The passengers on the bus watched sympathetically as a attractive young woman, with a white cane, made her way carefully up the steps. She paid the driver and, using her hands to feel the location of the seats, walked down the aisle and found the seat he’d told her was empty. Then she settled in, placed her briefcase on her lap and rested her cane against her leg.
It had been a year since Chithra, thirty-four, became visually impaired. Due to a medical mis-diagnosis she had been rendered sightless, and she was suddenly thrown into a world of darkness, anger, frustration and self-pity. Once a fiercely independent woman, Chithra now felt condemned by this terrible twist of fate to become a powerless, helpless burden on everyone around her.
“How could this have happened to me?” she would plead, her heart knotted with anger.
But no matter how much she cried or ranted or prayed, she knew the painful truth her sight was never going to return. A cloud of depression hung over Chithra’s once optimistic spirit. Just getting through each day was an exercise in frustration and exhaustion. And all she had to cling to, was her husband Srinivas.
Srinivas was a doctor with paramilitary forces, and he loved Chithra with all of his heart. When she first lost her vision, he watched her sink into despair, and was determined to help his wife gain the strength and confidence, she needed to become independent again. Srinivas’ medicine background had trained him well to deal with sensitive situations, and yet he knew this was the most difficult battle he would ever face.
Finally, Chithra felt ready to return to her job, but how would she get there? She used to take the bus, but was now too frightened to get around the city by herself. Srinivas volunteered to drive her to work each day, even though they worked at opposite ends of the city.
At first, this comforted Chithra and fulfilled Srinivas’ need to protect his visionless wife who was so insecure about performing the slightest task. Soon, however, Srinivas realized that this arrangement wasn’t working – it was hectic, and costly. Chithra is going to have to start taking the bus again, he admitted to himself.
But just the thought of mentioning it to her made him cringe. She was still so fragile, so angry. How would she react?
Just as Srinivas predicted, Chithra was horrified at the idea of taking the bus again.
“I’m visually impaired !” she responded bitterly.
“How am I supposed to know where I’m going?
I feel like you’re abandoning me.”
Srinivas’ heart broke to hear these words, but he knew what had to be done. He promised Chithra that each morning and evening he would ride the bus with her, for as long as it took, until she got the hang of it. And that is exactly what happened.
For two solid weeks, Srinivas, police uniform and all, accompanied Chithra to and from work each day.
He taught her how to rely on her other senses, specifically her hearing, to determine where she was and how to adapt to her new environment. He helped her befriend the bus drivers who could watch out for her, and save her a seat. He made her laugh, even on those not-so-good days when she would trip exiting the bus, or drop her briefcase.
Each morning they made the journey together, and Srinivas would take a cab back to his office. Although this routine was even more costly and exhausting than the previous one, Srinivas knew it was only a matter of time before Chithra would be able to ride the bus on her own. He believed in her, he used to know before she’d lost her sight, who wasn’t afraid of any challenge and who would, never, ever, quit.
Finally, Chithra decided that she was ready to try the trip on her own. Monday morning arrived, and before she left, she threw her arms around Srinivas, her temporary bus riding companion, her husband, and her best friend.
Her eyes filled with tears of gratitude for his loyalty, his patience, his love. She said good-bye, and for the first time, they went their separate ways. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday… Each day on her own went perfectly, and Chithra had never felt better.
She was doing it!
She was going to work all by herself!
On Friday morning, Chithra took the bus to work as usual. As she was paying for her fare to exit the bus, the driver said,
“Boy, I sure envy you.”
Chithra wasn’t sure if the driver was speaking to her or not.
After all, who on earth would ever envy a visually impaired woman who had struggled just to find the courage to live for the past year?
Curious, she asked the driver,
“Why do you say that you envy me?”
The driver responded,
“It must feel so good to be taken care of and protected like you are.”
Chithra had no idea what the driver was talking about, and asked again,
“What do you mean?”
The driver answered,
“You know, every morning for the past week, a fine looking gentleman in a police uniform has been standing across the corner watching you when you get off the bus. He makes sure you cross the street safely and he watches you until you enter your office building. Then he blows you a kiss, gives you a little salute and walks away. You are one lucky lady.”
Tears of happiness poured down Chithras’ cheeks. For although she couldn’t physically see him, she had always felt Srinivas’ presence.
She was lucky, so lucky, for he had given her a gift more powerful than sight, a gift she didn’t need to see to believe – the gift of love that can bring light where there had been darkness.