Going Shopping as a born-blind. -COBHAMS ASUQUO
I was born blind. No one else in my family of six children is blind. There’s no known cause, no links, no explanations, just the reality that I can’t see with my eyes. I was born and raised in the military barracks and I don’t mean the great side of the barracks but the other side.
I live in a small Block of 18 two-bedroom flats. I shared a room with my two parents, three siblings and whatever stray pets came our way at that time as well as my father’s undergrad master 180 motorcycle; which slept in the living room with me and my siblings for fear that one of its mirrors might be stolen by morning. And my neighbors, there was always something to look forward to. My mornings were characterized by news of whose water pumping machine had been stolen by morning or squabbles between neighbors over who had wrongly killed or eaten whose chicken.
Blindness does not have any physical, psychological or social meaning because since I’ve never experienced sight, I wasn’t aware that I was without sight.
To tell born-blind, blindness does not have any physical, psychological or social meaning because since I’ve never experienced sight, I wasn’t aware that I was without sight and so I thoroughly indulged in the inner sense of young boyhood. I ran down stairs, jumped over gutters, played hard, fought even harder and got into every imaginable type of trouble a skinny rambunctious young child could get into.
On a number of occasions, I ran into walls, people, furniture so hard that an observer would shake their head and say in pidgin English, “person wey we dey feel sorry for no dey feel sorry for himself” in other words, the person I’m feeling sorry for and worrying about is not feeling sorry for himself. And of course, my response to such rebuke was to scurry off and catch up with my friends and hide whatever sprains or bruises I had acquired away from my mother’s disapproving eyes.
Initially, I scoffed at other people ‘s well meaning concern and pity because I didn’t understand what the fuss was all about.
As I grew older and I gained more understanding of the intricacies of living as a sight less person in a world designed for sighted people, I was faced with the looming possibility of failure in my life but what I actually considered to be much worse was people were ready to excuse my failure because of my disability which brings me to my first lesson; Do not excuse failure for any reason on any account.
Now, I don’t mean people should be unmerciful or impatient towards those who are either less able or weak or disadvantaged. I believe we should share one another ‘s burdens because we all face low points in our lives. The point is that failure will come but the same way it comes we should see to it that it goes.
Instead, what I’ve observed is that wherever there’s a larger than life seemingly insurmountable flaw in a system, cities, leaders even our own characters and bodies, we tend to excuse the failure, we overlook it, we pardon it, we indulge it and become even comfortable with it.
Sometimes, we even find different terms for the failure. In my country we sometimes call it “the Nigerian Factor” so if something isn’t working the way it should, we automatically blame it on the Nigerian Factor and move on with our lives. But by excusing failure and blaming it on some systemic flaw, we miss the opportunity to scale through those seemingly insurmountable obstacles to elevate ourselves and elevate others.
So when I turned ten, I was enrolled in a primary burden school for the blind. Fast forward to graduation day, teachers and other well wishers were giving us advice about going into the sighted world.
We were forewarned that we would come across people that would be genuinely mean to us, people would snatch away our guide canes, pull out our typewriter ribbons, not give us our change and generally just take advantage of us because we are blind.
Not all public opinion is correct opinion.
From my experience, not all public opinion is correct opinion so, I personally decided not to take that piece of advice. I don’t know whether it was conscious but I decided to just trust. I figured that there were so many unfortunate things in life that can happen to one regardless of whether or not one is blind so why should I heap on an extra helping of worry just on myself.
This is my second lesson and it’s a tough one but I’ve learnt it from blindness to learn to trust even sometimes when I have no reason to. Now I’ve learnt this lesson over and over again. As a child, kids could play good pranks on me. My older brother taught me how to jump over open Street gutters so anytime I was walking with friends and they informed me that there was an approaching gutter, I would jump, no questions asked but pretty soon I discovered my friends were telling me to jump even when there were no gutters to jump just so they’ll have a good laugh.
I think that trust has no expiration date.
Eventually, we all ended up having a good laugh about it. But even after I found out, I still continued to jump when they said jump. I chose to trust them because quite honestly, staying out of the smelly sewage gutters was very important to me.
You might ask, can’t a person be too trusting? but I think that trust has no expiration date. Blindness has taught me to keep trusting, keep hoping and believing.
As for my white cane story, I’m yet to meet one friend of mine who has had their cane snatched from them.
Story by Cobhams Asuquo.