The little known story of Miriam Batliwala,who was stricken with blindness in early adolescence but learnt to live a normal life partly by hiding her blindness comes to life through Insight,her autobiography,which was released in Mumbai this week.
During her four-year stint with the Indian Tea Board in the 60s,Batliwala never told anyone that she couldnt see. She had just finished college at St. Xaviers,Mumbai,and she wanted to work abroad and be on her own. She evaded a potential marriage and managed to land herself the job. As one of the organisations public relations officers,she was busy trotting across Western Europe,trying to pitch for the best Indian tea at trade fairs.
However,all this while,there was one thing that she was very cleverly hiding from her colleague,friends,supervisors and bosses that,she was almost blind. Almost because she could not see anything apart from shadowy figures and blurry images and she could not read either. Macular degeneration of the retina had hit her when she was 12,and there was no known cure for it. My parents attuned my mind in such a way that I never took my disability per se. I didnt make a fuss out of it but I knew my company would,and thats why I didnt want them to know it, she says. The excuse that I put up the most number of times was that I had forgotten my glasses,and every time,I had people convinced, she admits candidly.
Miriam,fondly known as Mimi,made sure she didnt live a life full of regrets. I am grateful for whatever I have got,and fortunately I took life that way, she says. She says she wrote the book because she felt she had a story to tell.
Now,married and mother of one,Batliwala took over her fathers charity work after he passed away more than a decade ago. You should see our orphanage; it doesnt look like one at all. It is a happy house with yellow and orange walls, she says. It makes you wonder about its similarities with her life. While darkness had every chance of creeping in,she chose to paint it with bright colours.