Recently, I was in a shopping mall heading towards McDonald’s for a dinner. As I walked past a showroom, I noticed an odd occurrence. Three Men, holding each other by the arms were walking in a straight line. One look and I had dismissed this sight. But then I paused and looked at them again. Here were the three blind men, white sticks in hand, goggles covering their eyes at 9 in the night, walking steadily in the middle of the mall.
I went over to them and inquired as to where they were headed. They said they wanted to go to the loo and the lead amongst them confirmed from me that it was in the direction ahead. I corrected him by saying in a matter of fact way that he would have to turn to the right after walking down a bit further. He thanked me and started heading out in the initial direction. Instantly, it occurred to me that in the most insensitive way, I had told them the directions but not the distances. I latched on to the first one and took them to the corner where they had to turn right and pointed them on to start walking in the said direction. Again, they thanked me and started off. Satisfied that I had done a good job, I walked off but stopped before having gone more than a few steps. I cussed at myself for being that stupid and ran back to them in order to guide them further to the exact door. When I reached, they were fumbling around a fire escape, looking for the correct door. Many onlookers were passing by them, surprised to see them try to find their way in the maze of objects and paths we “sighted” people take for granted. Before I could reach though, another fellow had arrived and helped them get to the restroom. I realized as I looked from a distance that it was the lead who alone had to go to the loo but the other two had no option than to follow him. They stopped at the door and waited for him to return.
As I walked off, a thought came to my mind. As the world around us progresses and technology allows us to become greater than ourselves, the society we live in does not change, the plight of the people does not change and the conditions which affect us do not change. We may be running after cures for cancer and aging but the blind man still cannot see and the deaf can still not hear. There is technology to enable them in doing these too, but that technology is not available to the present at a price which does not hit the pride of the man bearing the cost. Those blind men were not in rags but seemed suitably dressed. A poor blind man would have been stopped at the doors of the mall and forced to look for a loo elsewhere but the guard let them in and guided their path too, in his own insensitive way. That goes to say that the latest gadgets which help the blind(no euphemisms here, say it as it is) are within their reach but not there yet.
As a tech enthusiast and a software programmer, I can say that anything is possible in the world of technology. As a hardware designer and a practical man, I can say that we are not looking at the right ventures. I can blame many for not following up on this, from Steve Jobs to the Indian Government, but till some brilliant yet cheap technology comes into the possession of these disabled people, let’s make sure that the three blind men you see on the road next time reach home safely. Let us make sure that the stark contrast between consumerism of the most blatant kind and the simple reality that life has not yet changed despite Science’s greatest contributions be diminished by Humanism, for that too is as simple as extending your hand and guiding the path of those who cannot see.