“But you were reading the newspapers very comfortably in the morning”, I managed to choke out, desperately trying to keep panic out of my voice.
“Yes, I had no problem then, but I did have a problem when I was trimming my mush”
I remembered that he had told me that he couldn’t see properly as he was levelling his moustache.
“Don’t let it turn out like the case of pandan and manian”, I had joked then. Cos I didn’t take it seriously. Thought it was just one of those things.
Sunny stopped trying to read Eco Times and looked ahead. “I can’t read the hoardings too. They are also blurred”.
I wanted to cry, but I kept calm. A couple of months earlier, my mother-in-law’s vision had deteriorated alarmingly overnight. “Macular degeneration”, the doc had said, “part of ageing process”.
But surely there’s an age for it, i thought. Sunny was too young for it.
This thought hung between us but we didn’t say it out loud. I knew the same thought was going on in his mind just as he knew what was on mine.
“Let’s go back and see a doctor”, I suggested.
“Maybe it’ll improve once I’m in the office”.
Both of us were silent till we reached my college.
Half an hour later, Sunny called to say he is returning home and will pick me up on the way. I called up my son Mathew who was at his college in Mumbai itself and told him to ask his local friends about a good eye specialist.
When we reached our apartment in Pareltank Road, Mathew was waiting for us in the garage, looking scared. The poor chap was never good at camouflaging his feelings.
I’ve fixed up appointment with a doctor at Dadar. 7oclock”, Mathew said.
During lunch, we avoided the topic that was uppermost in our minds. The conversation was strained, but we managed to maintain a semblance of normalcy.
By 6 o’clock when we started for Dadar, I was a nervous wreck, though I put up a brave front. I went around taking care of trivial things like checking if the iron was switched off, windows were closed – all just to keep panic from rising and consuming me.
At the eye specialist’s, both Mathew and I barged in to the consultation room. The doc didn’t like it, it was obvious but, I guess, our collective tension was so tangible that he sensed it. He decided not to make an issue of it.
After a brief consultation he checked Sunny’s glasses. Then he asked Sunny to sit in the patients chair and tried lenses of varying power. The first lens which were close to the one Sunny was using made not much of a difference. He tried two more sets and then picked lens which were apparently of much higher power. He placed them in that eye gear.
“I can see much better', Sunny said, a slow grin spreading over his face. I looked at Mathew and he was also grinning like a zany. I didn’t realise I too was doing the same. The doc soon decided on the lens, and gave the prescription.
“When did you last change your glasses”, asked the doc.
“Some four years back”
The power has jumped dramatically”, said the doc.
“But he read the newspapers without any problem this morning”, I blurted out.
“Guess it’s the case of over strained eyes suddenly giving way – like an over strained body is capable of pushing itself by sheer will power, but breaks down completely when the body resources reach their nadir point”, speculated the doc.
‘Have you come across any case like this before?’ I asked.
“No. I must admit it is strange that the power should increase so much in so short a period. It needs to be investigated”, said the doc.
I told him about his mother's eye. The doctor said nothing and kept a poker face."Anyway, get a new pair of specs. He can work with it. Let's wait and watch for a week".
WE placed order for the glasses and returned home. We were silent on the way home. Though we were relieved at the temporary solution, an uneasy feeling of a vague fear hovered in the atmosphere.The term "investigation" kept nagging my thoughts.
After dinner, Sunny as usual sat up leaning against the headboard of the bed and switched on the TV. In a minute he switched it off, took off his glasses, gave them to me and lay down.
“Might as well sleep. I can’t see anything. Everything is blurred”
I felt that fear landing on me once again. I decided to check my mail on the computer which was placed on the computer table near the bed. The computer table had three shelves and the telephone was on the top shelf. As I was about to place the glasses next to the phone, I saw another pair of glasses identical to the one he'd just handed to me.
Heavens!! That was Sunny’s glasses!! The one near the phone!
I looked at the one i held in my hand and suddenly things fell into place.
Both of us once had spectacles with identical frames. But I had discarded my pair a year earlier when I bought a pair with progressive lens. Actually, i hadn’t exactly thrown the glasses away but had kept them in the kitchen to be used there.
I could feel a huge weight lifting from my chest. But I wanted to be sure.
“Sunny”, I called him.
“Can you sit up for a sec”
He sat up. I switched on the TV and then handed him his pair of glasses, which had been sitting quietly near the phone since morning, totally oblivious of the whole dark comedy that was unfolding in our home.
He looked puzzled but obliged me by putting it on.
And then he let out a big shout followed by
I CAN SEE!
Mathew came running from his room to find me laughing and crying and Sunny suddenly transformed to his old light-hearted self.
“I can see, Mathew, i can see”, he said, a little too loud still.
I have no words to describe the expression on Mathew’s face.
By then I had figured out what had happened. In the morning, after checking the mail, Sunny was about to go into the shower when the telephone rang. It was a long conversation during which he had absentmindedly removed his glasses and kept them near the phone.
Meanwhile, I was in the kitchen with my kitchen glasses on, packing lunch when the door bell rang. It was Sunny’s colleague Mr. D from across our flat who wanted to have a word with my husband. As I was going in to call Sunny, I had taken off my kitchen glasses and had put them on the dining table. Sunny was still on the phone. I told him Mr. D was waiting and then hurried to get ready.
Meanwhile, Sunny saw MR. D out and as he walked past the dining table, he saw my glasses which he mistook for his. That’s how trimming the mush became an ordeal.
Listening to my explanation, Mathew’s ecstatic expression began to metamorphose into one of indulgent disgust. “You guys are quite a pair”, he muttered as he walked back to his room, shaking his head in disbelief.
Mistaken identity can give rise to a comedy of errors, but, believe me, mistaking one spectacle for another can take you through the most complex and traumatic of tragic emotions.