Close your eyes. What do you see? Dark and empty blank space…
Like you are standing in front of the blackboard but don’t know what to write. But when I close my eyes I imagine different vivid colours emerging in front of me but they never appear in real.
My quest for colors was never ending. When I was a kid I used to stare at sun with open eyes followed with closed ones. Those moments with closed eyes I used to feel that a color has appeared in front of me unlike the usual blackboard. It seemed as if the blackboard is transforming into a new sphere painted with bright light but I could never touch it. It might be an illusion I often thought. The color which I felt is called ‘orange’ but I have no idea what it actually looks like.
During my school days I often saw kids fighting for candies. Even though all of them were same for me, they were very choosy to pick any one of them. I especially remember one classmate of mine who used to poke a candy then take his finger away and in the end he used to pick the other. When I grew up I realized that it could have been because of the color of candy.
I was 7 years old when I realized I am colorblind but even then I had no idea about what it actually means, I could see after all. My classmates used to memorize fruits, vegetables or different things by their color but I focused on their shapes. My parents didn’t teach me this, it came naturally to me.
One day I was given an assignment to fill an image with colours Different spaces needed to be filled with different colours. I knew the name of the colours but couldn’t identify them. I randomly picked crayons and filled the picture with it. I scored zero in that assignment and was asked to get it signed by parents. That day my parents came to know that from past 7 years I have been seeing this world in black and white.
They consulted doctors but nothing could be done as there is no cure for colour blindness. Apart from colorblindness there was nothing abnormal about me or my behaviour. I continued to grow up this way but it didn’t have any effect on my studies.
As long as I wrote with pencils my notebooks were well maintained but when I started writing with pens in sixth class everything in my notebook was written with green, black, blue and red pens. I still remember the day when I was severely criticized by my teacher to have drawn diwali diya’s in green color and its flames in black.
With several such awkward incidences I lived my childhood with confused state of mind.
Blessing in Disguise
When I was 16 our school organized a trip to Kasauli. I was sitting in the middle rows of the bus which was not as loud as the back rows or as quiet as the front rows where teachers were sitting.
While all students in bus started praising the mountains for their greenery I closed my eyes and smelled wet soil and inhaled fresh mountain breeze. I realized mountains are not only gigantic but heavenly and pure as well.
Later that evening I was standing alone on the edge of the terrace of the resort we were living in. It was raining at a distant mountain and sun casted its rays on terrace fields. It was a beautiful view even though it was colorless for me.
I heard footsteps, someone was coming from behind but I was so indulged in the view that I didn’t turn back.
“It is so unromantic to watch such a beautiful rainbow alone” I heard a girl’s voice but I still refused to turn.
She came and stood by me. I looked at her, she was familiar.
“Yes I agree. You are very unromantic to watch such a beautiful rainbow alone” said I. She got a little confused but I knew what I was saying.
She looked at me with raised eyebrows and replied “you were watching the rainbow alone”.
“I don’t even see it now” I said.
“Are you stupid, look there it is” said she and pointed her finger towards the rainbow and slowly came closer to me.
All my attention was shifted to her now and I lost interest in watching the rainbow. I saw her as wind was gently stroking her hair, a little diamond on her pierced nose was shining, her deep eyes fixed on the rainbow and her moving lips uttered “See that red ray rising from the field making an arc, followed by yellow green and blue”.
With my eyes fixed on her, everything seemed beautiful that moment even in the absence of colors.
Initially I thought of lying to her by saying that “yes I see it now, it’s gorgeous” but I don’t know how all of a sudden she became someone whom I wouldn’t want to lie.
“Well the thing is that I can only see a beam of light but I can’t see its colors, so it isn’t very appealing to me” I said.
“Come on they are clearly visible, just look carefully” she insisted.
“I am colorblind” I said with three small pauses.
“What is that” she responded awkwardly.
I explained her that it is a disability with which a person is not able to identify colors.
