Monday 16 December 2013

The Bright Darkness

I was standing at the entrance of the Dialogue in the Dark exhibition (currently at Petrosains, Level 4 Suria KLCC) and was nervously handing in my ticket to the employee as I attempt to visualize the experience ahead. It was something I never thought I would experience, but there I was with another family as we wait for our scheduled session to begin. We had a small chat and then, Vicky, one of the employees at the exhibition, gave us a brief introduction and history about Dialogue in the Dark. The exhibition has a wonderful history and track record, being in numerous countries the world over and changing thousands of lives. As time drew closer to 3 p.m., we gathered in front of a dark entrance covered by a curtain. We could venture into the new world only after we were taught how to use the cane. I gained slight confidence and well, thought it was easy and so took it lightly. Thus, I gathered all of my courage to enter another person’s world where darkness is the norm. 
Note: This is not part of the exhibition
The adventure only just began when my hands started to tremble. It was pitch black and losing my sight temporarily for the first time was horrifying.  It was just a few moments after we began our journey but we kept on asking each other, “Where are you?” It was clear that we have yet to adapt to the new environment which made us lose our coordination. We tried to calm down, but it was obvious that most of us panicked for a bit. Although we had Vicky to guide us in the beginning, I began to cast some doubts if she knew our whereabouts. We only had walls and the cane to help and steer us along the way. Soon after that, Uncle Jo, who was our guide throughout the exhibition, greeted us in the dark and gave us a warm welcome. Somehow, I felt at ease when Uncle Jo welcomed us and became our guide as we embarked on an adventure which is one of its kind.  

It would be a lie if I were to say I mastered the usage of the cane right away. We kept on bumping into each other and did not know where exactly the objects were as we experienced life blind like Uncle Jo did. Unlike us, Uncle Jo knows exactly where we were. He guided us with much patience and care. Who would have known that one with perfect physical abilities would be guided by a person who has a disability? 

We began to familiarize ourselves in the new world and see the aesthetics of life in a whole new perspective. It felt like my senses of touch were enticed! I liked the texture of the objects with what I could recall and this whole experience made me excited as I felt like I was in a maze. We could listen to the sound of nature that we are familiar with but there was something that I could not depict in words to express the wonder of seeing the beauty of the surrounding by ears and not by the eyes. Jason, who is an energetic visitor and also the youngest among all of us, was excited as he adjusted to the environment and he even helped to guide me alongside Uncle Jo. 
However, what impressed me more was Uncle Jo’s open-mindedness as he encouraged Jason to ask more questions and instill great interest in Jason to explore the world of darkness. I must say that all of us were inspired and learned to communicate under Uncle Jo’s guidance. It really felt like we were just talking to a friendly neighbour. We were given the chance to ask him questions about his life up-close and personal. I felt for his challenges living life blind as our world, especially in Malaysia, is biased to the sighted. We don’t often recognize the needs of the blind, deaf, or wheelchair bound so everyday life like shopping or going to watch a movie is so much more difficult for the less-abled. I did a self-reflection in the dark room and noticed how ignorant I was to complain about the imperfections I have. I seem to be way more incompetent than Uncle Jo as his spirit to live a normal life is greater than mine. 

Before we knew it, our meaningful and adventurous journey in the Dialogue in the Dark exhibition came to an end. We finally got to see the face of Uncle Jo under the light. He had a benign smile and one could see his warmness shining through. He managed to touch our hearts and brought us to a whole new look at life as we learn how to appreciate ourselves and understand the blind better. It was not merely an experience where we learn about them, but we were also given the chance to look at ourselves and appreciate life as it is. How impressive it was that an hour long experience is able to give me and the visitors a lesson that we would not otherwise get. Through Dialogue in the Dark, it feels like the blind are sharing their world with us and it was a privilege indeed.

Shared by Nadrah
Guest Student Blogger

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