Visiting the grey space of taboos

shades of gray :)

Imagine you’re 10 years old and you’ve just got your first slippers from a social worker. Not because your family could not afford them, not because you cannot walk, but because you are blind.

My first reaction when I heard the story many years ago was, “wait, did I hear this right? What does blindness have to do with walking?” Yes, it turns out I did not mishear anything. It turns out that in many countries in the world, especially in villages, people who’re blind are hidden from the society’s view. They stay home, often tacked in bed, with no educational opportunities, with no outlet for social development.

The reasons for this state of affairs are complex. Partially, the parents of blind children are afraid for their safety. But partially, they’re afraid of being stigmatized by the community they live in.

When I was taking classes for my PhD, I wanted to describe this situation and started looking for English-language articles in so-called scientific literature. Can you image my disappointment and sadness when I did not find a single article on the topic? Because the studies would usually look at rehabilitation programs for people with disabilities, which means that the people or “subjects” of the study were already out and about in their community. Or the studies would focus on blind/low vision children who received a mainstream education. Again, these kids have already moved on on their path of growth.

What really bothers me is that there are topics that are super important, that affect people’s lives, and yet, they’re not widely discussed. They’re neither examined by academic institutions, nor are they the topics that the media clammer to pick up. They’re there, in the grey space between existence and non-acknowledgment. So I’m hoping to spread the word. Just because an issue is not talked about does not diminish or erase its existence, right? So let’s talk! 🙂

Hubby and I were recently interviewed by EyesonSuccess about our experiences of teaching in Southeast Asia and India. Please listen to the podcast if you’d like to find out hear our impressions and adventures:

 

Rekindling embers to fight taboos

 

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There are images and metaphors that have inhabited my mind long after I finish reading a book. Such is the case with Sandor Marai’s “Embers.” Throughout his beautifully written, lyrical novel, he conjures the image of memories that have not been talked about for many years and thus have gathered dust and overgrown the living space like a fungus. Here is a sample:  Continue reading »

Living the life of one’s own

In her famous essay, “a room of one’s own,” Virginia Wolf argued that women should have a room of their own in which to create and nurture a space of their own. This, after all, the privilege granted to gentlemen for centuries–they read and wrote in their study.

So following that train of thought, I believe that not only do we all, men and women, deserve a room of their own, but also a life of their own. That means, a life unperturbed by the expectations of others or the taboos/stereotypes imposed by the culture/society.

The Food Memoir: Sugar

sugar bowl filled with brown sugar
The indian summer before I was born was bittersweet. My arrival into the world was greatly anticipated and this was the “sweet” part of the equation. The “bitter” part was more literal, since just a little over a month before I was born, sugar was rationed. What that meant was that you could not simply walk into a supermarket and buy sugar. You had to present a “sugar card” to a sales person and they would give you your monthly ration.
Neither my mom nor I had a big sweet tooth, and we liked drinking our tea or coffee without sugar. And now when sugar is easily available, I don’t use sugar at all these days, just keep some for guests, but often forget to put it out when they don’t remind me. Still, this was the sad turn of events for most people. Continue reading »

FoodMemoir: My Great Grandpa’s Story

colorful fruits
I never met my great-grandfather—he had died some thirty years before I was born. I have not seen a single picture of him nor have I heard a recording of his voice. His existence, therefore, seems a bit illusionary to me, except that there were a couple of stories circulated by my family, passed around the dinner table, passed down by generations of women: my great grandma, my grandma and aunt, and my mom.  Continue reading »

The life of secrets and how they are dug up in Oksana Zabuzhko’s novel, Museum of Abandoned Secrets

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In her brilliant novel “Museum of Abandoned Secrets,” Oksana Zabuzhko describes a game that girls play: they wrap things that they deem precious (like stones, colorful candy wrappers, etc), dig a whole in the ground, and bury their treasures. The place and content of the buried treasures is a secret shared only between the girls who dug up the hole.

Continue reading »