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My Son will not be a Beggar – Ved Mehta

Summary

Ved Mehta became blind when he was three and a half years old. It was in 1937. His mother called pandits and hakims to offer prayers and apply special medicines in his eyes. His father didn’t support his wife, so, he sent him to Dadar School for the Blind in Bombay. Ved Mehta is a writer of a number books and is an editor as well.

Bit/Bits
  • When Ved Mehta was three and a half years, he lost his sight due to meningitis.
  • It was a shock for the whole family.
  • When relatives and neighbors came in with too much sympathy, his father got a transfer from Lahore to Karnal.
  • It took some long time for the family to feel familiar with the new surroundings and with his blindness.
  • In the new house, Ved’s mother called pandits (priests) to offer prayers.
  • She also went to hakims who were specialized in medicines.
  • She did it without her husband’s consent because he was a doctor.
  • One day, his father knew what his wife was doing. This made him very angry.
  • He contacted Dr. RM Halder, the Principal of Dadar School for the Blind in Bombay (Mumbai).
  • Dr. Halder showed deep interest in Ved’s case and welcomed him to his care.
Questions
  1. What happened to Ved when he was three and a half?
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    Answer – When Ved was three and a half, he went blind due to a prolonged (long) attack of meningitis. He then started living in a world of four senses, that is, a world in which colours and faces and light and darkness are unknown.
  2. Ved Mehta’s mother and father had different plans for his future. How did the two differ in their plans?
    Ved Mehta’s mother could not believe that her son was blind. She called hakims and pandits for improving his sight but his father, who was a doctor, did not believe in the pandits and in hakims. He went on providing him with the best medical help and prolonged treatment.
  3. How does Ved compare the depravities (limitations) of a blind person with those of the blessings of a sighted person?
    Ved Mehta, recounting his initial days of blindness, says that a blind person is at a gain because he or she should not worry about many things that the sighted people usually worry and make fuss about. Although his age and the sickness had deprived (lose) him of the treasured (valuable) memories of sight, he saw that many things seen and spoken in the lives of sighted people are meaningless words.
  4. How does a blind person understand and enjoy the beauty of the nature?
    For a blind person, the nature is a place without the flood of sunshine streaming through the nursery window or the colours of the rainbow, a sunset or a full moon.  The blind do not understand them by sight but with the remaining senses. They feel the warmth of the sun against the skin, the slow drizzling sound of the spattering rain, the feel of the air just before the coming of the quiet night, the smell of the grass on a warm morning.
  5. What did the writer miss when he lost his sight. Tick the right answer.
    1. The love of his family
    2. The colours of the birds and butterflies
    3. Darkness
    4. Being able to recognize people
    5. Not eating his favourite food.
  6. The writer says, ‘It was a universe where at first – but only at first- I made my way fumbling and faltering.’ What does he mean when he says, ‘but only at first’?
    1. He regained his sight.
    2. He learnt to manage his daily life though he was blind.
    3. Someone else did all his work for him.
  7. Why does the writer say that the time he lost his sight was the right time?
    The writer says that it was good that he lost his sight at such a small age because he had no regrets. If he had lost his sight at a later stage, he would have felt extremely disappointed and lost because of all the wonderful memories and the sights he had before losing sight.
  8. How did Ved’s family react to his blindness? Were they very unhappy, or did they think he would recover? What did they do about his problem?
  9. I went blind in November 1937. At that time we were living in Gujarat, in the province of Punjab in northern India. After my sickness, we moved to Lahore, a few miles away, but the number of relatives who came to sympathize made my father ask for another transfer, this time to Karnal, where we had neither friends nor relatives. There we got a cottage on the canal bank, built in very peaceful and quiet surroundings. As might be expected, in the beginning it was tough for all of us, for mother and my father, for my three sisters and my brother, and for me too. The illness had left me weak. The servants avoided me as though I were an evil eye personified.
  10. My sisters treated me with care, as though I were a fragile doll, and mother wept. My father, who was a doctor in the public health service, was grateful that I had got prompt and good medical treatment, for delay would have affected my mind or endangered my life. But he, like the rest, had no hope.
