In the auditorium at Jyoti Seva School for the Blind* fourth floor there are 60 of us – 50 ? Unsure. Maybe more. I take off my foot wear and search for words as one of the kids grins wide. They are eager, and cannot wait.
I have worked with kids at a few levels, but this time it feels I am learning, in this place that is like a piece of heaven. Dearest Lord God almighty, little butterflies fill my stomach and heart. Outside it is Venkateshpura, Bangalore at its’ busiest. Little lanes cartwheeling with vegetable vendors and bullocks, women in burkhas, men in welders’ shops. Every vehicle in Bangalore city seems to be here, and I find it hard to understand how the Polish Prime Minister found his way into these tiny lanes for that visit a few years ago. But then God can do anything.
Sis G (music teacher ) and I try a few voice routines ; what footwork will work on stage ? This is the very first time for me, for Jyothi Seva, dance and music, even drama is no big deal. I have many ideas, and Sis G among other amazing Daughters of Love here, ( Francescan ) are so generous with my various plans : some amount of fun- drama : show casing Daily Living Skills, Physiotherapy rings, Hoops, Trampoline, a ladder and a mock door through which six of their best will dance out, onto a mock street scene thick with cut out ( thermocol/cardboard )auto rickshaws, city bus, a cow, a bullock cart, vendors, and two sighted artful pickpockets ) Am I nervous ? Am terrified ! Sis G. the music teacher grins at me.
These are not just any kids, these are 85 + blind kids, brilliant, some do stunning vocals, and oh they can dance ! They are sharp, quick-witted and don’t you arrive without a proper plan.
One tiny tot ( aged 5?) thinks it is time to break the ice. She holds my hand and says, ” Aunty Ray, first you clap !” Her little face peers up at me thru’ a fringe, then with her small palm in mine she stands on her toes and asks, ” You are Johann’s Mama, no ?”
” Yes baby”, I nod feeling utterly speechless. How big is God’s university of Life. How infinite His love that we should all be called children of God. How little I deserve to see such beauty thru’ the eyes of little Angels.
We sit in a circle and chat till lunch break. It is boiled rice with potato/ carrot gravy, an omelette and steel mug with cool cool water, little aprons tied to their waist, around neck ; later everyone stacks their plates away and rinses their spoon at low sinks with tiny taps shining in the noon light.
Am humbled by the talent in these kids, humbled by how little I know about their world though our own son is blind and though I’ve been here so many times doing what one can with Personality Development : Uh. Am startled that all our words that try to be ‘ be somebody’ are still so uniquely variant with each individual – and startled is such a limp word.
Aruna ( 9 years old ) is amazingly acrobatic. Am thinking, this one should do a cart-wheel right across stage – can we pull that off ? The 6 minute- choreography underlines Confidence; not something I had planned to think or say , but as we met again, the word came out firm and quiet and firm. ” Look kids, this is more than just about doing a step and I know you are all great dancers and actors, but we’re going to show the world the confidence with which you go out the front door, right ?”
They aren’t jumping for joy but they each nod in quiet as if glad I’ve finally got it.
” Alright, before we break now, let’s run through some emotions, okay?”
” OHHHHHKAY !” ( phew)
“Right. JSSchool, can you show us some SAD ?”
Uh uh – the room is too happy to handle that. 2 seconds later they are rolling into each other with laughter. Not anything I could do or say to make them show me ‘SAD’ – what d’you say to that?
As I wrap this Post am uncertain how to end this Post. I wish I could fill this space with pictures.
Outside the gates of JSSchool for the Blind the world is thick with debate on politics, crime. Here we have to work hard at happy face-smile- lines, we have to work out routines that display Goodness, Honesty, Gentleness, Talents…
I’ve brought home a few lessons in those hours spent with kids who cannot see, some have been abandoned, some have parents that do not want them home, others go home on holidays… what I’ve seen is a thirst for the world outside their gate ; they love the feel of fabric, footwear, perfume and little things in my bag, my bangles and watch, the buttons in my shirt,dearest dearest Lord God what am I feeling but a huge sense of a Universe so vast I am gagging to grasp it all. How many more people are there in this world in dimensions we haven’t even begun to come near – and what kind of song could I choose to fit into Choreography to show case their life – words that will match, tunes that are rhythms of their life… the reality of their life – what can I teach that I must first learn, live, inhale, digest.
They sang for me , ” Bright Eyes,” ” Tomorrow”, a few songs in Kannada that sounded like heaven – raw sweet voices without the sin of assumption. I just hope and pray the world they grow into will not be a place ridden with power games and disguised crime. That they, all our kids, will be able to cross the street unafraid, pay their own electricity bill and at least one other persons’, with the ability to make each other unafraid…
I have run out of words, but hope and pray oneday you too will find heaven in the lesser known lanes and homes where God’s own babies wait to tell us their story. I hope and pray this world will understand the language of the Father as He sings over our blinded senses. My words are not enough to describe the way I feel – I hope you understand what I have tried to express.
Thank you for reading this.
*Jyothi Seva School for the Blind, Bangalore