This guest post contributedÂ by Robert Rose, Executive Director of one of our partner organizations – TRIFC.
Last year on my yearly project/programs visit to Nepal we had an unusual experience with a group of Nepali Rotarian friends.
We all got together in the early evening at a new restaurant that at that point in time was going to open in several weeks named â€˜Chop-Sticks’. We were going to get a â€˜sneak-preview’ to try out the location, ambience and snacks.Â The restaurant had a trendy look with interesting and colorful lighting/dÃ©cor.Â We all sat down and were about to be served some â€˜finger-food’ and tea/coffee.Â Just before the food arrived, our TRIFC.org board member, Rabendra announced, “I have an interesting idea that I’d like to see if you are all game for…why don’t we turn off the room lights, close our eyes and experience just a bit of what it’s like to be without sight?Â When the food and drinks arrive, keep your eyes closed and try to navigate the different dishes and choices onto your plate and into your mouth!”
We had about twenty Rotarian friends surrounding the coffee tables in the comfortable lounge chairs and they all agreed to give it a try.Â The restaurant staff were a bit confused by the whole thing, but they agreed to turn every light off except a cell phone light which they used to bring the food in and set it down in the right place.Â
It was quite illuminating being without sight and trying to locate where food had been placed and then trying to place it on your plate! I slowly passed my hand over the table, like a magician casting a spell.Â The first thing I noticed was the warmth that radiated from the heated food.Â You could figure out where to drop your hand, crane-like over the plate where you could feel the heat.Â My first â€˜catch’ was some French-fries which I scooped up and placed on the plate I managed to get under the food.Â I decided not to press my luck and try to put some ketchup on the plate, however!
The others were experiencing similar thoughts and feelings.Â Without the sense of sight your other senses pick up different information and feed it to the brain to fill in the gaps.Â Eating became a much more tactile experience with shape, texture, temperature and size telling us the story of the food item we currently held in our hands.Â Other food items were quietly placed on the table by the waiters, whose presence could only be perceived by the sound of their footsteps and gentle placement of the plates on the table.Â I managed to find a different food item which I found to be shaped like a French-fry in length, but more textured on the outside.Â This I found to be a breaded chicken-strip, which I proceeded to consume and then reached out to find more!Â
What I ate tasted different…more vibrant and vivid.Â The taste sensations in my mouth were working overtime to help overcome the absence of sight.Â Then Rabendra suggested, “Now let us just sit quietly for one or two minutes and focus on what we are eating, hearing and feeling.Â Let us experience and appreciate this moment by living â€˜in the moment’.”Â This was a magical minute or two, as we sat together in the darkness with our eyes closed, living â€˜in the moment’, with me from half-way around the world sharing such moving experiences with my Nepali Rotarian friends.Â
Of course, this was but a â€˜taste’ of living without sight (no pun intended!) but it was definitely an educational and enriching experience.Â I would encourage all of you reading this post to give it a try at home with your family.Â It was truly illuminating, bringing the light of understanding out of darkness.
TRIFC.org is about awareness, empowerment and tangible programs to help the â€˜differently-abled’ in Nepal.Â Our “Backpacks for the Blind/Visually-Impaired” program currently listed on Jolkona.org is a high-impact program that can help blind children in Nepal have a better chance to succeed in school.Â Please check it out!