Eight years back, it was the the 14th of December and it was a bright, sunny morning. My mami (aunt) was in the hospital and I was filled with zest and vigor because that was the day I was about to be a ‘big sister’. The moment I was waiting for finally came true.
I went inside the hospital room to see a cute, tender baby girl with gleaming brown eyes, chocolate brown hair, looking like a doll as she slept soundly wrapped in a pink blanket. We named her Aanya. Five years passed and we were inseparable. I would watch with love as she ran to the garden, rolling over the fresh green grass. Whenever she saw a butterfly, she would run and try to catch it. She was so much like me in every way I was proud of that.
Diwali was here and we children were very excited. She loved to see the sky filled with colourful lights and the sounds of the crackers. That evening as we were having fun bursting crackers under our parents’ watchful eyes, Aanya wandered a little to see whether a flower pot had gone defective. She peered closer to the cracker and suddenly the cracker lit up, raining sparks all over her. We rushed her to the hospital and they treated her for minor burns. They bandaged her eyes and face too. The next day when they removed the bandage, we were in for a shock – her eyes were no more.
We were shattered, but not this little girl. She refused to accept sympathy or discouraging words from people around her and continued her school and activities for the next few years just like she always had.
One day, she stumbled at school and heard someone mock her disability. It was a girl who went to the same synthesizer class as her. Aanya challenged that girl to a competition. That girl and her friends laughed and accepted the challenge thinking ‘What can a blind girl do that we can’t?’.
The next day, a huge crowd gathered at the school auditorium. The other girl played first. She was an excellent player and everyone thought Aanya would not be able to match up. Then it was Aanya’s turn and within seconds she had the audience hooked. High notes, to low notes, Aanya was pitch perfect and the stunned audience gave her a standing ovation.
The girl who had challenged her came over to the stage and took the microphone. She had tears in her eyes.
“Aanya, you are not normal. You are extraordinary in a way we so-called normal people will never be,” she said and declared Aanya the deserved winner with a big hug. Aanya graciously hugged her back. For the rest of us watching from the auditorium, it was a lesson we would never forget – no one gives us the right to judge anyone who seems different from us. We are defined not by our physical ability but by mental strength.