“By God’s Grace, everything is good with us. Everything is fine, we are happy, and touchwood, no issues like that.”
RK’s smile was bursting with pride and relief, and something else indefinable. She rubbed her hands. In glee, or relief, or was it thanksgiving? MV could not say. The impassioned comment was a response to a question MV had asked. A question about marital status. MV had no intention or interest in RK’s marital status, though. They had met for a work related conversation. They didn’t know each other personally or socially. But just a minute ago, RK had raised the matter of MV’s marital status.
“You support these causes with passion and put in so much work. It is very admirable.” The comment was one MV heard often. She took it as a compliment. She thanked RK for the acknowledgement. RK’s was an impressive CV, with global business success and pioneering, groundbreaking initiatives to her credit. MV felt good that such a sassy, smart woman appreciated her own small-scale pioneering endeavors. MV felt especially gratified when women built the sisterhood, when they leaned in.
But RK wasn’t done. “I haven’t heard a mention of a spouse all this time. I am assuming you are single, or divorced? Not that it matters to me. But you seem so free, so unburdened.”
“None of your business” was the response MV almost let out. But then she decided to play RK a little. She had asked for it, really. MV told her that while she was still legally married, the very cordial relationship she and her (un)spouse shared no longer fit the conventional rules of marital engagement. That she believed there were ways and ways to configure domestic arrangements, within or outside the framework of a typical heteronormative marriage, and it should really be no one else’s business except of those really in the thick of the situation. And then, she asked RK the same question.
“I didn’t think any of this was relevant to our conversation or the task we are working on, but since you brought it up, I felt I must take it head-on, and make a few things clear. And then RK, I must also ask you, what is your marital status?”
“By God’s Grace, everything is good with us. Everything is fine, we are happy, and touchwood, no issues like yours. It’s all working well.”
MV was not taken aback at all. That RK had needed to ask the question, framing it the way she did, had already revealed a blind spot.
“By God’s Grace. Really? No Issues like yours? Will you listen to yourself?” MV wasn’t letting this pass.
Surprise lit up RK’s face. Like a searchlight pulling apart a dark night.
MV would not let anyone force-fit her customised, hard-won, unique and rather fine, rather pleasant version of a good life, a good home, into RK’s definitions of lack of grace, lack of happiness, or not ‘working well.’ She had to lean in, push some notions aside.
“Did I say there were issues? Just because mine is a different situation from yours does not make it an ‘issue’. Okay? And what makes you think I do not feel fortunate to have the arrangement I have? Why this narrow imagination of what God’s grace can touch and not touch? My rules work well for me. What didn’t work was trying to fit into others versions of my life, my marriage. And you, of all people, should know better.”
The Wikipedia, describes a blind spot as “an obscuration of the visual field. A particular blind spot known as the physiological blind spot, “blind point”, or punctum caecum in medical literature, is the place in the visual field that lacks light-detecting photoreceptor cells on the optic disc of the retina. Because there are no cells to detect light on the optic disc, the corresponding part of the field of vision is invisible.”
Metaphorically, though, blind spots aren’t a matter of just our physical field of vision, or for motor vehicle drivers alone. Let me bring up a few more examples.
Mr A : “I live alone, so I can’t bring anything to the potluck.”
When I heard this from an adult male, I couldn’t let it pass.
“What does living alone have to do with getting some bit of nashta to this meet-up?” I asked.
Mr A’s face was a perfect composite of coy smile and superior grin.
“You see, you didn’t get me. I am unmarried. And I live alone.”
“Alright, so what is your issue, if you live alone? Thing is, if you are eating at home, you could also bring something for these sessions. We aren’t talking big amounts or complicated dishes.”
The grin had left his face. Silent stupefaction remained. The conversation was interrupted and then moved on to other logistical matters.
As the meeting came to an end, my friend and I walked to the door. Mr S, who was already at the door, smiled at us.
“I love the interesting points you ladies raise. Would love to know more about your thoughts. But tell me, how do you manage to come here, all the way early in the morning?”
“Oh, it is truly no problem with the Metro and all the cab options…”
He wasn’t really asking how we got there, more the fool me. He wanted to know how we managed to get away at all. Even while he and ten other men were also there at the same time as us, on the same Sundays.
“No, no, of course, of course Uber and Metro are fine. I meant, how do you come – I mean, you cook breakfast and lunch early on Sunday, for the family, before you come here? How do you manage that?”
I am sure Mr S was very interested in us. He just couldn’t see us as anything beyond a certain role he had framed in his mind’s eye.
What are we going to do about these automatic patterns, these blind spots of thought and belief and words? To add to the biology lesson I shared earlier, “as there are no cells to detect light on a part of the optic disc, the corresponding part of the field of vision is invisible.” Our biology may be a given in this matter. But not so our mental perceptual field. Why must we block the light of open-minded acceptance, of alternate possibilities, in our mental models? How about more inclusive, diversity-spectrum thinking, in place of this or that, black or white categories?
To go back to the physiology of vision, ” although all vertebrates (humans being included) have this blind spot, cephalopod eyes (of which the octopus is an example), though superficially similar, do not. In them, the optic nerve approaches the receptors from behind, so it does not create a break in the retina.” Therefore, cephalopod eyes have complete visual perception of their visual field.
May we all learn to see from the cephalopods then. May we channel our inner octopus. Let that be the new metaphor for perfect vision. May we build fresh possibilities of connection, instead of rigid, predetermined frames, which box us in isolation and otherness.
This was first published here.