“Oh I see” said she in a comforting tone, trying to stop herself from blabbering any further, to which I sarcastically replied “Oh and I don’t see”.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean that” she apologetically said.
“But I mean it, I don’t see colors. Mine is true colorblindness. I only see black, white and shades of grey” I said with an aim to educate her a little about me.
“Anyways that rainbow wasn’t that beautiful” said she to comfort me.
“Why would you change your opinion for me all of a sudden? Is it because I told you that I am colorblind? Please don’t sympathize with me I am not in the last stage of my life” I uttered these words hastily because I was annoyed with her sympathy.
She left without saying anything. I guess my words pinched her, I could see it in her eyes. Later that night I realized that she was just trying to be nice to me. I made a decision to apologize next day for being rude.
While all the students went on an excursion to the forest I tried to talk to her alone but she was always accompanied by her friends. She was my junior at school. Later that evening while strolling in the garden I was trying to pluck a rose. Suddenly I heard someone shouting “Shubhi”, I turned towards where the voice came from and saw the rainbow girl standing all alone. As her name echoed down the valley I got to know her name. I reached her and said sorry. My right hand was stretched in front of her holding a rose. She looked at it and then looked at me but didn’t say anything.
I shouted “sorry” and further added, “now please forgive me I have already said sorry to you four times”.
“But you said sorry only once” she said confusingly.
“Well, my voice echoed. Right” I convincingly said which made her laugh.
I can’t describe how beautiful she looked while laughing. Once she ended laughing there was an elongated smile on her face and her eyes fixed on me, I fell in love with her right at that moment.
She accepted the rose as a symbol of forgiveness. I didn’t realize but my fingers were bleeding.
I was struck by the fact that I couldn’t even see the color of my blood and remained silent for a moment then she held my fingers in her soft palms and cleaned the blood by plucking a petal from the rose I gave it to her.
Before this incident I never experienced such mixed emotions where my mind was battling with the harsh truth of my incapability to see colors and my heart melting like a candle for her moment by moment.
I bid her adieu and she wished me good night but deep inside I knew that I won’t be able to sleep well for few days. I kept thinking about her that night memorizing how pretty she looks when she smiles and how she caressed my fingers with rose petal. Her palm was softer than the petal.
Next day her behavior towards me significantly changed. She started spending more time with me, we walked together for hours. She grabbed my arm in hers. The way she held it tight, I sensed that she would never want to let go of me. I was fortunate to see her smile almost after every couple of minutes.
I was a little confused about her sudden inclination towards me but instead of getting worried I rather welcomed it.
While traveling back to Delhi from Kasauli she sat beside me in the bus. While her head was resting on my shoulder I started taking interest in the moving things outside the window, mainly because I wasn’t feeling very comfortable.
She sensed me being uncomfortable and kept quiet for a while. Her silence started bothering me. After doing some calculations in her mind for couple of minutes with deep thoughts she finally broke the silence.
“Don’t get me wrong but I am going to ask you a question”, She asked suspiciously.
“Shoot me”, I confidently said.
“Do you know which colored rose you gave me?” she asked.
I knew what she was getting at but I covered it by saying “I wanted to apologize so I thought of giving you the rose. I don’t have any idea about the color”.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” she yelled. “How could you be so stupid even after knowing everything” she started talking to herself.
“Is anything wrong” I worriedly said.
“No Akash, it’s not your fault. It was me who started believing that you are also in love with me when you gave me red rose but you didn’t mean it. But today I realized one truth; Love makes you see things the way you want to see it”. She said with lowered head and depressing tone.
“You know what, you became special for me the moment you were trying to show me the rainbow. You are the only person I met who desperately wanted to show me colours The only person in this world with whose eyes I would want to see colors, is you and yes I am in love with you”, I expressed my true feelings after which my heart became as light as cotton flying in the air with the gust of wind.
Her eyes became wet and she rested her head on my shoulder once again, but this time it meant more than anything I would care about.
