5… 4…. 3…. 2…. 1…..
At the blow of the whistle, the ten participants of the running race sprinted forward.
I watched in anxiety and eagerness as the fourth one in the row, my eleven year old son ,Viswajith, ran in full spirit of the competition.
The occasion was the first ever Sports Meet being held under the aegis of the Rotarians Club, West Zone, in commemoration with their Annual Day Celebrations, at the St Theresa’s School Grounds, Dehradun.
This was the second day and most of the events had been held the previous day. Only the running races and hurdles were yet to finish.
And Viswajith was participating in the 200 Metres being held now.
This was indeed a special moment for me.
Natural for any mother to feel so, if her child was participating in an event and she was there to support him.
But more so, for me.
Because my son couldn’t see.
Viswajith was born completely blind. It was of course not apparent immediately.
But he never responded to my gestures and never seemed to fix his gaze on me. This aroused my suspicion.
And I took him for a full check-up.
I still remember the day I held him in my arms, listening numbly to the doctor’s words, “ I’m sorry Mrs Mehra. Our tests tell us that the little one shall not be able to see. And we don't think transplantation can actually help.”
“All his other senses are proper, though,” he had added, as though comforting me.
The comprehension of the fact hurt me then, beyond words.
My little bundle of joy, being denied a world of lights, sentenced to life, with darkness !!
My tears wouldn’t stop…. I kissed his chubby cheeks again and again, even as my tears soaked him wet.
That was the moment, I felt the mother in me grow stronger.
I shall be his light.
I shall not let him wallow in self-pity.
He shall be as normal as possible, and he shall lead his life as any other child of his age.
The growing years were difficult, but Viswajith lived up to my resolution.
Once he learnt to trace his steps, he had to feel the edges of the couch to try walking, as he couldn’t see.
I cried for the first time, ever since that day in the doctor’s room. I couldn’t bear the sight of him, edging his way to the kitchen, all along ,feeling the walls for guidance.
But I couldn’t break down, could I ?
I was the proud widow of Major Swadesh Mehra, who had sacrificed his life for his country at the border.
I couldn’t cry. I wouldn’t.
My son needed me.
I learnt the Braille Script and taught him the alphabets and numbers at home. I read him story books till he became fluent enough to read them on his own.
He learnt to walk with a stick in his hand, tapping it on the floor to make his way.
His sense of hearing was well developed by this time, and he could even run, if there were no obstacles on his path, with surprising agility.
When he learnt to speak, he would accurately guess the dishes for dinner from the smells that wafted out from the kitchen.
Getting him an admission in St Theresa’s School wasn’t easy, as the Management was skeptical about accepting a ‘visually impaired’ child among the normal children.
I argued my case. My son was as normal as any other child. Was it his fault that he was visually challenged ?
He could still hear and speak well. He could walk and even run like any normal child. Why should he be denied a normal education, then ?
I, and the Management’s respect for the late Major Mehra, won the case for my son and he was admitted to the school. That was five years back.
I knew, deep in my heart, that gaining the acceptance of his classmates would be very difficult for my child. But I was sure he would sail through.
Surely enough, the initial days were tough as expected.
He was ridiculed by the narrow-minded, teased by the bullies. A young boy of six, visionless, all alone among his classmates.
However, Viswajith held on with the terrific instinct of survival in his veins.
His name was special for him. Viswajith – the Conquerer of the Universe.
Now, here he was, participating in the 200 Metres race, to prove himself to the world around.
It took me a moment to realize that my thoughts had carried me away and I bounced back to the present. The spectators were unusually boisterous, cheering and applauding, craning their necks to look at something on the ground. I followed their eyes.
One boy was sprawled on the ground in a face-down position, his hands spread out like an eagle. My heart gave a jolt, as I read the number printed large on his T shirt.
My warrior had fallen. I rose from my seat, and cleared my way to him, unmindful of the fact that I would be breaking the rules of the game. He needed me now.
I had just reached the fence of the tracks, when all the clapping and cheering stopped and the crowd around me grew silent.
I looked at Viswajith. He was up on his knees now. The rest of the competitors had stopped running and were standing where they had been before, as the boy who was the clear winner till now, walked back to Viswajith.
I could recognise him, as I had seen him in their class photo. He was Anirudh, Viswajith’s classmate and the class topper.
As the crowd waited with bated breath, Anirudh walked up to Viswajith, took his left hand in his, and urged with a smile, “ Come on, Jith !! We are not gonna run without you ! Come on, get up….let’s run! Not much to go, yaar !!”
The stadium burst into a exultant applause, as Viswajith got up and dusted his knees. The next second, the race had resumed with renewed vigour.
In less than half a minute, Anirudh had won the race, with Viswajith and another boy ( Satwik, as I learnt later) finished second.
Even though the race was disrupted, the referees took a favourable view of the situation.
My son had proved himself. He had gained the acceptance of his friends. He knew he was a part of them. With his courage and spirit to participate in the race, he had won over the hearts of his classmates. They knew what being Viswajith meant.
My tears began to flow again, as I silently blessed Anirudh and the rest of the boys for the solidarity they had displayed.
I didn’t wipe my tears.
Heck, I deserved this happiness.
Don’t you think so ?
This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda