Carmin wrapped her scarf around her bare neck. She took a quick peek inside her purse and was relieved to see the yellow piece of paper serving as a bookmark between the pages of a novel she had long forgotten to read. That paper was a one-way ticket for a train that was due to depart in an hour.
All her years of traveling had taught her to pack lighter than her last trip, till the point she had bothered with no luggage at all. Just a few blouses, a skirt and a mini-laptop packed in a tidy compartment of her carry-on purse.
She had visited many places, seen many a monuments, museums and statues and whisked her way in many notable alleys. Her traveling aspirations had reached a plateau.
Mundanely, she occupied her seat adjacent to a young lady who was facing the window.
As the wheels of the train picked up their motion, Carmin’s inertia kicked in and she made preparations to put on her ear plugs and resist any disruption to her isolated state.
Carmin looked towards the lady who was speaking to her. That lady continued to stare into the open fields outside the seat’s window.
“I hope I am not disturbing you.”
“No, not at all.”
“Mind if I share a story with you? I like to narrate it to any new person I meet on the train.”
Carmin was perturbed that it would take away from peaceful slumber which would have been forsaken anyway from her incessant browsing of social sites and newsfeeds on her tablet.
“Sure,” she obliged.
“When I was little, I had the good fortune to see many places.”
“Oh, I have traveled quite a bit myself.”
“Then you will enjoy my story. The first place had a golden tower that would be lit up in the evening. It captured the hearts of millions who waited to see the breathtaking view from atop.”
“Are you talking about the Eiffel Tower?” Carmin inquired.
“I don’t remember the name but I do remember that it was a glowing beacon of love and charm. Friends and family embraced in its mere presence.”
“When I visited the Eiffel, the line was rather long and the tower didn’t capture well on my camera during the day. What other places have you been to?”
“A majestic scenery of pyramids that would turn golden from the summer rays. I rode on a camel to get up close and marveled at the structures of geometry and design. It was an oasis of its own kind.”
“Oh, I think you mean the Pyramids of Egypt! I got some cool pictures of me holding the pyramid in the palm of my hand. I think it garnered over 200 likes on my Facebook profile. Where else?”
“A big bazaar. There were a colorful array of spices, shawls, paintings and an aroma of sweet delicacies all around me. The sun’s rays bounced off the angled crevices to give a warm golden glow on the faces of all the sellers.”
“Sounds like the Grand Baazar in Istanbul. Actually, I went there last summer and all my friends were jealous of all the beautiful scarves I purchased from the marketplace. In fact, I’m wearing one right now.”
“I’m sure it must be beautiful dear.”
“Out of curiosity, why do you always use the word ‘golden’ in the description of these places?”
“Because ‘gold’ is naturally occurring. We attribute its value in comparison to our man-made creations but its worth is far more. Bright, radiant and priceless, such is our imagination much like gold.”
“Well I wouldn’t say my memories have been as golden as yours but I am sure I have exceeded the number of your travels.”
“I have no doubt that you have. But the next place I will mention is my personal favorite.”
Carmin expected to hear the name of a wonder like the Taj Mahal or the Roman Colesseum.
“There was a park near my home. My father would take me to the feed the pigeons on the weekend.”
“But there are so many parks in the world. What’s so special about that one? Is it as famous as Central Park? Does it attract as many visitors as Hyde Park?”
“I guess in those realms, it isn’t really all that known. But each time my father and I saw the pigeons flying in the air, I felt as free as them. That made it special.”
The train attendant announced that the next stop was due to arrive in 10 minutes. The lady looked straight ahead as she grabbed a wooden cane from under her chair.
Carmin realized then that the lady had no vision. Out of pity, she meant to utter an apologetic line but settled with an indiscernible sigh.
“Thank you for listening to my story. It was a pleasure talking to you.”
“The feeling is mutual. It was really nice to hear your description of the places you visited.”
“I have never been to those places dear. They are merely a memory of a painting my father gifted to me when I was nine years old. It was the last painting I remember seeing when I lost my vision in an accident.”
“Oh I’m terribly sorry. Where is your father now?”
“In all those places I mentioned to you. In my imagination.”
When the lady departed, Carmin made a quantum leap in her thinking. She took out the novel from her purse and began reading from the start. Her traveling adventures began with the turn of the first page.
Moral of the story: Vision serves no purpose when the mind is blind. Open the imagination of your mind and see the world in a new light.
p.s. This story was written as an inspiration from a blind man who happened to be seated next to me on my mundane commute on the NJ Transit. He had great mastery of his surroundings. In fact, his lack of vision wasn’t apparent until he took out a collapsible cane and made his way out the train, listening attentively to the clicks of people’s shoes walking in close vicinity to him. It was a rare blessing to be in his presence.