21 Aug 2017
4 min read
“It’s funny how you can get used to anything. Darkness is no exception”
Padam Biskune’s favourite memories are of his childhood in Shillong. They are rendered in silhouettes in his mind’s eye. “Shillong is beautiful, just like Kathmandu. Even the weather there is very similar to Kathmandu’s,” says Biskune, 45, as he soaks in the late-morning sun.
He means his early childhood. Biskune was orphaned at the age of 12, and he had to learn to fend for himself. When he was 17, he started having problems with his eyesight. It would only get worse with time. As his world darkened, he tried everything to get back his eyesight. “I tried medicines for a while, but they didn’t help,” he says. Believing his soul was under the spell of demons, he turned to traditional healers, in a desperate effort to cleanse himself.
Soon he couldn’t see anymore. For years he wallowed in anger and resentment. “But it’s funny how you can get used to anything,” says Biskune. “Darkness is no exception.” Shillong’s landscape, he says, soon turned into rust-tinted images, and then they receded into memory’s depths.
But through all this he was starting to find purpose in getting on with the present.
“I knew I had to glue back the pieces of my life together. I couldn’t depend on prayers alone, because if you don’t do something about your situation, prayers sound like hollow words,” he says. “I knew I couldn’t change what had happened. I had to let go, and live. ”
He took to learning Braille because he feared that he would become useless. He didn’t want people to either pity him or regard his disabled self with disdain. He approached an asylum, Gafney Bhawan, in Nakhipot, Lalitpur, where there were others like him, including the elderly and handicapped folk who’d either been abandoned or whose family members had given up on trying to care for them at home. Not only did the organisation offer a sanctuary for those who would have been been otherwise doomed to a life on the streets, it also provided various skill-development training programmes that were been calibrated to match their abilities.
At Gafney Bhawan, Biskune found solace in music, met new people and learned new life skills. He also learned how to make candles, which he later began selling on the streets.
“There is more to life than meets the eye,” says Biskune. “You can’t understand the value of things by merely looking at them. You have to feel them. Feeling is the truest form of living.”