A story about social awareness, empathy and a heart warming experience.
We are all good human beings, always talking how well we understand other’s problems, how we empathize with other’s feelings and feel their pain. But truth is, more often than not, we don’t feel it completely until one day, we actually step into their shoes- voluntarily or involuntarily.
This moment often comes unannounced and once there, it changes our perspective forever and ever.
For me, that moment came while I was taking a careless stroll with my husband in a shopping mall in Chennai. We had an awesome lunch in Kobe Sizzlers- a delight and satisfaction to all our five senses. And now, we were just looking around all the beautiful Christmas decorations and enjoying the festive atmosphere when we crossed a place called ‘A Dialogue In the Dark’. Owing to its catchy name, it instantly caught our attention. Kudos to the team for opening it up in a shopping mall where people are in a relaxed mood, willing to try new things.
We went ahead to get the details and as we read the instructions, it arose our curiosity even more. It was a guided tour where we would be taken through a dark hall in a small group and had to perform some activities. Person at the reception told us that activities would be simple and it would be more of an experience, taking around 20 minutes. We looked at each other, it sounded interesting and frankly, we had nothing better to do so we asked him for two tickets.
We were supposed to keep all our belongings in a locker, everything which would emit or reflect slightest of light including our watches, cell phone, keys and even wallet. Instructor asked us to keep some 10 and 20 rupee bills as there would a fun activity planned inside.
My husband wears specs and asked the instructor “Do I need to get rid of my specs?”
Instructor smiled “It doesn’t matter inside.”
His answer gave me chills and before I could back-off or think, our guide was there and our tour started.
First few minutes were the toughest.
I had taken a Haunted House experience in the past but it used to be lit with tiny red lamps to see and react to ghosts. But this was completely different. It was pitch dark.
It felt like someone had pushed me in a dark hole and I was all alone in this endless darkness.
Thanks to our friendly guide Ramesh, I felt at ease in some time. Still, I would extend my hand to check if my husband was still beside me and he was doing the same.
Then started our series of activities,
Crossing the bridge- As part of our first activity, we had to cross a shaky bridge made of wooden planks and believe me, it was scary! Ramesh asked us to form a chain and support each other as we crossed the bridge. In the background, there were sounds of chirping birds and a waterfall, which sounded so divine and all the more beautiful in the darkness. We even touched the water from the fall as we reached the end of the bridge, and headed for the next activity.
Cricket- Next activity was pure fun. We all stood inside a net and had to perform this activity in pairs. One person would throw the ball which had bells attached to it, and other person was supposed to take a shot listening to the sound. We enjoyed and laughed as everyone took turns., hitting and missing the ball. Must say, I did a great job, better than I would have done with lights!
Touch and smell the spices- Next activity was around recognizing the spices based on their feel and smell. They were kept in small bowls and we had to pass them to other members in the group, while trying to guess their names. This one was the easiest for me, and toughest for my husband who is aware of only 2–3 spice names. :)
It felt like a huge place with so many activities to take part in.
Shopping- As promised, we were taken for shopping. There were chocolates, water, wafers which we could buy but there was a catch. While giving money to Ramesh, we were asked to tell him how much we were giving-10 or 20 rupee bill. We all struggled to touch and recognize them until Ramesh came to our rescue. Trust me, it was more of a challenge than it would feel!
We are computer savvy- This one was really interesting. I being an I.T. professional take pride in my typing speed, without having to look at the keyboard. Here was the chance to prove it and I failed miserably. We were supposed to type our name on the keyboard and as we typed each letter, the sound of the letter could be heard in the background. I can’t recall what I ended up typing, but it was not at all close to my name!
Activities were over and Ramesh told us that we were standing near the exit now. It was time for our questions and answers.
One person in the group asked “How big is this hall?”
Ramesh replied “It is a small room.”
So what felt like a vast spread of darkness was actually a small room? Unbelievable.
Other person asked “How are you able to guide us so well? It is pretty dark.”
My mind answered too as Ramesh spoke the answer “All the guides here are visually challenged.”
It gave me goose bumps. At some level, we all knew it but hearing those words gave a completely different level to this journey.
He told us more details about the place and the initiative which can be found at http://www.dialogue-in-the-dark.com/. They have other programs as well in form of ‘Dinner in the dark’ and ‘Workshop in the dark’, and they remain on my TO-DO list.
As we stepped out of the room, light felt sharp and hurtful to our eyes. We didn’t talk much, just thanked Ramesh and shook his hand, took our belongings from the locker and started walking.quietly
As we walked past the different festivities, they no longer felt so beautiful. Our thoughts were still concentrated on the whole experience.
It was hard to shake the whole feeling out of our minds and hearts,
It was hard to realize how for granted we take our senses and how blessed we are to have them,
It was hard to believe how we need a shake-up, an experience to remind us the value of our lives.
But all the more I was glad and will always be, to have this experience. It would always remain fresh in my mind and heart. It has its presence in 39 countries around the world and I would strongly recommend everyone to take this experience at least once.
Because sometimes, we really need to step into others shoes, if only for a moment.