  11. A stage of complete inaction therefore followed my blindness. In part, this was due to the immediate shock of the illness, but more important still, the difficult situation was caused by ignorance of the potentialities of a blind child, since the only blind persons my parents saw were beggars. But now, by fate or by the will of god, blindness had struck not only a child of the well to do, but that of an excellently trained doctor, who found his training in this instance useless. Still, his wide medical experience had prepared him for an acceptance of this tragedy, and he understood that any course of action must begin with the realization that I would be blind for the rest of my life.
  12. My mother on the other hand, could not convince herself that my sight would never return: she did not have the medical experience of my father, and she blamed something in her past for the tragedy. The family pandit, upon whose advice, mother had relied almost from her childhood, was called in and consulted. “He knows more about religion and science,” mother said with pride, “than any other pandit in our province.” I was taken before him, and for a long time I sat in my mother’s lap while he was lost in thought. After a while, he took my hand and examined the lines. Then he looked at mother’s and he studied her forehead, mumbling steadily. He said he found himself inadequate, and more pandits would have to be consulted. At his request, they were called and questioned as to what atonement could be made. They all agreed that by doing penanceforher sins, my mother could improve my chance of regaining sight. They prescribed methods ranging from intensive prayers to strenuous physical exertions, and for a fee they agreed to perform part of the necessary religious ceremonies. Each pandit’s advice was carefully heeded. Since my mother knew that my father would dislike such methods, she kept them secret, making it doubly hard for herself
  13. Along with this religious counsel, there were a series of visits to hakims (physicians who followed the Greek or Unani system of medicine). These quacks prescribed all types of concocted drops to put in my eyes. The surmas, which were administered at all hours of the day and night, burned and stung my eyes; and the only soothing part of the miserable ordeal was the loving caress of mother afterwards. One night when my mother was administering these eye drops, and I was protesting with loud cries, my father unexpectedly returned. He asked and I told him why I was crying. He was very angry. He forbade her to make any more visits to the hakims, and strictly prohibited the purchase of any more surmas. Then he gently lifted me from her arms, and took me away. With steady hands, he bathed my stinging eyes. After this incident, even though we stopped going to hakims, now and then applications of surmas continues till I was eleven. But they were very mild, and my mother always obtained my consent in advance.
  14. I remember other little tests my mother put me through. One day she perceived that just before I arrive at a closed door, I would stop and reach for the handle to open it. She began letting me go about the house by myself and she discovered that I seldom ran into things. She credited the hakim and the stinging drops, but every evening she would hold her hand up before my face and ask me to tell her where it was. She used to shake her hand before me so that myriads of pores next to, below and above my ears could feel her hand even when it was a foot away. The air currants helped me to spot it. But she wasn’t satisfied with this. She wanted me to tell her whether the light was on or off. When I failed this test, she was unhappy again, but I soon caught on and would listen for the click of the switch and then tell her. Sometimes she would flip the switch very rapidly time and again, and I would always count the clicks and give her the right answer. Although in my case there was an obstacle that seemed unsurmountable, father was determined to try everything. He read all available literature on blindness. He learned that almost all India’s blind people had turned to begging for their livelihood, or had become owners of pan and biri shops and spent their days rolling nuts and condiments in a betel leaf or tobacco in a cigarette paper. He was determined that this was not going to be the fate of his second son, and he started corresponding with many of the prominent educational authorities, asking for their advice. The replies were not optimistic. For the blind, educational facilities and personnel were limited, and often the schools became semi- asylums with all ages grouped together in classes without any gradation system.
  15. My father still persisted, for he knew that my staying at home would result in my becoming a pampered child. He realized, as well, that I would have difficulty playing with normal children, and that my mother would always be afraid to let me leave the immediate premises. At last he heard of Dr. R M Halder, Principal of Dadar School for the Blind in Bombay. My father wrote to him asking for advice. Dr. Halder showed unusual interest in my case, and promised to take special care and personal responsibility for me if I were sent to his school. When my mother learned of my father’s decision to send me to the Dadar School, she was appalled. She could not understand the reason for sending me nine hundred miles away from home to attend school with orphans and children of the poorest classes. Yet she placed her faith in my father’s superior judgement, and in her quiet way, she agreed.

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