In the Kingdom of the Blind . . .
by Dom Martin

In the kingdom of the blind, they say, the one eyed-man is a king. If my eyeballs were pluckable, I might very well have picked my moments on when to go one-eyed, and when not to. Cyclops did not have that option. As a result, he was felled like a giant Redwood tree. And as he lay bemoaning his plight, he was piteously stung by a buzzing-wisdom: In the kingdom of the seeing, the one-eyed man is a legless rodent!

To this day, society is ill-prepared to accommodate a one-eyed giant or midget. In order to be socially acceptable, one must come born with the requisite number of eyeballs and limbs. Being born full gives us an abrupt sense of complacency that all will be well and normal in life, as opposed to being born one-legged, and having to limp one's way to the gallows. Or being born with two mouths and summoned to testify, under the penalty of perjury, as the prosecution's star-witness in the matter of the State vs. B.J. Fotaskar.

In the year 1984 A.D., when it came my time to meet with the editor of Herald, I had resolved never again to flirt with the unknown. On an earlier occasion involving another editor, I had the cockeyed optimism of telling him that I knew that he knew that I loathed him as much as he loathed me. My oratory was in response to the technical difficulties we were having on the editor-reader level.

Thus, when I stepped into the office of the Herald, I put my best foot forward. The erstwhile office at that time was under reconstruction, and closely resembled the aftermath of a scud-missile attack. The laterite dust and debris, however, did not unnerve me. Nor did the scruffy, homemade curtain at the end of the Kremlin-like hall, behind which I was told, I would find Rajan Narayan.

The informal protocol of meeting the editor by drawing aside the curtain rather than pulling strings, suited my temperament. And like any other idiomatic editor, I found Rajan slumped in his chair . . . feet in the air . . . eyeglasses on the brink of becoming history! When our eyeballs met, he didn't know what to make of me. We had not previously met, and for that matter, I could just as easily have bundled my hairless-head in a turban, and he wouldn't have known the difference.

Or I could have come with an eye-patch, and he wouldn't have known any better. But then, which eye, since I came born into this world with two perspectively-varied eyeballs. The left eyeball is shortsighted, and the right eyeball is longsighted. How I manage to see anything logically in between, might adequately explain why I keep periodically bumping into the wrong people!

Despite my diametrically opposing eyeballs, I was able to look Rajan plumb between his eyes and not panic, or resort to name dropping. As I recall, I did not even drop my name! Instead, I went dumbly into the function of handing him my article, Fifteen Minutes of Glory...!

As Rajan got his eyeballs to work, my own began twirling around like worry-beads. The worst though, was in the offing. Within seconds of skimming through the first lines, Rajan's face broke into a frown. "I don't understand what you are trying to say. . . . !", he murmured. He was referring to my line on the Sheikh of Seefillistan . . . who promised the Doctor of Venereal Diseases half his sheikhdom, if he could unclog his strangulated oil well...!

Turning the page over, Rajan's face deteriorated into a scowl. I knew it was all over! "What is it you are trying to say . . .", he queried in an exasperated tone while referring to another line. This one, relating to the milk-vendor . . . who sold fresh home-made milk from backyard to gutteryard, and who went on to become the official Village-Thumb, or inter alia, the Village Sarpanch!

Finally, sensing he was getting authentically no where, Rajan handed me back my article and in a sympathetic tone, gave counsel: "Why don't you write something simple that any reader can simply understand?!"

I felt mortally mortified. But unlike any other simple person who might have simply quit, I spent the better part of that day evaluating on what went wrong. And as I lay milling about in my regulated state of despair, the obvious dawned on me. Flaw number one, was inserting my name at the end of the article instead of at the top of the page. Had I done otherwise, I might have been gratuitously mistaken for the bearer of the article, and in the very least, accorded Fifteen Seconds of Second-Hand Glory!

Flaw number two, was failing to drop my name at the very onset of the meeting. However, had I thusly dropped my name, I am not sure if it would have even been audible enough, considering the alarming incongruity between the sound of my name and the look of my face. If the editor had ever heard of the radical Dom Martin, he was then obviously on the lookout for a 6-foot Englishman and not another budding retiree from sussegadvaddo!

