It’s another day in the City of Dreams. The sun’s gentle warmth is all over me, inside me. Even without seeing you can feel the early morning heat evaporating the dew on the grass, can’t you? Where I am sitting is my accustomed place in this park; where I like to welcome my mornings—except when it rains. The stone bench is cool beneath me. Ah! the bliss. The breeze blows in stuttering gusts, bringing along the smell of salt and sea, absorbing the rich aroma of trees and blossoms on its way.
I can hear voices of the children, the adults and the resonant painting of passing joggers. There’s a whole bunch of geriatrics laughing like loons about two-hundred meters to my left. Look, a bird went flapping by and another and another. There’s a whole flock taking flight from the mango-tree above me.
You must be wondering why I cannot tell you what I see. Well, that’s the thing: I’m visually-impaired as the term goes, or bluntly put, a blind man. I was born that way. It wasn’t easy growing up but over the years I managed to stand up for myself, honed my senses and abilities and finally I’m out here, seeking my fortune as an all-night radio-jockey at a local station. I’ll probably make my way into the day slots soon if I keep trying.
Look, there are three boys coming our way, bouncing a basketball on the ground. Don’t get puzzled. I know it sounds confusing. One second I tell you I’m blind, the other I’m telling you about the boys heading this way with their basketball. I cannot see, yes—like blind people are supposed to, but I can still see well enough.
No that doesn’t mean I’m not blind. It’s just that I don’t need eyes to see. I don’t see the way you do but I sure can sense a lot of things about you—my other senses are sharp and very much intact. If we ever come across the next time I’ll be able to sense your presence from less than a hundred feet. You don’t believe me, I know. I claim to be too much capable for a blind fellow. You remember what they say: when one door closes, another opens? Fate took my eyesight away but gave me a different way to see the world. It took me twenty years to fully understand the sensory inputs my brain receives and processes.
What do I see? Well, I haven’t tried explaining this to anyone before. Hmm. I see colors. I cannot differentiate yellow from red, orange from blue: I don’t even know how yellow or red even looks. No one pointed the hue at me and said—“that’s red, that’s blue”. I didn’t have the luxury to relate the colors with names. I just know what I see are colors—bright, flashing, flowing colors that explode in my darkness. They are around every living being, you know. Thoughts, emotions, they all have colors—all various intensities of energy. Trees, grass, insects, birds and us, we’re all vessels for these energies. Even non-living, insensate things are formed of these energies, can you believe that? You see skin color, the clothes, hair, and structure. I see shimmering clouds of colors. It’s like a waving, and moving rainbow—only there are far more than seven shades I can perceive. Walking on the soft green grass for you is like walking on a carpet woven of colors too many to be named or counted, for me.
What did you say—auras? Yes, call it an aura, life-force, sentience, whatever you want to. For me, these colors and auras are visual perceptions. Trees are burning flames with root-like tendrils, giving off a steaming aura of intermingling shades. I love to spend time here in the park because of the trees. If only you could see what I see. It’s like there’s some mystical gathering of lights. You’d be able to recognize many colors and a lot many that cannot be described, they look one shade now, then mix with another and make a new color and then on and on. Even we humans make a pretty sight when we are buzzing with happiness and vitality. I attended a family wedding, three years ago, the first in seventeen years. Everyone was happy—dancing, singing, talking. It was as if I was living around halos, each burning with a unique combination of the colors I can see. I don’t like funerals, though.
Yes, I can hear the plane. What do I see? Well, it’s a flying dot leaving a trail of colors in its wake.
The two people who went by? You are trying to test the truth in my words, aren’t you? I totally get it, it’s natural. You needn’t clarify. Well, the two people who passed us were a girl in her early twenties and her father must be in his late-fifties. He has diabetes and a back problem. And I am not bluffing, trust me, you can go and ask the gentleman. They haven’t gone far.
I wasn’t always like this. The colors came and went when I was small. They began to last for longer periods after my sixth birthday. Took me a while to figure out what they meant. There are butterflies hovering on the bush. I bet they look beautiful, don’t they? See, I am not lying.
I’m glad you raised that question. I do have a beautiful life. I think even your life would look beautiful if you learned to be content with what you have and worry less about what you need to have. Tell me, don’t you at times wish you didn’t have to see or feel some things—tragedies, accidents, death? I’m no exception to this rule. There is an ugly side to my world of colors: the decay. You know we are living, breathing clocks. The moment we are born, the very second our colors- aura in your words, come aflame, the decay begins. A healthy newborn has the purest shades of colors. It gets brighter and stronger as the years go by then begins to falter as we age further. They grow dim and less diverse as we grow old and weak until that is visible is a swarm of darkness hovering around the colors. I feel quite a lot of sadness, depression around me, even you are troubled by something in your life. The colors begin to change when this happens, they become less bright, less magical. As for the rest of the colors, age and disease take them away until there’s nothing left except darkness where the person had been. You don’t want to see something like that, not even for the most blissful sensations of this world. It makes you more aware of your ongoing decay; how it’ll be a few decades hence—provided you don’t die by accidental causes. Ignore my poor attempt at humor.
Oh, you are going? Yes, even I should also get going. It’s never good to make a lady wait. Your friend is beautiful.
No, not at all, I just drifted away. It was nice meeting you. I just want to say one thing though. Please forgive me if it offends you but your girlfriend—sorry, your fiancé, she doesn’t look well. The colors are strong around her, she might seem perfectly fine on the outside but there’s something gnawing at her in the inside. Even if you don’t believe my story, which I’m sure you don’t, please go see a doctor. In any case, it wouldn’t hurt, would it?
Something tells me this is the first and the last time we’re talking. I don’t blame you, believe me. I would understand. But for once, see a doctor. You see the man resting on the bench near where your fiancé is standing? He needs to go to a doctor, too. He’s going to have a cardiac arrest in a week or so—the colors are all fluttery and restless.
Goodbye and I wish you well, sir. You know where and when to find me, just in case. I’ll be right here on this bench.
by Kumar Aditya