IN THE BLIND AGE

Andha Yug, Dharamvir Bharati’s landmark book, set in the last days of the Mahabharata war, was written in the years following the partition of India. It speaks about destruction, not only of human lives, but also of ethical values. In Mahabharata, both the victor and the vanquished loose eventually.

HG Wells tells the story of stagnation in The Country of the Blind. The story is about a mountaineer, who by accident finds himself in a valley cut off from the rest of the world. All the inhabitants of the valley are blind. These people are self-sufficient but are insular and close-minded. The villagers of the valley have no concept of sight, nor do they want to understand it. Even the woman the mountaineer loved dismisses the concept as his imagination. The mountaineer’s ‘unstable obsession with sight’ becomes the symbol of his defective thought process. These sightless people of the valley wish to deprive the mountaineer of his own eyes. The mountaineer flees from the valley.

Sight can be confusing. This is the theme of a story by Brian Friel, based on Oliver Sacks’ case history of a patient. In this story, a born blind gets sight in midlife, but finds it profoundly confusing. The patient can’t make sense of anything she sees, and thus wants to return to her original state of blindness.

Various metaphors have been used to symbolise blindness. Dharamvir Bharati has used blindness to represent dehumanisation of individual and society. HG Wells’s blindness represents a restricting society, and the struggle of the individual against social conformity. Sight can lead to confusion, says Friel. Blindness has also been used as a metaphor for both personal misfortune and social catastrophe.

In ‘blind’ times, we need icons and role models to take us away from the blindness. We look forward to torch bearers to take us out of the dark tunnel.

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