The biggest mistake that I did in my life was to go with science stream without doing enough research. I completed my school and B.Sc but couldn’t get a job. Colorblind people can’t join Army or Air force This was the harshest truth that I came across after dedicating 21 years of my life towards serious studies.
Incapable to see colours is considered disability and inefficient by many organizations. I couldn’t even help my parents with simple house electricity work because of the color coded wiring used. Little things like matching clothes was also an added complication. The only persons who supported me through this phase were my parents and Shubhi.
I couldn’t do shopping alone and most of the times I would dress like a clown wearing weird color combinations. She usually behaved totally normal when in order to look good on a date I made a complete fool of myself. People stared at me and laughed thus ruining my day. When I was in school these things didn’t bother me but now it was the worst situation to tackle with.
I completely dropped the idea of doing a job related to science stream so I decided to do something creative. I enrolled myself for a graphic designing course but soon I realized that matching colours is the most efficient part of designing as well. My mind wasn’t fixed at one place. I often took stupid decisions without thinking in depth. The desperation to do something, to achieve reputation was overburdening my sensibly decision making capabilities.
I started believing that my disability is a curse. I often got annoyed by my parents and Shubhi, because I thought I don’t deserve their love, their care and their understanding nature. The dark clouds of ill fate started hovering above my already disturbed life. This phase of my life was mentally and emotionally painful and I slowly crawled to get out of it.
Black and White
While walking hand in hand on a winter evening Shubhi asked me to get married. There was so much that I wanted to do for her but without a decent job it wasn’t possible. Her future became priority for me rather than love. I asked her to give me some more time and I knew I was asking too much. She was 27 now and her parents started searching groom for her.
Seeing us walking together a poor girl came towards us with a bouquet of red roses wrapped in an old newspaper. She prayed to god that we stay together till eternity and then asked me to buy roses for Shubhi. As I recalled the incident from Kasauli school trip, I bought roses from her. An interesting picture on the newspaper captured my attention. I asked Shubhi whether what all colors are visible in this picture.
“This picture is black and white” she answered. Suddenly it struck my mind, why not become a photographer.
I learned in depth about monochrome photography or black & white photography. Being one of the most creatively inspiring genres in photography, black & white was ideal choice for me. After all, the viewfinder of my eyes has always been set on black and white mode. Seeing this world in black and white from the first day of my life gave me an added advantage to frame things precisely.
My photography work was admired by critics and exhibitions also turned out to be successful. I managed to earn good amount of money as time passed by. It was sheer luck that I ended up making this disability as my strength. Had I not purchased flowers for Shubhi that day, I would have been doing something else entirely in my life.
Eventually we got married. When she was pregnant I brought bananas for her good health but during dinner she served me dry gravy with bananas in it. Seeing confused look on my face she laughingly said “those bananas were unripe”. Thus colorblindness interestingly made our bond grew strong.
But another harsh reality was on its way to strike me. During last months of her pregnancy I told doctor about my colorblindness. Initially I was worried that I will never be able to see the color of my child’s eyes because eyes are the only thing that a father looks at while holding his child for the first time.
But that wasn’t it there is much more melancholy in my story. My child is the carrier of my disability which will make him colorblind as well. Struck by this news I felt extremely sad and cursed myself to be born this way and broke into tears. I felt a hand on my shoulder it was my father consoling me. I still remember the words he said that day “You have been through this phase your entire life and you have experienced every awkward situation of being colorblind. I have no idea how it is to be born colorblind, I just tried to comprehend it through you. My son I never gave up on you, just be there for your child as well. Your experience of seeing things in black and white will help your son more than anything else.”
I started living my childhood days again with the confusions that bedazzled my child’s mind. It is particularly special to see Shubhi dressing me and my son on special occasions. There was a day when she wanted to show me rainbow and today she has painted my life with colours by her presence. Irrespective of ups and downs in my life here I am today sharing every moment of happiness with my family and to this day I imagine colours in different forms in my mind with closed eyes.
Written by: Sandeep Bisht