What if I tell you that we humans have been endowed with an indomitable spirit to fight all odds and lead a life of our choice, irrespective of our hardships. What If I tell you about a young girl who started losing her eyesight when she was about 12, and has still lived, and continues to live, a full and complete life per her dreams and aspirations.
I got a chance to read Insight – an autobiography of Miriam Batliwala, whom I have recently befriended, at her behest. And I must tell you that the book has made a deep impact on me changing my perception of life itself.
Miriam, known as Mimi, lost her eyesight at 12 due to the onset of Macular Degeneration, and today runs an orphanage ‘D. M. Girls Orphanage Trust’ in Bombay (www.wecan-india.org).
In Insight, Miriam narrates the highs and lows of her independent life from when she was a child prancing around with dim vision, to her ‘head held high’ moments where she coped at school and college while refusing to let on that she was as blind as a bat!
She narrates, in the book, how she leaves behind all the comforts of home to taste a bit of studying and working in countries in Europe without letting anyone know about her near blindness. She also details the humble and trying times where in her struggle to lead an independent life, she lives in claustrophobic apartments, skips dinner for a few months while she was struggling to earn a living in Europe, uses the tubes/trains, faces the wrath of a strict boss – all without a whisper to anyone that she has near blindness.
Nothing – even lack of eyesight – stopped Miriam from living a full life, while facing the challenges that came her way, stealing a few trophies playing golf, having a full-time job and a happening social life. Miriam narrates her adventures in learning and playing golf, playing the piano, her swimming sessions, her travels and the travails across Europe and Vietnam – where she played the piano surrounded by amazed hotel guests.
How did she do it? How did she circumvent her blindness and simply went on living each moment?
Per Miriam, the answer lies in two core anchors of her life – her parents and Yoga.
She not only mastered yoga under the able guidance of B.K.S. Iyengar – Guruji (as she addresses him), she went on to teach yoga in India and in the USA. She found her solace in learning and mastering yoga.
Miriam says her mother never used terms like ‘she can’t see’ or ‘she can’t do it’ or ‘how will she do it?‘, so her blindness did not really come in the way. Her father ensured that she learnt the game of golf and also taught her to swim. She ended up doing everything that everyone else did.
While reading the book, what is immensely striking is her pride in her independence, her attitude towards life and her gratitude for being privileged, her gratitude for her parents, husband and child, her family life with her husband, raising her son, teaching him golf, her immense love for dancing, attending social gatherings and her cooking expeditions.
Her life experiences are inspiring, beautiful, humbling and even surreal, to say the least. Miriam narrates her story almost novel-like, one could almost mistake InSight for a light fiction read with a cup of coffee or tea! But as I finished reading and closed the book, it dawned on me that here is a blind girl who did not stop short of anything, refused to see her blindness as an obstacle to living a full life, then why should I? I realized how beautiful life would be if I turned a blind eye to shortcomings!
The life that Miriam lived, and lives today, changes one’s perspective on life and ends up questioning the constant fears (career, future, tomorrow, earning money, losing money, family, health, happiness, losing a loved one) that consume our thoughts all the time, and pushes us to shed our negative attitude (‘If only I had money,’ ‘why me’ et al).
Her journey is a big lesson for all of us who constantly rely on one or the other external factors for our happiness.
Priyadarshini Natarajan is a lawyer practicing in Chennai dealing with corporate and commercial transactions and litigations. Apart from lawyering, she also enjoys traveling, making friends and sharing inspirational ideas.