Fading Light

Imagine that the light & colours of your life slowly fades away. Imagine standing in nothing but total darkness surrounding you. Everything is a total pitch black not the usual darkness when you go to bed where you can still see shadows and find your way around. It's total pitch black, no shadows, no shades of grey.

World Glaucoma Week (8-14 March).

Glaucoma is the world's leading cause of irreversible blindness affecting more than 65 million people worldwide including an estimated 100,000 Malaysians. Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to the eye's optic nerve and gets worse over time. It's often associated with a buildup of pressure inside the eye. There is no cure available. Glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain. Most patients are only aware of the condition when they lost between 30-40% of their peripheral vision. If not control, the vision will slowly become tunnel which will end in total blindness.

Have you wonder how does it feel to live in the dark?

The above is not something beyond imagination. I was able to experience total pitch black during my visit to Dialogue in The Dark (DiD) Malaysia at Jaya One last year.

It was an experience of a life time and the longest 2 hours of my life. I brought my youngest sister along and we were led into an area that is of total darkness where we are brought through a journey "visiting Malaysia" and to dine in complete darkness - Cuisine in the Dark. The entire journey, we are assisted by a guide (Michelle) who will help lead us til the end.

While waiting for our turns, here's a little ice breaker. I have to get to know a few
people and shake hand with them. After that I was being blind folded and 
required to identify them again just by shaking hands with them. Not an easy task!

Going in as a group of 10, we were given a cane. We were all led into a tunnel where everything turns out so black in a moment time. We were scared and was trying to grab hold of the person in front of us. The blind leading the blind. With each step, I took carefully. Touching around to feel the walls and when I can't find where the wall was, I panicked and took smaller steps. I felt lost. What's going on, where's everyone and whenever I walked in the wrong direction or lost from the group, I called out for Michelle and she will either tell me where to head to and when I can't seem to go to the right place, she will hold my hand and lead me.

We take things for granted. We do everything independently, everything is within our subconscious. We can easily - walk, do/take/touch things, listen to the surrounding sounds but as I was in the dark, everything become very conscious. I'm using my conscious mind to walk, taking every step with cautious; touching everything that I can grab hold of to guide me. I learnt to listen. Listen to the sounds of different places, learnt to feel with my hands & legs and most importantly I learnt to TRUST.

The group of 10 (minus my sister & I) are people whom I just met that evening itself. When we were in the dark, I relied on them. I talked to them and I realized, I'm not as defensive nor paranoid as I would usually be. Friendship were bonded just so easily during dinner time. A few groups came together during dinner seated at different tables. The place was filled with voice. We were all chatting on what's being placed in front of us as we can't see. We rely on each other to tell  us what's served and since Michelle told us that it's going to be Thai and not letting us know what's each course is. Food was okay and I especially enjoyed the Green Curry Chicken.

Time went by so slowly that at times, I wonder if my eyes were closed and I have to blink to check. I even asked how long were we inside as it felt like forever.

At the end, before we were all released from the dark area, we had to do participate in a numbering session to count from 1 to 20, taking turns to shout the number out (one person at a time and if there's > 2 people shouting the same number, we have to restart all over again). It took us many times to repeat this step over and over again and leniency was given to us where we counted til 10 only. It's not an easy task as we all rely on instinct and also to listen who's going to speak up. I guess we repeated more than 10 times just to get it right.

At the end of the session, we were given a small light so that we can pass around and see how messy the table was with us eating blindly. The lights were slowly lite so that our eyes can get used to the brightness and there we were shown that the guides who were bringing us around, leading us, telling us what to do were actually visually impaired. OMG. I was amazed. How can they tell where we were standing, where we were facing and most importantly calling out our names correctly.

DiD has proven that visually impaired people can still live and support themselves. The world does not end just there. This is proven by founder of DiD Malaysia, Stevens Chan who suffered from Glaucoma and lost his visual sense of the world. He was devastated but with the support of his wife, he managed to pull through and together, they started up Malaysia Glaucoma Society (MGS) and Save Ones Sight Missions (SOSM).

A picture with Mr Stevens and his guide dog, Lashawn

It's a long way for him to bridge the gap between the visually impaired and the sighted public so that we would appreciate the importance of sights. Remember to do regular eye check up. Prevention is better than pitch black. Once you lose you sight, it's forever.

A group photo of everyone at the dinner.

Dialogue In The Dark
100-P1-001, The School, Block J, Jaya One
72A Jalan University, 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Operating hours:
Tue - Fri: 10am - 6pm (last admission 5.15pm)
Sat, Sun & Public holiday: 10am - 7pm (last admission 6.15pm)
Close on Monday (except school holiday)
Website: http://did.my/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/dialoguemalaysia
Phone number: 03 5891 6212