On that gloomy skied evening, it took us a long and quite an uncomfortable drive on countless badly laid roads and rugged streets, each of which turned around a corner into an even more narrow lane with no streetlights, to reach the place. Traveling to another place in Salem, by car and for almost an hour seemed ironical. We reached the end of the maze. Hidden behind all those buildings, at the end of all the trees was the School for the Blind.
As we walked inside, the many little kids crowding around brought back memories of the last time I was here with dad. The manager explained to my relatives that the blind school housed not only children who were partially or completely blind, but also ones who were mute and hard of hearing.
Their meal began the conventional way- One of the kids would stand up and recite a long prayer and all the others would repeat every line. The earnestness in the prayer was so touching that it would have filled anyone’s eyes. I stood still observing all the kids around, while listening to all that was being said. There was this pretty little girl smiling at me all through. I could see she that she could see, and instantly I realized she could neither speak nor hear. Just the thought of it hurt. They prayed for the well-being of the sponsors of the meal, in this case, it was us. At the end of the prayer, they all applauded to express their gratitude and appreciation. The sight was poignant. Two of my aunts walked out of the room in tears.
It was then time for food. Again, going by the traditional way, we served the sweets and then the staff took over. My relatives were, I guess, too sensitive to take any more of it; they left the room. It was just dad and me inside. I believe that expression of love to such kids is vital; I refused to leave the room.
I could not take my mind off that li’l girl. I really wanted to talk to her, I had no clue how to. Talking to her was not a possibility. Sign language was something I had no idea about. For the first time in my life I felt a complete inability to communicate and yet a longing to express. I felt helpless. I felt horrible. All I could do was smile, and that’s all I did.
Cursing my powerlessness and myself, I whiled away time talking to other kids and serving food. An hour later, I was outside on the corridor, when this li’l girl walked up to me and gestured asking if I had eaten. I responded, saying I did. I followed this up with a couple of simple questions that she answered similarly. Then she wanted to tell me her name. She could not pronounce it; that instantly made me feel very bad. She, with her index finger wrote it on my palm for me to feel and comprehend. She was called Pavithra. Then it was my turn to introduce myself. I regretted having never properly learnt to write in Tamil. I still did give it a try, though I spelled my name wrong (which was very embarrassingL). Pavithra held my hand and led me to the girls’ dorm. She took me inside, showed me around. She then pointed to me, then to herself, and then brought her hands together to show friendship. I fought to control my tears.
I was happy. I was sad. I was all of it together.
I want to reach out, do something more. For the present, I guess I’ll just visit her soon with a lot of goodies.