My plan was to visit India this winter, something I longed to do. My heart soared; but my plan plummeted.
A classic metaphor about optimism and pessimism is that a pessimist looks at a glass of wine as half-empty and an optimist sees it as half-full. Another version is that the pessimist sees the goblet and dreads the moment it will be empty, the last drop of wine gone; the optimist trusts the goblet will be refilled, probably with better wine. I was anticipating some leisurely hours on the plane, when I could calmly view the goblet the airlines passed me and the wine they served.
Shaw said an optimist invented the plane and a pessimist devised the parachute. Well, the optimist in me bought the ticket for India and the pessimist in me went for a last-minute medical check. Turned out the retina in my right eye was misbehaving badly. I needed an urgent surgery.
When the bandage came off, I saw nothing with my right eye. I was like the Greek mythical creature Cyclops, whose very name meant ‘round-eyed,’ just one eye. The difference was that a Cyclops had a powerful beam from its only eye, while mine was the same myopic, astigmatic, bespectacled eye.
Nor could I walk with a confident stride. The balance that has been instinctive with me since I learned to walk holding my mother’s hand seemed to have suddenly abandoned me. The familiar garden path, the simple alley in front of my home all turned uncertain and wobbly. I walked a small distance with caution and without joy. The fun of a leisurely, carefree walk had made way for the shambling stagger of a dipsomaniac. I am told doctors have a daunting name for this, stereopsis, and they allow as much as a year for people to adapt to it if they lose an eye in an accident.
As the days passed, my dysfunctional eye began to see more than just black and dark-gray shadows. I seemed to perceive broad shapes and some colors. Slowly, with more days the shapes began to gain definition and the colors turned brighter. At the end of two weeks I finally and vaguely started making out objects.
I felt encouraged by what seemed an improvement of vision in my right eye. But now I had a new problem. As long the affected eye was shut or had practically no vision, my left eye did all the work. I could, for example, read a label or turn a door knob. Now that my right eye had started seeing things, though very poorly, my brain reverted to taking the inputs from both eyes as equally valid and processing them together. The result was utter confusion. I was not sure what I was seeing. Everything seemed like a confusing collage, of something clear and something seen through a jelly-smeared lens. To read even the largest sign, I had to put up a hand and block my right eye and let the left eye do its unhampered work.
In a month, or more, the gas bubble the surgeon has inserted in my eye will slowly dissipate, and I will stop being Cyclops and see again with both eyes. I will walk comfortably and confidently again. I will see the blue sky and silver clouds. I will read and, hopefully, I will write.
The pessimist will say I have had a nasty experience. The cornered but resolute optimist in me keeps reminding that I will visit India again.