Bhakti A Mahambre

The Insightful One

Bhakti sees the world a little differently than you and me. Diagnosed with a rare optic condition, her eyesight was never her strength. So she developed other strengths - like the ability to perceive people and situations beyond what the eyes can see!

Once upon a time, a beautiful girl was born to a lovely couple. They loved and cherished her like she was a flower. However, as the baby girl grew up, she developed a strong sense of understanding that love did not mean harmony among all involved...

At the age of four, she knew that her mummy and daddy were stressed. At five, she knew it was because of financial constraints. At six, she knew they were expecting another member to join the family, and that she was going to be the ‘older’ one. As the years passed by, she grew up, and with that, her feelings got more complex too.

The baby girl soon became a young girl. And by and large, life had been wonderful. There were highs... You know of the times when you feel like you're good friends with somebody until an incident occurs and brings you two even closer? Something similar happened to her, and she was brought face-to-face with her feelings. Up close. Perhaps, too close...

At 17, she entered junior college. The young girl was now blooming into a young lady. She dressed carefully, and with a charming disposition, set out to make some really good friends. However, she realised soon after beginning college that she could not see their expressions. And even though, she had never been known to respond to visual cues, this felt different.

From the first bench, she was unable to react to her professor’s instructions, even when he would to look at her, and encourage her to speak. She had not misread it. Neither was she nervous about answering. She had simply not realised that he was looking right at her till her classmates began to giggle. That day, the young lady in her A-line skirt ran home to tell her mummy that she needed eye check-up.

Six months later, after a lot of deliberation from ophthalmologists, denial from the family, and a wave of shock and panic, it was concluded that she was suffering from a rare condition known as Stergedt’s disease. She found out that she would never see what others could - visual precision would never be her strength, and what's worse, her vision would further deteriorate!

Eyesight slipping away from her... The rush of feelings felt similar to what she had undergone before. Except this time, they led her into a dark room of helplessness, and she couldn't even peep out the window! Her mother would cry in worry, and her father would be in pain. And so, from the room of helplessness, she walked into the room of guilt.

She walked in the corridors of these feelings. Going through strange emotions she had never before been aware of. She learnt the true meaning of words like ‘dependence’, ‘fright’, ‘insecurity’, ‘competition’, and the worst of all, ‘failure’.

She started wondering, trying to comprehend the things she couldn't see that everybody else could. How much different could the world be for them? It wasn’t like she didn't know there was a clock on the wall... But she now realised sister could read the time off it from the sofa!

There were often times she would think, “There comes my dad to pick me." She would smile and walk towards him, only realise it wasn't dad. In fact, it wasn't even a man!

"I can ride a two-wheeler, right?" she would contemplate. "I can see vehicles; they’re big. But the light indicator... That’s not too clear.”

From denial to fear of acceptance; then from acceptance to awareness - the journey was a long one. Then one day, the young lady had to remind herself that she wasn't her parent's little girl anymore. Time was ticking by, and her parents were distressed, this time for her. And so she saw what others failed to see - a clear distinction of emotions. It amazed her that she was now 'seeing' a situation in so many different ways. She realised that it was okay to be complicated, as long as she understood the complexity with surprising clarity. How you see things mattered more than how much you could see them.

Today, the young lady is a charming young woman of twenty-four. She completed her graduation and bagged internships in multinational agencies. She bravely endured the comments of co-workers who mocked how closely she peered into the computer, and used enlarged fonts.

There were mentors along the way too... They showed her the meaning of being differently-abled. And with this new perspective, she went on to pursuing an MA in Film Studies - a career path quite different from her childhood dream. It utilised her strengths of looking at experiences differently, and communicating them effectively by drawing key insights on behaviour.

She became a Senior Qualitative Researcher, secured a meritorious rank in the competitive SET examinations, presented an academic paper on the ‘Role of disability’ at an international conference, and now even works for a NPO that teaches disabled kids.

She continues to wake up every morning, all set to seize her goals, irrespective of the challenges. She contributes towards her home, and society as well. Currently, she is striving to get a scholarship to study abroad amidst bouts of anxiety and depression.

She gets up, and she makes it through the day with perseverance. One hour at a time. Often meeting the baby girl she once was on the way, who now urges her to go forth with effort and dedication. She now measures "success" as being the best version of herself. A version of herself that can be the change that we all need to see!

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