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April 2014, vol 10, no 1

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Paresh Tiwari

Emptiness


The darkness is all encompassing, an oppressive smothering blanket of void, a coil of black that mercilessly closes around my throat. I can hardly breathe, and the walls at ‘A Dialogue in the Dark' start closing in. As I fumble with a guide cane in my right hand, groping with my left for something – anything – to tether me in this chasm of nothingness, his bright voice greets us. His words guiding us through the song of a cuckoo, a sparrow and a nameless bird, the scent of moist clay, the flighty coolness of a waterfall, the smooth roundness of stones beneath our feet, the rough cuts of crude sculptures and the gusts of chilled air on our skin. His gentle golden voice peps us up, makes us laugh and feel right at home.

After the tour, we are led out to the world we know. Our eyes slowly adjusting to light, and we are able to walk again without shuffling. In the scramble of clicking photographs, we almost forget about the voice that held our hand all through those fifty minutes of dry bleakness until someone pipes up, "Can we have a photo clicked with our guide?"

A while later in shuffles a figure - silent, head drawn low with a formal hesitant smile plastered on his face, hardly uttering a word. He stands dutifully with us for a picture, shrinking within himself, between a bunch of faceless voices in the eye splitting loudness of phosphorescent bulbs.

ocean –
the lament within
this conch shell


Note: The concept of ‘A Dialogue in the Dark’ is simple enough; the visitors are lead by blind guides in groups through specially constructed dark rooms in which scent, sound, wind, temperature and texture convey the characteristics of daily environments – a park, a city, a boat cruise or a bar. The daily routines become a new experience. A reversal of roles is created: people who can see are taken out of their familiar environment. The tour lasts for about one hour but the effects may well last a lifetime.




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