A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Dialogue in the dark

Posted by Pepper on May 10, 2011

Two days ago, I was traveling by train when I noticed a blind man enter the compartment. He used his cane, but confidently walked to an empty seat in front of me and sat down. All along, I kept wondering, how does he move around so effortlessly? A lady entered at another station and took the seat next to him. They started talking. Since I was all alone and had nothing else to do and since I was quite curious about that man, I started straining myself to listen to their conversation. The man told her he was completely blind. And at one point, he told her, “I can see things you can’t”. I knew exactly what he meant. It took me back in time.

Some time last year, we were visiting Mint’s friend in Atlanta. While discussing ideas on how to spend our limited time there, he suggested we go for an exhibition called ‘Dialogue in the dark’. What is that, I asked? He told us it was a guided tour, but we would be made blind by the darkness! The tour would take us through a market, a park, a grocery store, a busy street, etc. All of it artificially built, all of it in pitch darkness. The tour would be led by the blind! It would give us a deep understanding of the visually impaired and would make us value our sense of sight a lot more. It sounded incredibly interesting and I couldn’t wait to get there.

We reached the venue and got the tickets. The tour was to begin in 5 minutes. I couldn’t help feeling a little scared. Thick, black darkness scares me. What if I get separated and lost? What if I am left behind somewhere and nobody knows? How will I know what direction to move in if I can’t see a thing? What if I run into a wall or fall? I had too many questions.

It was time to enter and we were all given a cane, just like the ones the visually impaired move about with. “Trust your cane, use it to make sure there are no obstacles in your path before taking a step. You’ll be okay’ That is what we were told by one of the volunteers who handed us the cane. We were asked to be seated on the stools present in the room and were told the lights would fade soon. I held Mint’s hand nervously. Very soon, the lights started fading. In no time after that, it was pitch dark. And when I say pitch dark, I really mean pitch dark. The world seemed like nothing more than a black canvas.

The leaders of the tour entered, and cheerfully introduced themselves. They, the visually impaired would be leading us today. For they had learnt a way to navigate through the darkness that was their life. I was amazed! Really. I have no idea how they knew where we were heading. They knew exactly where to turn, where the wall was, what direction we were facing, everything! All along, I was using my cane and fumbling in the darkness. And I had no idea where Mint was.

We reached a place and they asked us to guess where we were. I think it was the first time I really felt my surrounding. What I touched seemed to be something like a bench. I could feel the wind blowing. They asked us to bend down and feel the surface of the ground we were walking on. I felt sand. I guessed we were in a park. It was amazing. We had to use every sense of our being and connect the dots to form a mental image of the place we were in.

We moved on. I figured we were in a grocery store now. They asked us to feel the objects around us and guess what they were. I moved across racks. I felt the shape of different bottles and knew one of them was ketchup. It has a distinctive shape. There was a pile of fruits in one corner and I started to feel the texture, the shape and the smell. I made guesses. Some were right, some weren’t.

I kept wishing Mint and I hadn’t been separated. And just around that time I heard a cough, and I knew it was him. I tried following the direction of that sound and finally bumped into somebody. ‘Sorry’, I said. ‘Baby, it’s me.’, I heard Mint’s voice. The euphoria and joy of finding him in the dark is hard to put in words. We held hands so that we don’t get separated again.

We went through a busy street. And I paid attention to the noise caused by the traffic. I touched and felt the railing on the road. We even went to a store where some visitors bought a drink. People who purchased things had to hand over the money to the volunteers. A very difficult task when you are surrounded by nothing but darkness. But the visually impaired volunteers knew exactly what amount they were given the moment they touched the money and even returned the right amount of change the next instant!

I think the whole experience of the tour was an eye opener in the literal sense. I realised how we take our sight for granted, how we live such a mechanical existence,  how we’ve stopped using our other senses to feel the environment. Do we really listen, smell, taste and feel as much as we should? We might know we are on a beach just because the visual images around us may tell us so. But very few people will really listen to the sound of the waves, taste the salty air, feel the sand and the wind.

Dialogue in the dark did awaken my senses. And when I see blind people, I connect with them in a different way now. I highly recommend this to anybody who lives in Atlanta. If you’re in India, I think they hold the exhibition in Hyderabad. It is an extraordinary experience indeed.


60 Responses to “Dialogue in the dark”

  1. Bikram said

    🙂 hmmm there was one of those things here too i did not go thinking it will be boring 😦 now i regret reading …

    I loved the way you described it all , and when mint and you got separated 🙂

    I think our senses are great when one goes down the other pick up, we jsut got to figure them all .. and yeah as u say we take our sight for grenated .. 🙂

    good one and Please tell me I am FIRSTTTTTTTTTTTt 🙂

  2. avymom said

    Wow, extremely interesting, a chance to see the world which we cannot. I think it will just increase the respect I have for them to begin with. Resilient people. Well written piece!

  3. ajay said

    Sounds very interesting! I’d like to go on such a tour myself. Very true. Our other senses are overshadowed by our ability of sight and this is the reason, I think, why our opinion of a person, place etc. are greatly influenced by what we see and not what we know. I didn’t like the frequent mention of the word blind on the page you linked to. They should replace it with something like visually impaired.

