Seeing in the Dark
We were in complete darkness.
The fruit I was holding was round and smooth on the outside, but it felt strangely hollow, as though there was air between the flesh and the skin. Our task was to figure out what it was.
“What is it?” someone somewhere on my right asked. I couldn’t tell where this person was sitting exactly; he could’ve been two or five feet away. I knew we were sitting at a table, but I had no idea how large the table was. The dark seemed to have blurred all sense of space and distance.
I made a hole in the fruit with my finger and it came out wet and sweet-smelling. The taste wasn’t familiar. The flesh was too soft for it to be a guava and the fruit too round to be a mango.
“I don’t know what this is,” I announced, to no-one in particular.
I passed the mango-orange-guava-kiwifruit-whatever to Hafiz who I knew was sitting next to me, but only because he had told me so. I wouldn’t have known otherwise. “Can you tell what it is?” I asked.
“I can’t,” he said after a few slurping sounds. Without the benefit of sight, our taste buds had failed us.
But that was exactly what Dialogue in the Dark was all about – the purpose of the workshop is to rid you of your sight, leaving you with only your sense of touch, taste, smell, and hearing. My teammates and I weren’t wearing blindfolds; our eyes were wide open, but the room we were in – once again, how large or small, I couldn’t tell – had been fitted to block out all light.
The twelve of us had been divided into three groups and each group had its own trainer. Ours was Siti, and the only thing we could identify her with was her gentle voice.
She guided us through our tasks, handing out more food items for us to figure out and parts for a railway track which we had to build in the dark. Another task involved identifying animal sounds.
I didn’t have the time to read up beforehand on Dialogue in the Dark, so I went in being completely ignorant about the workshop. I naively thought that the objective of the exercises was merely to have fun. Fruits, animal and bird sounds? Railway track? Sure, I can do this, I thought. It’s all team-building and communication. Piece of cake.
And then the workshop ended and the lights came on. I turned to look for our trainer, the owner of that soft voice which had encouraged and coaxed us, especially when it came to that blasted railway track, which we didn’t manage to complete.
Siti was standing a few feet away from our table, smiling quietly to herself and I realised why, even with the lights on, she still wasn’t able to see us. She was blind.
For one and a half hours, we had felt what it was like to be without sight and to experience what the Dialogue in the Dark trainers go through every single day.
Like them, we had been forced to rely on our other senses. The only difference was that we had been confined to a room for ninety minutes, whereas the blind lead real lives outside- they still have to cross roads, go to the bathroom, prepare their meals, all in the dark.
Too easily, sighted people forget to pay attention to the remaining four senses.
And too often, we fail to notice and empathise with those who have to live in the dark every day.
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