When I was young I used to read all my books sitting in this tiny wicker chair in a corner of my room, under the window and near the cabinet filled with the joint collection of my brother’s and my GI Joe and He-Man toys.
I sat in this little wicker chair until it groaned under my weight. I knew it was time to give it up when I got up and it got up with me, attached to my teenage behind.
In the daytime, reading in this chair was glorious. The 2 windows on my right let in ample light and although my room door wouldn’t lock (and the parents insisted it be left open) one of the window curtains hung in a most obliging way on my left, providing privacy from that offensively wide open door.
At night I would sit there still, somethings smuggling pudding in a bowl or tomatoes under my t-shirt (The cook complained I ate all her cooking tomatoes. Which are delicious with a book, like an apple, but tangy-er and somehow richer in taste). There was unfortunately very little light in that corner at night. The obliging privacy curtain was now blocking the light from the lamp above, which was in any case, like all Indian lights some tawdry 60 watts.
Slowly but surely I started to notice that I couldn’t see the blackboard at school very well from the back of the class (no self-respecting person sits in the front of the class.)
I didn’t tell my mother because I knew she would be deeply disapproving of such a defect. She had never said anything to me precisely but something in me knew that resenting this physical fault, she would blame me.
I kept it hidden for a long time, managing by copying notes from better sighted desk partners, who grew annoyed with my inability to make my own notes.
Eventually I confessed to my parents that I couldn’t see. It was at the dinner table. My parents had asked me what I’d done in school or some such thing. There was a pause and I decided to just jump right in there.
“…I can’t see the blackboard.”
“OH NO! WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T SEE IT?? OH NO! You’re going to need glasses now!”
Replied my mother on cue. She tutted and sighed, and was disappointed. She reacted, I recall thinking even then, just as I had predicted.
I can’t remember visiting the eye doctor, but I remember my father taking me to get my first ever pair of spectacles. The owlish kind, huge rims in brown plastic, like the ones back in vogue now with the hipster crowd.
My mother installed a reading light above the little wicker chair in the corner of the room. When the fan was on, the obliging curtain would sometimes still obscure it.
My prescription over the years steadily increased. Last week it was a stunning -9.5. I only ever wore my glasses in the house. Outside it was always contacts. The high number distorted my eyes out of shape, the glasses made me feel ugly, like walking around with goggles. My eyes occasionally catching blurred glimpses outside the border of the frames.
Recently I decided that after 20 years or more of wearing glasses it was time to get my eye sight corrected. I actually only decided this because there was a LivingSocial deal for 50% off Lasik eye surgery in London, in what looked like a good clinic. Indians love a good deal.
Spending thousands on eye surgery is rather terrifying. My stomach lurched palpably as I click the ‘Confirm Buy’ button and I had the sickening sensation of having spent what seemed like an astronomical amount of money.
Naturally all the Indians I know promptly said
“Aaare!! Are you crazy? You should do the surgery in Bombay – It’s so much cheaper!”
Which considering that I’m in Bombay for 3 weeks out of 52 weeks in a year was advice that annoyed me. Besides, I don’t feel like I’d like to do some kunjoosy (be cheap) over my eyes. I need them, and Vasant Dhoble vicarious living aside, I’m not actually resident in Bombay anymore. If anything (forbid the thought) should go wrong, I’d like to know my clinic is not an 8 hour flight away.
After the pre-op consult they told me to wear my glasses for 2 weeks, which I grudgingly did.
People frequently stared.
A2, one of the bosses stopped mid-sentence to look at my huge prescription.
No that isn’t a euphemism.
A stupid girl with curly, black hair and thick black, bushy eyebrows who works in the Falafal place I regularly buy lunch from, saw me and shrieked.
“OH MY GOD! WHAT HAPPEN TO YOUR EYES?”
I told her I was just wearing glasses. I was going to have eye surgery.
She said. She didn’t look convinced that any eye surgery could possibly help me.
While making my falafal she looked up at me repeatedly, staring at my glasses and occasionally sighing melancholically.
Like I had just told her I had AIDS or some malignant tumor.
I repressed a growing urge to grab her by her curly head and smash it straight onto the falafal counter.
The freshly made falfals would go flying, bouncing around the shop, the bowls of sauce would tip over and drip all over the counter.
It would be joyous.
So it’s been nearly a week after my surgery. Sometimes my eyes feel tired and dry but otherwise everything is fine. My number is gone as are my glasses.
I must confess, the moment of revelation hasn’t yet hit me. I don’t really notice the difference much. I don’t feel any different. I don’t feel any sense of elation or excitement.
Sure, I notice the small things. The time shaved off in the morning fiddling about with contacts, waking and being able to see. But that hasn’t really struck any deep chord.
I remember wearing my glasses for the first time. The memory is distinct and clear.
I had just walked out of the spectacle shop on the road that leads to Parla station. My father had taken me. I was wearing my first pair of glasses ever.
I suppose I ought to have resented the glasses. I would probably be teased, and be called four-eyes. I’d be ugly. Although a few of those things may have flitted through my mind they didn’t seem to matter.
I put them on, and it was instant. The relief. There it was, the revelation – I could see!
The closest I’ve come to a revelation now is when I tried to take off a set of phantom glasses when I got into bed. It took a puzzled second or two to realise I wasn’t wearing any.
Maybe it’s because I’m an adult now. Revelations are so scarce when you are an adult.