In any event, when it came to submitting my subsequent article, The Death of a Goan, I took the precaution of avoiding the scruffy, homemade curtain. An over-zealous reporter tried to usher me towards the homemade curtain. Deftly somehow, I managed to dodge his enthusiasm, by doubly assuring him that there was nothing of any vital significance in my bulky envelope to the editor, and that, whenever the peon would get to delivering it, that moment would indeed be soon and good enough.

To my barren surprise, the article appeared in print the following day, which was Election Day. It was also published verbatim, in accordance with my proprietary request to either publish it in its entirety or reject it, altogether.

Emboldened by this initial success, I embarked on my next article, The Church of St. Anne. This time -- and aside from putting my name fittingly beneath the caption -- I psyched myself to walk right through the homemade curtain, even if the reporter at the front desk would have his egregious reasons to motion otherwise.

Of course, I wasn't expecting Rajan Narayan to jump-sit and hug me. For all he cared, I was the noted failure who -- having taken his earlier counsel into confidence -- was now returning with a simple article that any reader could simply understand. But when he spotted my name under the caption, his eyes enlarged into mini golf-balls. "So you are Dom Martin", he uttered in a condescending tone. I nodded in the affirmative.

I had now entered the kingdom of Herald, and all seemed well except for the printer's devil, who had a tendency to read between the lines and in the process, either fall asleep or hallucinate. I tried talking Rajan into getting rid of him, or placing him on probation . . . or deporting him! I was even willing to buy the devil a one-way ticket to nowhere. Rajan, of course, commiserated with my woes, genuinely reiterating that the devil is no relative of his, and that, if it was as permissive as getting rid of him, he would have hastily done so.

In light of the above, he urged me to forbear the occasional errors, omissions, hits and misses. This, I graciously did, even at the risk of my articles sometimes reading like the product of a learned-illiterate. But when it came to submitting my 2500-worded article, Deman Tujer Poddom, I was not in the disposition to take any chances. I asked Rajan if I could, in this instance, be permitted to personally proofread the article. Rajan assured me that he himself, would personally proofread it. Satisfied? The proposition was satisfactory to me.

On the awaited Sunday, I saw my article appear in all its emotive attributes. Of a total of 2,500 words, a mere two words were missing. The two missing words happened to be my name! In retrospect, I ought to have choked myself for not letting the devil be in charge, since his aptitude to read between the lines and fall asleep or hallucinate, would not set in until after he had first diligently input the caption and my name.

Notwithstanding the devil's incorrigibility, Rajan and I continue as good friends. Also, and for the most part, much of what I submitted came out of the Herald mill resembling the ligaments of my brain. Recently, however, when the 1995 Vincent Xavier Verediano Award was reported in the papers, it was a whole different spin.

The Navhind Times reported that the 1995 Vincent Xavier Verediano Award, carried a cash value of "Rs. 36 lakhs". Now wait a minute! If I had 36 lakhs to give away for a Vincent Xavier Verediano Award, I would probably have conferred it on myself . . . thereafter, purchase a diamond studded eye-patch and skip town!

The Gomantak Times went a step further, associating the award with the U.S. Government! For the record, the 1995 Vincent Xavier Verediano Award -- which was conferred on V.S. Gaitonde -- carried a cash value of Rs. 36,000/= (Thirty-six Thousand Rupees). Secondly, the award is not in any way associated with the U.S. Government In the face of these amusing errors, the Herald report was practically flawless. I tried several times to reach Rajan Narayan, but he was not available for comment. Basically, I just wanted to ask him if his incorrigible devil might have finally defected to one of the other English dailies!

Alas, in the kingdom of the blind, they say, the one-eyed man is a king. Had I come born one-eyed into this world, how might the odds have stacked-up against me? Might I have been hailed a king, or would it once again have been just my lousy luck to see everyone else around me, born similarly one-eyed!