To be felt and not to be seen

Seeing by touching and feeling.

Hands stretched out these boys make their way through the corridors. I'm sure they feel my presence, they feel the shift in the air column and they hear the shuffling of my feet. Through experience and from the signs I’ve dropped they can probably guesstimate someone twice their height is crouched on the floor on his knees and is leaning forward in a rather awkward angle and they have no reason of telling why. I’m yet another obstacle in their path but than again experience has taught them to overcome such obstacles with a smile and they do

Imagine living a day without seeing, imagine someone has fastened an oval bandages over your eyes the kind that ophthalmists favor so much. You go about your day exploring how loosing one of your senses affects your life in unpredictable ways. I would imagine your day to be a kind of sensory travel which would test the limits of the visible. Once you’re on your morning train to work – mostly a circumstance of the kindness of some stranger. I’m sure you’ll inhabit a world very different than one you are used to the underlying irony being nothing is quiet changed except for the temporary loss of one of your senses. May be your commute will sound quieter than usual may or even sound empty, or even quiet. May be you’ll hear the distant whisper of Gujurati men swapping stock tips or the tinny echoes of distant voices of your local radio station or the occasional ringing of a mobile phone. I’m sure in fact the compartment is packed but the morning office crowd isn’t in the mood for conversation. To the blind man, the mute crowd is undetectable. As a photographer so often there is so much more to be felt than there is to be seen and it then becomes your job to translate what is being felt into what is felt through your cameras. May be being blind is when your whole world is to be felt and not to be seen,

A couple of months ago I got the opportunity by some coincidence to wield my camera at a blind school here in Mumbai.

Outsite lies the World
[Outside lies the world;When you are blind you take refuge in familiarity of your surroundings]

[Bombay is pretty much a hellhole if you are bind - the lack of pavements, undue obstructions on roads, unleveled roads, open manholes/gutters - all serious hazards. Then again of flip side it is still possible for someone visually challenged to commute from Virar to Worli everyday all thanks to some facilitation by some kind strangers along the way]

The Crossing.
[Though I've nothing against the Mumbai Traffic Police - but I think in this picture the presense of a camera galvanized this mamu into action.]

The Road is never Easy
[Obstacles everywhere you turn]

[They still manage them with a smile]


India Writing
points me to great story in this week's Outlook [here]

Nidhi Kaila’s organisation Esha (, which works with visually-impaired children, has come up with innovative little schemes - like Braille - embossing visiting cards on order for a rupee a card, or audio-recording a book of one’s choice for one’s drive to work. It’s not just about helping the children to earn some money. It’s also about making sure that one does that extra bit to show some sensitivity for the visually-impaired.

There is more on the story here. If you can help please do.

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wandering dervish said...

hi akshay,
i have been a regular follower of your photo-stories for over a year now, and enjoy them immensely.
i was wondering if you know of this competition - it seemed you are an ideal candidate for this.

all best!

Anita said...

Thanks for another beautiful photo essay, Akshay.

Vi said...

Would we see life more clearly if we were blind?

Akshay said...

wanderingdervish - thanks a million as matter of fact I would love to enter the CPU competition.

anita - I enjoyed it immensely when I shoot it sharing is the only possible step.

vi - it is a valid questions - people sometimes value things more than they lose something and who knows may be being blind could open other avenues you wouldn't even think of as a person who can see.

Melody said...

The "Obstacles" pic was sooo moving... like almost like walking in their shoes...

Brilliant. Then again, now expect nothing less from you.

PS: Am getting really impatient. Dying to buy "The Inheritance of Loss" Que Pasa?

Natasha said...

Hi Akshay - just discovered your blog - was looking for some pictures as I was getting a bit nostalgic. Yours are beautiful indeed. Trawling through your archives at every free moment.

How do we know said...

Hey.. I had no idea you'd made a reference to this outlook story here.. Thanks so much! Also for the wonderful photo essay. When they said a picture speaks a thousand words, they probably had this essay in mind! :-)