    • Pepper said

      Okay, I’ve used the word ‘blind’ quite a few times in my post too. I hesitated a lot before writing it down and was wondering if somebody would catch it. But I don’t know how to be politically correct. So I didin’t care to watch my words. I suppose it is the same with those people maintaining that site. By calling them blind, I don’t suppose they are disrespecting them in any way. The intentions are what count I guess.. 🙂

  4. I would love to go to that exhibition! I am so intrigued!

  5. That experience sounds just amazing!
    Applaud the person/people who came up with such brilliant idea.

    On certain occasions, especially outdoors , I prefer to close my eyes and take it all in – the smell, the feel and the sound every bit of it. This post and that concept assures me am doing it right 🙂

    Thanks for the link . Will try have the experience if I get a chance.

    • Pepper said

      The person who came up with the concept needs to be applauded really..
      I like closing my eyes and taking it all in too. I think it makes a big difference..
      Yes, do try and go for it whenever you can 🙂

  6. R's Mom said

    Awesome! I had a music teacher back in school in Baroda who was blind and I used to take him to the bus everyday. He told me that we can often see things that you cant..and then he would just get off the bus when the bus stop came and walk away merrily without any problems! These people are great. Reading your post made me realise how much we take things for granted in our life

  7. Rang said

    It sounds so interesting Pepper and I do get the idea you are trying to convey. Must be an experience. Would love to visit that place someday.

  8. chandni said

    this post touched me in a deep way…..where can i know more about the tour?? u made my day, written beautifully!

  9. That’s a brilliant experience! Thanks for sharing that. Off to find out more about them. I think all of should experience this atleast once!

  10. SH said

    wow this really sounds like something I would really like to try. Very different from the normal outings we usually have…I do hope they hold in thing in more places in India!

    • Pepper said

      It’s definitely a different experience. I hadn’t come across anything close to that ever. Yep, hope they expand their list of venues..

  11. sounds like an amazing experience. Somehow the dark always fascinates me – i love looking out of the window of a plane wondering what’s in the darkness!

  12. Nikita said

    Thanks pepper for sharing the experience as well as the link 🙂 I am in hyderabad and guess what the venue is quite near my workplace, will surely gonna try it.

    You know what I was in the same mall last weekend (where they hold this exhibition) and i remember passing through it’s counter as well… but as most people with full vision do – I completely overlooked it…. and may be I overlook 100s of other things as well in my daily life…may be it would have been great if we some how know to balance our senses… vision, smell, touch, ….

    • Pepper said

      Oh wow you passed it? Great, you can go for it now. Do let me know how you thought it was, and if the one in India has the same concept, etc.

  13. S said

    That is soooo brilliant !!!
    I wish I could go for that trip. Sounds really interesting.

  14. Priya said

    This seems to be so interesting! Brilliant concept indeed.. the experience must definitely be so out of the world for someone who is not visually impaired!!

  15. Wow! This is definitely very interesting.

    I just fowarded the link to some of my friends in Atlanta. Will check out their link too in case we plan a trip. Thanks so much for that.

  16. Ashwathy said

    Brilliant stuff!! I was completely lost in your post…. I could really imagine that walk happening, pitch darkness et al 🙂

  17. That was very moving, Pepper. I think I would like to do that walk one day.

  18. Nice exhibition, never heard about it before.I will check if it is there near my city. Thanks for sharing Pepper. You always come with unique posts..

  19. Comfy said

    Makes you stop and look at your life, does it not? The exhibition sounds amazing, though a little scary. Would love to try it out.

  20. DI said

    Wow! That sounds awesome, I mean the way these people live, and the whole experience. You’re right we have it right near my place of work here, and I have thought a lot of times as to what it was, but never been there! Should do it sometime 🙂

  21. I was having a mental crib fest and this post shut me up 😐 But isn’t it true, we need the most beautiful beaches to even pause and sniff the air. and they do it on a minute basis, in that aspect their life is richer.

  22. Preethi said

    Looking at the website, I just realised that they have an exhibition here in Singapore as well. If it is not possible, I can definitely try in Hyderabad. Thanks for sharing this exoerience Pepper !

  23. RS said

    This is such a thought provoking post – we hardly ever realise all the things we take for granted na? Until we are pushed to experience something.

  24. Homecooked said

    Wow! That sounds really interesting. ON my list if I ever visit Atlanta 🙂

  25. scorpria said

    Well, i must say, i do use all my senses a bit too much, that now Suraj thinks I should use my eyes more than my nose. e thinks I’m pulling a Pumbaa 😉 😀

    But I’d love to go to Hyderabad just for this!!

    • Pepper said

      Lol! I sniff my way around too.. i even wrote about it in a post.. 😀
      Plan a trip to Hyd all the same. Along with this, you can even have a vacation…

  26. Deeps said

    That was amazing! Moments like these make you realize how much you have been taking your life for granted, isnt it? A very thought provoking post!

  27. OMG!That sounds scary and phenomenal at the same time.I cant even imagine, what must be going through your mind,when you and Mint got separated!

  28. Deeps said

    Oops, where’s my comment??

  29. Deboshree said

    Oh my gosh. That must have been something. Scary it sounds. But yes, it will make us realize how much we take our eyes for granted.
    Thanks for sharing P.

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