How I stuck it to Snellen

1989 was a tough summer for me. I got my specs when I was vacationing in Bombay, swerving my extended family’s attention towards me where it came to a screeching halt.

Till then I was only faudee. In 1989, I became fauddi-dhapni. 

It was a lesson in ‘Be Careful What you Wish for’. For years I had pointed out to my parents when I couldn’t read the addresses on shop signs. They said I was pretending to have weak eyes because I wanted to wear spectacles. They may or may not have been wrong.

So that year, we went to Gangar optician on Dadar TT circle and I walked out proudly with a prescription of -1.25 and -1.75. It was a lesson in ‘What happens if you read Agatha Christie in a moving car at night’. 

 I was so excited. I practised absent-mindedly wiping my glasses in conversation. I peered over their rim intently. I pushed down the tee over one shoulder, and bit one of the temple tips flirtatiously. All in the taxi after ordering my prescription.

 Then I reached home and announced the big news to my grandparents and mama-mami. I was the first in their bloodline to need glasses (my father is the short-sighted one).

 My family leapt at the opportunity with all the good intentions and enthusiasm of a coloniser. Every waking minute had to be utilised for the betterment of my fallen organs. 

 “Wake up early and walk barefoot on grass. The dew helps.” 

 “WAIT! Do your eye exercises the moment you wake up. Up-down, side-to-side, rotate clock-wise and anti-clockwise.”

 “Eat carrots.”

 “Drink milk.”

 “Pinka, PALAK KHA!”

 “Why are you doing nothing while the [train/bus/car] moves. Look faaaaaar into the distance. Then quickly look at something close-by.”

 “Look at the sky.”

 “Look at greenery.”

“Put your palms over your eyes and open them.” 

 My “condition” was discussed when we had visitors (twice a day).

“We know a homeopath in Dadar…”

“This boy in our building, he got rid of his specs by staring at a star every night after dinner…”

“Look at a candle flame placed at a distance.” 

“Wet your index finger with your morning spit and apply it like kajal.”

When I threw a tired tantrum, my grandmother sagely explained to me: “Rani, eyes are our most important organ. If you lose your hands, legs or hearing, you can still get other jobs. But if you lose your sight, you can only man a PCO booth.” 

I had LASIK last week and at my post-op check-up, I laughed at the chart. I wish I could see my grandparents’s faces.