Visions & Visionaries

Arshid Malik

Vision is a blessing. Yes, I am talking about the vision we have been bestowed upon by the Almighty Allah. If we did not have eyes and the related biological paraphernalia, we would not be able to see and that would make the world what for us, some kind of a disaster, perhaps. There are people who cannot see because they are born blind or lost their vision in some kind of an accident and attempting to understand how they actually perceive the world is a feat no one can ever achieve. Yes, you may close your eyes for some time or perhaps blindfold yourself but still you know what the world looks like. For someone who is born blind, it is all about feeling; it is the touch that tells them what things look like but they cannot figure color.

My father once had an accident in an automobile workshop. He tripped over some wiring in a room where batteries were being charged and the batteries somehow hurtled the boiling acid outside which hit my father in the face. I was a playing with some toys when the main entrance to our house opened and I noticed some people carrying my father. He was wearing a bandage over his eyes. I was afraid that perhaps my father had met with an accident and might have lost his sight. Later I came to know about the incident and I was told that he had to wear the bandage for a few days and after that he had been prescribed to wear dark glasses for a week or so and then he would be fine. The damage was minor and not irreversible. I later introspected the blessing of vision. This was the first incident where I met with the piece of knowledge that eyesight is something you cannot afford to lose. Well, over the years, my eyesight did weaken and I wear glasses now but I thank Almighty for I can still see.

Then there is the vision. Yes, the vision which visionaries have. This is an attribute that extends into the mental realm of things, the power of imagination and thought. Do all of us carry this attribute? I do not think so. Not everyone is blessed with this quality, though I would say all great men and women have been visionaries. But what happens when some of the few who carry it happen to lose it some way or the other? There are people among us who have the vision and they make our lives easier by way of planning, constituting, organizing, inventing, innovating, leading… If these people lose the vision, our lives would perhaps become difficult; our very survival would be at stake.

Today, while I was off to the city to run some office errands, I witnessed something that stirred me. There was heavy traffic at the junction and this was when I saw a woman, dressed in rags, as thin as stalk of grass, her eyes blindfolded, and running around in crazy circles beating her chest. She was not playing blind for that would have meant acting blind and begging or something like that and had she been blind, why would she have blindfolded herself. I am sure she could not see through that thick blindfold. She was mad, perhaps. But she was sending some kind of a message to the people. To me, it seemed like she was telling us all that we could not see her, her agony, her pain, her poverty, her homelessness and that she did not want to see us people for since we were not doing anything towards alleviating her condition except watching like idiots. I was quite terrified that she might get hit by one of the speeding vehicles which were trying to overtake others.

My car raced ahead and soon this woman was out of sight. But she was not out of mind and may not, for a long time to come. I was not quite sure what I had witnessed. It was like street theater performed by a very abstract person in a strange manner. It sure did leave me pondering and it was somehow an antidote to an antecedent which I had witnessed when I was a child (my father meeting with the accident). It was an allegorically brief, yet an epic of sorts.

I started contemplating the two different meanings of vision and whether it was possible that the other was an extension of the former. And maybe, perhaps the vision as in visionary is more important than eyesight and maybe that’s why we have so less of the visionaries. Another thought that perched at the edge of my mind was that whether visionaries were born visionaries or was it an attribute that could be cultivated. By all means, those of us who have vision, can see I mean, might perhaps be blind since they cannot look beyond their noses, like perhaps the blind woman’s act? All of this enticing jugglery of thoughts and the painful, “weather-worn”, deplorable picture of that “mad” woman etched in my mind now are too much for me. The vision and a vision are like two bodies wrangled up together, never to be separated, like two emotional lovers tied in an eternal bond.

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