Do you remember the poem ‘The Blind Men And The Elephant’ by John Godfrey Saxe, where six blind men were partially exposed to an elephant and had their own interpretations on what an elephant would be like. In the story, each blind man created his own version of reality and were correct in their narrations based on the limited exposure to the object. The moral of the story tells us that each individual truth maybe partially true but it is not the ultimate truth. Often, there are more sides to reality which we fail to account owing to our limited perspectives.
Seeing the truth:
The multiple aspects of truth and absolute reality is difficult to translate into words and can only be experienced. My recent experience on a cycle ride with ‘visually impaired’ (here in after will be referred as ‘visionary cyclists’) opened my eyes to a new world of existence. Six visionary cyclists from ‘Blind Welfare Association of India’ were invited for a morning ride from Worli to Nariman Point organized by a local cycling club in Mumbai. I was one of the three pilots who rode a tandem bicycle with a visionary cyclist on board. Twenty seven year old Dhawal, a national Judo player with a silver medal and a yoga practitioner was my co-rider. He took an early morning local train to reach the meeting point he said to me while introducing himself. Our ride was filled with cold winds, mild downpour, scenic views and a casual chat full of fun and laughter. It was one of the most memorable rides which helped me broaden my beliefs towards people with restricted abilities. I realized that partial blindness does not limit individuals like Dhawal to lead a normal life. Such people have a vision that allows them to look at things beyond horizon. They are blessed with an intellect to think with freedom and decode imaginative ideas better than us. Still they are sidelined from the mainstream social systems. It is time that we become a more inclusive society, encourage these marvelous gems and watch them flourish on the world stage.
Tandem cycling, as Dhawal mentioned is a progressive tool for mobility. When riding in tandem, he can collaborate with anyone, find his balance and sync his pedal strokes instantly. It is about co-existing and co-experiencing. I couldn’t disagree, that this form of cycling breaks barriers and creates social equity.
As we reached the Mumbai Peninsula bay, the six visionary cyclists demonstrated and taught yoga asanas to us.
Apart from yoga, they are trained professionals in sports like rope Mallakhamb and pole Mallakhamb, Kick boxing, Taekwondo and Swimming. And besides performing professionally in sporting competitions, they have done intercity tandem rides and frequently participate in community events.
Photography credits: Christopher Pereira and Murugan Shobana
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai