Rajesh Kumar

Optimizing life, one day after the next

If only I had known

29 Jul 2005

I felt like a little schoolboy in love. I felt like I was in control of everything. I thought everybody obeyed my rules. It was rediscovery all over again.

I walked into a bus, change tightly clasped in my palm. In front of me was a partially blind man — dark black glasses hiding his eyes and a red-taped walking stick in his right armpit as he fumbled in his wallet for change. Everyone in the bus was looking at the blind man. One could sense the copious flow of pity in the atmosphere. The driver motioned the man to keep moving. He needn't have to pay. Some kind folks got up from the front row and offered their seats to this poor, blind man. All but one. One person — he was young and looked tremendously fit. He too wore dark glasses but his were stylish Ray Ban aviators. But he failed to get up even after acknowledging a poor old visually-impaired gentleman looking for a place to sit.

Anger surged within me. How could one be so selfish? I went up to this guy, my eyes glaring at his. "Who do you think you are!" I started. "Don't you know this seat is reserved for the handicapped?" My volume was beginning to increase. The whole bus was looking at us. "Get up now, and next time, try to be a little more courteous towards the helpless," I barked. I wanted to give him more of my dosage, but thought the better of myself and left it at that. I couldn't imagine someone being so impertinent and bad-mannered, especially towards an old handicapped gentleman.

If only I had known that this young man with the stylish-looking Ray Ban aviators couldn't hear me. He was not only deaf, but also dumb. If only I had known that he had just suffered a serious nervous breakdown the previous week, and had had his retinas detached from the back of his eyes. If only I had known his family was in ruins. He had no money to pay for his children's education. Those expensive glasses were gifted to him by the doctor who operated on his eyes for no cost. If only I had known his left side had been completely paralyzed by a major car accident two months ago. And his right atrium in his heart had a hole as big as a penny. It was a birth defect, the doctors informed him. Experts call him a miracle. Because only they knew that something as trivial as a sneeze could rupture his blood vessels and cause him a brain hemorrhage.

If only I had known his bleeding was internal.

If only …

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