what she sees
“I feel like I have been missing out on everything, it’s like I’m there, I’m experiencing it, but yet I’m not. I’m distant from it”, says my Maasi (Maternal aunt)
She feels distant because she remembers what it is like to see. Two years into her marriage, at 26, her optic nerve started to shrink & she slowly began losing her eyesight and developed a condition called Optic Atrophy. Even today, medical science has no cure for this.
Holding the family together like a pillar, she has sworn to stay strong and sails through life mostly, but a few moments of weakness break her down. The loss of something she once took for granted seeps into her with the memory of those days. She curses her fate.
An academic scholar and an all rounder at school, her ambitions were to start her own dance academy. She says she found joy in the process of learning and observing.
Amidst a conversation with me.
Little Manu who loves her because she narrates his favorite stories to him. When she meets people, especially kids, she likes to hug them.
Maasi ironing the clothes in the morning while listening to the radio
A childhood portrait of Shivam, my masi’s son, and my cousin.
Making perfectly round chapatis (Indian stable bread)
“I don’t feel blind at home”, says my Aunt. She walks freely and is most comfortable when home.
"It's like the I have a map of my house in my head, so I know where exactly is what and I never need anyone's help with this", says Maasi.
Learning braille doesn't come easy to people who transcended into the disability after turning into an adult. While she has learnt it, but it doesn't come in handy so often.
Maasi uses a basic phone with protruding keys. Smartphones with voice assist aren’t of much help considering they barely understand Indian English accent.
At a relative’s wedding anniversary. The host, my cousin, Vishal asking fun questions from Masi.
At a relative’s wedding anniversary, after the last song & the DJ had packed up.
“Even when I can’t see the sky, I can feel it.”, says my aunt. Her terrace is her solace.
My aunt does all the chores of her house by herself with no external help.
Maasi at her nephew’s wedding, dancing in the baraat on the beats of Dhol while Nani holds one of her hands.
“If I didn’t have faith, if I knew that I wouldn’t see my family again, if this was what it was, it would have been so much easier to quit. But I know I have so much to live for, so much to hope for, so the last thing I’d want to do is give up and quit." says my Aunt.
Her husband & son made relentless efforts back despite financial instability. They tried everything- Ayurveda, allopathy, homeopathy, naturopathy even hypnotism. Unfortunately, nothing came of help.
As a blind mother, her fears are unique and supplemental. “I thought all of my dreams of motherhood were shattered. I didn't think that I could become the mother I had always hoped to be.” She says. But she stood firm on her decision of making the most of what she had
My aunt and uncle’s wedding anniversary. All of us relatives went out for a dinner this day. Maasi was really happy.
“In new places, when there is no one beside me, I feel scared, like some darkness would engulf me.” Says my aunt expressing her fears.
Her strength has inspired me all through my life, in the simple act of doing all the chores of her home, I see great power.. I remember asking her, who helped her the most through her transition. She smiled and said, “The only thing worse than being blind would be having no vision’, I dreamt of raising my child and holding this family together. I see the world, my world through them."
Even though mostly strong, she breaks down and feels miserable about her condition. Optic atrophy affects 1 in 40,000 people- she feels why it had to be her and hopes that one day medical science will have its treatment.
“My hands are now my eyes” says Maasi.