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
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
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
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
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!