Taste of Darkness

It is said that you first eat with your eyes.

Our guide, Zabeth, led us into the room. The two of us followed him, hands on the other's shoulder, in single file. The room was pitch black, we waited for our eyes to adapt to the darkness but nothing - the black remained. Our trust in him was so complete that we let him lead us without question. Following Zabeth's instructions, we touched the edge of a table, felt the chair and sat down. With nothing to look at (we had been divested of our phones and watches at the entrance), we took stock of our surroundings.

It was cool in the room and strangely, the darkness was soothing. Classical music played over the sound system and we could smell spices. Zabeth asked us for our tokens - different tokens for vegetarians and non vegetarians. He went off with them and returned with alphabets for a word game - 2 for me and 3 for my friend. I couldn't quite make out if I had a 'd' or a 'p', we had to combine all the alphabets, our word was "April"!

We heard more people come in and they were a spirited group. We heard them trying to figure out their word - they seemed to have a whole lot more alphabets to deal with.

Zabeth was back with hand sanitiser for us to clean our hands. He then brought us our meal - 3 dishes per diner and warned us to wait a bit before eating as it was very hot. He kept coming around and making sure that we were ok. Honestly, I don't know how he was moving around - I would have walked into every wall and every stick of furniture.

The sense of touch kicked in. We located cutlery and tried to identify the shape and contents of the boxes in front of us. And taste - a fragrant vegetable pulav in one, a second box held a delicious gravy and tender chicken - probably butter chicken. A third box had a paratha wrapped in foil. And something that felt, smelt and tasted like chicken malai kebab (the menu changes every day). Beside me, my friend was engrossed in his paneer gravy and kofta. The food was delicious. I think we did not spill anything!

When we finished the meal, Zabeth came back with wet tissues for us to wipe our hands. And that was it - we got up, held hands again and were led to the door. On the way out, Zabeth told us that the concept of Dialogue in the Dark started in Germany in 1988 and that it is now in 40 countries. The one at Express Avenue, Chennai is the 4th in India, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Raipur being the other locations. As he opened the door for us, he said, "By the way, I'm blind."

What a humbling experience it is to have a glimpse into Zabeth's world. His worldview is a different one from yours or mine but he and others like him showed us that day that they are equally capable and empowered to lead their lives with courage and dignity.

Taste of Darkness is on the 3rd floor of Express Avenue Mall. A 3 course vegetarian meal costs 299/++, non vegetarian is 349/++.



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