She wore her dark glasses and grabbed her red and white stick, reached out for my hand and as innocently as she could, cheerfully said. “Let’s go, Trupz”. It was a regular ritual we had. Saturday evenings, when I returned from boarding school for a weekend I would go to her room and take Nayana out for a stroll along our favorite place. The garden of Eden, as I fondly called it. Nayana – her name meaning eyes, but her misfortune that those beautiful pair of grey green eyes, could never see anything, she was born with no sight.
As we walked our way to the garden, we always met some people regularly, Aunty Sonia would be on her way back from work and would usually meet us near Pushkar sweets. The sweet smell of Halwai prepatring his delicacies would always find Nayana’s extra sensitive nose automatically walk towards it. A little further from there we would wait up near Jayant uncle’s place – he would give Nayana a rose from his garden. He had a rose garden in his half acre land. Red, pink, yellow white roses grew ever so gracefully in his care. He offered a red rose to Nayana, and she looked up at me asking, “Uncle describe, Red to me. Quizzed and perplexed by her question, Jayant uncle was stumped as how I can describe Red so he told her imagine, “N, close your eyes, and imagine you are waiting for Trupz to come pick you on Saturday, how you feel when you hear her voice and the joy your feel, when she comes. Now which color flashes before your eyes – that is Red.” Nayana was happy.
Taking a right turn from ‘Mamata Stores, walking the long stretch of Lane 3, we headed to the garden. Lane 3 was lined with thick trees and a tree cover always played shadow plays on the road. I told Nayana that mango tree was in full bloom and we would definitely see some ‘Kacchi Kairi’s’ (Raw Mango) on it soon. Yes was her quick revert, I smell the flowers she said. It was incredible how the things I saw and those could feel via her other senses were so different, yet we spoke to of the same thing. While walking as we came near the lush green Neem tree, Nayana immediately said,”Trupz do you see, this spot is so much cooler than rest of the road, I know the Neem is here”. These little traits of hers always had me surprised. As much as I tried to tell her something more explicit and detailed of what I could see, I always came back learning something more from Nayana.
“Nayana we are now entering the garden”, as I pushed the gate open, she always asked me to describe to her what the garden looked like, which flowers were in season and what colors they were. The garden was a circular stretch of 500m in circumference. Lined with Bamboo, Bougainvilla, ‘Chafa/ Champa’ trees along with Marigold bushes – the garden was an actual landscape with unearthly beauty. It being the monsoon season and fresh showers have made the plants come alive I told Nayana. The vibrant colors across the contrasty grey sky had thoroughly changed the landscape into a picture straight out of photobooks. One did not have to be in a very exotic location to enjoy the peace and serene that was provided by this little garden of ours, which was right in the middle of the city.
Small bunches of roses were planted in strategic places, different colored wild flowers grew all over the lush green grass. Wild orchids grew along the creepers on the fence of the garden. They looked like laces which were stitched along at the hem and the purple bell flowers hung from their branches. The outer periphery of the garden, beyond the fence they had laid an athletics running track, many a people came there for walks and jogging. Early mornings always saw a health conscious crowd hit he garden keeping up with their gym regime. I described to her ladies late into their 40’s and 50’s who came there for their Yoga classes. Very coyly Nayana gushed, “Wait for some time, you will the heaps of them at the chaatwala outside the gates”
The centre of the garden was decorated with a huge fountain, they called it an oasis in the city, beautiful lights synchronized with the fountain. There would be a laser show in the evening, orchestrated music which would sway according to the fountains. Usually it would be one of the symphonies from Beethoven, little kids gathered around. “Nayana, we are here”, I said. “Is our spot taken?”, she asked . There was this particular mound on the small hillock along the lines of the fountain where we sat, it was most beautiful view of them and also the perfect listening spot in the area. The height advantage gave an 360 degree view of the entire garden, you could see the people, the vendors selling their paraphernalia, little kids demanding more ice cream from parents, love lorn couples who could only find some recluse in the garden, where they could dare to be amicable once it got dark. Nayana’s favorite was the the little boy, Nandu who sold balloons, he would make different shapes from those balloons and bring to Nayana and ask her to identify them. ‘Didi”, was the shrill cry I heard from a distance as Nandu actually tore the crowds to come to us. “Guess what I made today” and he handed Nayana a mangled balloon twisted in ways I cannot imagine. What I could make of that modern sculpture was it looked barely like a skeleton of a pair of glasses. Nayana moved her hands around, feeling every edge, turning them around corners until she laughed uncontrollably. Naughty fella, he made her a pair of glasses, as he quickly whisked away towards the kids, he shouted, “wear these, Im sure you can see then.”
The crowd settled, and the music show began. “Ta-da-da-dum,dum-dum,dum-dum” – i was describing to Nayana, how the fountains are reaching new heights today, she said she could feel it, i wondered how she could know about these things without being able to see the grandeur of the show. “Look “she showed me her forehead, “droplets on my face” and grinned. As the crowd swayed to the fountains, Nayana swayed to the music. It was amazing to see, how Nayana had made her handicap into her strength and her uniqueness. She enjoyed those things that most people usually missed. She would be more observant than those who were completely abled. Enchanted she remained all of the 45 minutes.
We completed the ritual of our Saturday, with a round of pani puris, we met Yoga ladies as Nayana, so correctly pointed out. Blushing and laughing among ourselves we gulped down last of the puris, when Nayana quipped, “Thanks to the pani puri, I can now understand that the earth is shaped just like that, and all of us living on the planet are like the potato and the chutney floating inside”. She always stumped me with most random and unexpected parallels she drew connecting instances.
As we came close the gates of her home, Lana, her Labrador came running to her, Nayana held her collar belt and gave her a pat on the back for being the best guide dog. As the sun set and light dropped quickly, I said I must leave since it was getting dark. Her sombre smile made me realise just what I had said. Darkness was something Nayana had combated ever since she came to her senses, quietly she replied, “you should try befriending darkness, its been a constant companion except on Saturday’s, when your words help me see”. Her demure silhouette disappeared in the blind people’s home where Nayana was spending her last few years. Her illness now taking its toll on her health, she looked a lot older than her slender years, she had not even lived long enough to experience everything. Her frail health meant she could get out of the barricade of the home, just once in a week. Although we travelled only few kilometres around the campus, for Nayana it was like globe trotting or she at least it made her feel like that.