all that different,
All the same, they weren’t all that same.
Perhaps we blur lines to dilution,
And straitjacket categories into dire straits.

Her hand once stood on a blind girl’s answer sheet.
“By the way, feel free to add anything that I might forget. I need this job,” the girl had rung out in a singsong voice,
As she looked for the right answers in her mind.
In another corner had sat Kalyani, busy and business-like,
Pulling up her scribe at every oversight that she heard on paper.
At the bus stop Kalyani had shot, “I got it,” as the scribe extended another hand, this time to lead her to a bus.
She wouldn’t let anyone stick their nose,
Any place that her stick could take her.

On that day a few new lines fell on frayed old pages,
For she saw that monochromes did not a community make.
Personas ranged … tempered to temperamental,
As vivid and livid as shades on tempera.
She was a scheming, screaming, streaming speck.
That needed no point of reference,
Neither high deference, nor definitions set to preference.
Her layperson lesson it was; aeons before college scrolls spoke staid, straying and staying,
That binaries break their back at the sword tip of an intersection(ality).

Bio:
Shruthi Venukumar
 is a journalist and teacher specialising in community-based education for children and adolescents. Formerly an Editor with Macmillan Education and Senior Editor with Youth Ki Awaaz, she has written extensively for Hindustan Times, Times of India, The Wire and various online magazines. An alumna of the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, she has authored fiction with Westland. She is looking forward to the release of an anthology of her poetry later this year.

***

For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.

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