The stories of blind people navigating their way through the larger, bustling world of their sighted peers has seldom been told by those who experienced life with this additional problem. I am one of several blind people who tries to make the best of his situation, given that we have all been through our fair share of hard times that seem tame by sighted people’s standards. Whether it is navigating our way through streets, eating in a socially acceptable manner, or just appearing “normal”, we have had to find alternatives to making life work out for the better, and have come out successful in our endless pursuit. For many of us, the struggle started the day we were born, and continues throughout life, ensuring that, in the long run, we get used to it.
My story began on June 25, 2002, in Mumbai, one of India’s largest cities, where I was born Adhyayan Singh to two Indian computer professionals. My dad relocated our small, close-knit family throughout many countries, as I had to endure several operations on my eyes in the hope that I would regain my vision someday. Due to my premature birth, however, it could not be done as my retinas were not developed, and we soon moved back to India. When I was three years old, my Dad got a job transfer to Melbourne, Australia, where we hoped we could stay permanently. Sadly, this was not to be, as we were refused by the government, prompting our move back to India. I attended school in Hyderabad, India, completing first and second grade there. However, while I excelled academically, I struggled socially, having no one to confide in, and no one to talk to but my parents. Noticing the difficulties of life in our home country, my Dad requested, and soon was granted, a job transfer to the Land of Opportunities, the United States.
In the fall of 2010, our family moved to the United States, to a city called St. Paul, in central Minnesota state. At my Elementary School, I learned how to use the devices that would eventually become important parts of my daily life, such as a Perkins brailler, and a white cane which I hated for most of my young life. I loathed the “stick”, as I felt it didn’t make me look “normal”. There were days when I would try to get rid of the cane, forgetting it, throwing it away, and provoking my teachers by using it to hit other students who were in my way. I didn’t want to stand out, and I felt my cane was to blame for it. To add to my trouble, I also struggled to communicate effectively with the students, and I did my best to avoid them. I didn’t want to get myself into a situation where embarrassment awaited, and thus did my best not to get too close to anyone. Only later would I learn what normalcy really meant.
The food at school was another problem, as it was not suited to Indian tastes and everybody ate with “strange” metal tools. Thus, I would request the staff to let me sit alone, as I was too embarrassed to eat the way I did with other students looking on. I would try to eat salad with my fingers, always trying to be secretive about my problem with my teachers. Only much later in life, when I realized that I couldn’t hide from my problems, did I really try to fix this bad habit.
Life got better by the day. I made more friends, finding solace in being able to communicate normally with kids my own age. Soon, the years began to move by faster, and I settled into my new life. After my first year at the Middle School ended, my Mom, my little brother, and I took a short trip back to India to visit family over the summer. After four years, I was finally re-united with my cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. However, the trip ended sooner than I hoped, and it was time to go back to the States, back to a busy life. However, I was about to be the New Kid in Town again.
Our next destination was the home of the largest blind community for blind kids in the country, Austin, Texas. I felt more at home in Austin, as I was surrounded by my peers, kids who came from similar circumstances, each of whom had come to Austin for a better life. I became more involved in VI affairs, playing such sports as blind rowing and goal-ball, and making new friends. However, I also faced the biggest challenge of my entire life here. For the first time, I didn’t have a staff trailing me in school, and I was on my own as far as traveling around the school, and eventually my community, went. Though I learned the in-school routes fairly easily, I still face an un-controllable pang of fear whenever I have to cross busy streets, as I know I will have to do them completely on my own in the near future. I am also learning to cook and clean, slowly facing my fears in each field. I force myself to cut vegetables, place food on the stove or in the oven, assuring myself that it will all serve a higher purpose in my adult life. I do my best to take it one step at a time, and being a stronger person every day. Despite the challenges we have faced, we try to push past the bad times and see a brighter future ahead, working each day to make our lives better.
Yes, Normal is what we believe it is. The sooner people understood this the faster we would have a world without Barriers, a world that does not limit itself but works to find itself everyday and evolve to a state where Humanity always stays relevant.
McNeil High School
What defines me is my vision of this world, not what I see. If only seeing were believing I wouldn’t be what I am. I believed and I saw.